History of San Rocco

Learn about San Rocco, patron saint of Brantford's Italian community

In July 1367 Rocco was in Acquapendente, a small town on the Via Cassia in the province of Viterbo. Here he witnessed the tragic sight and desolation caused by the Black Death. Instead of going back on his way and avoiding the contagion, he offered himself as a volunteer to assist the sick people kept in the local lazzaretto, where some miraculous healings took place, after he had traced a sing of the cross on the sick

Rocco stayed for about three months to help with the epidemic, then he proceeded from place to place stopping wherever he found pestilence-stricken people in order to lend his aid to the hapless victims of the plaque.

He arrived n Rome between 1367 and early 1368. It is quite likely that Rocco went to the hospital of the Holy Spirit, and here his most famous miracle would take place: he healed a cardinal from the plaque after drawing the sign of the Cross on his forehead. This cardinal introduced Rocco to Pope Urban V.

Then about 1370-1371, he left Rome went north and offered his aid to communities along the way. In July 1371 he contacted the disease while in Piacenza, assisting the sick in the hospital of Nostra Signora di Betlemme. Rocco left the town and took refuge in a forest near Sarmato, in a hut near the Trebbia River, to die in solitude.

There he would have starved, if a dog had not brought him a piece of bread every day and of a miraculous fountain that had sprung up to satisfy his thirst. God did not allow the young pilgrim to die of the plague, because He needed him to heal and soothe the suffering of His people.

The dog had a rich master, Gottardo Pallastrelli, who, curious about where his dog was going every day, followed the animal, found Rocco and brought him to his mansion until he had completely recovered. After that Rocco started his journey to return home.

[Photo - Procession of San Rocco, Brantford]


The veneration of San Rocco was officially approved by Pope Urbano VIII in 1629. He is the protector of travellers and of people infected with the plague. He is celebrated on August the 16, often in association with Assumption Day.

The village of Pofi located in the province of Frosinone adopted San Rocco as their patron saint. Many residents emigrated to Canada,

settled in Brantford and brought their adoration for San Rocco with them. The Italian community celebrates each year with a mass at St. Pius X Church, followed by a ceremonial procession and a day of games, entertainment, food, and fun.

In 1991 the San Rocco Association commissioned the creation of a statue of San Rocco which is permanently on display at the entrance of St. Pius X Church.


The Memories of Brantford Project thanks the sponsors for their generous support.