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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  August 1999

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION August 1999

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Subject:

FEAST 16 August

From:

CA Muessig <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Fri, 20 Aug 1999 18:29:02 +0100 (BST)

Content-Type:

TEXT/PLAIN

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Parts/Attachments

TEXT/PLAIN (123 lines)

Today, 16 August, is the feast of ... 

Joachim (first century BC?): Father of the BVM. The Benedictines
celebrate the feast of Joachim and Anne (the mother of the BVM) on 26 July. 

Arsacius, Christian soldier (358): Predicted that a terrible earthquake 
would hit the city of Nicomedia, but no one believed him. A few days
later an earthquake destroyed most of the city. The building in which Arsacius 
lived was one of the few to escape destruction; unfortunately the 
same cannot be said for Arsacius. When some of the people of Nicomedia
ran to the building where Arsacius lived to seek safety, Arsacius was found
on his knees but dead. 

Armel, abbot (570): It is reported that Armel was converted to the 
religious life upon entering a church and hearing a deacon sing: "And 
whosoever does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my 
disciple." 

Laurence Loricatus (1243): Born in Apulia. As a young man Laurence 
accidentally killed someone. In expiation he made a pilgrimage of
penance to Compostela, and on his return in 1209 went to Subiaco, where he
joined a community but was soon given permission to be a solitary. He lived in 
a mountain cave near the Sacro Peco of St Benedict for thirty-three
years and practised bodily mortifications. In fact the name *Loricatus* was 
given to him because he wore next to his skin a coat of mail studded
with sharp points. 

Rock or Roch, healer (1378): Saint par excellence to be invoked against 
pestilence. 

Three years ago year Louise Marshall provided very useful information 
concerning the cult of St Roch: 

ROCH: Throughout the Renaissance, Sebastian remained the most popular
and universally venerated plague saint; his cult was never supplanted or 
overshadowed by that of Roch. Roch is a strange case, a really shadowy 
and ahistorical figure (sometimes I think he was actually just 
invented!); his earliest life is an anonymous & undated vita (1st half
of the 15thc?) which is composed almost entirely of hagiographic cliches 
and has little or no specific historical details, let alone dates. It
ends by claiming that Roch was canonized but more recent research has 
proven this to be fictitious. The same seems to be true of the claim in
a later 15thc vita (written in 1478) that Roch was appealed to during an 
outbreak of plague at the Council of Constance in 1416. How Roch's cult 
ever gets going at all still puzzles me: there's no body, no tomb, no 
pilgrimage site, and no interested order, city or even, as far as one
can tell, family. My guess is perhaps it might have started as a localized 
cult in Piacenza (Emilia), where he is supposed to have cured plague 
victims & which has been suggested as the place of origin of the
anonymous writer of the earliest vita. If anyone else on the list has any 
thoughts I would love to hear it. Roch's cult as a plague protector seems 
only to become more widely known during the second half of the 15thc and, 
as far as I can tell, seems to have been localized primarily in northern 
Italy. He starts appearing alongside Sebastian in altarpieces from the 
Veneto in the 1460s & around this time there are confraternities that 
start to be dedicated to him (eg in 1467 an existing confraternity in 
Padua rededicates itself to him). In fact, in several central Italian 
cities in the 1460s & 70s it seems to be confraternities dedicated to
Roch which are the main sponsors of his cult in their town/region, organizing 
processions etc and commissioning images. The biggest impetus to the 
proliferation of his cult I think was the devastating series of plague 
epidemics which occured throughout Italy from 1477-79. A new life is 
written by the Venetian governor of Brescia in 1478, which went into 
several editions in the next decade; his name is inserted in the 
Venetian missal in 1481; and finally in 1485 his relics are triumphantly 
installed in Venice. From then on his cult has a physical focus and 
interested institutions to promote it, and he becomes the second
universal plague saint after Sebastian. Of course, there is always the Virgin 
to appeal to if things get too bad, and even Christ himself, but that's 
another story... 

The best studies on Roch I have found are: Andre Vauchez, "Rocco", in 
*Bibliotheca Sanctorum*, vol. 9, Rome, 1968, 264-73. Irene Vaslef, "The 
Role of St. Roch as a Plague Saint: A Late Medieval Hagiographic 
Tradition", Ph.D., Catholic University of America, 1984 (with English 
translations of both lives). More problematic though still important to 
consult are the studies by A. Fliche, *L'art et les saints: Saint Roch*, 
Paris: Laurens, 1930; and "Le probleme de Saint Roch", *Analecta 
Bollandia*, 68, 1950, 343-61. There is also a published German PhD on 
images of Roch, which is useful as a topographical survey of extant 
images: M.T. Schmitz-Eichoff, *St. Rochus: Ikonographische und 
medizin-historische Studien*, (Kolner medizin-historische Beitrage, 3), 
Cologne: F. Hansen, 1977. I have published on the imagery of plague 
saints, including Roch: L. Marshall, "Manipulating the sacred: Image and 
Plague in Renaissance Italy", *Renaissance Quarterly*, 47, 1994, 
485-532; I also have a chapter on Roch in my dissertation, " 'Waiting on 
the Will of the Lord': The Imagery of the Plague", PhD, University of 
Pennsylvania, 1989. 

Thanks Louise! 

Last Robert Colasacco added:
I found the information on St Rock very interesting. I always thought he 
was the patron saint of Bari or a smaller town around that part of La 
Puglia becaue at my Parish church (as a child) there was a statue to St. 
Rocco in a separate chapel. The church is in the Bronx and all the 
statues are still there. He is in a special side "chapel" and when I 
once asked someone who he is they told me he was the patron saint of the 
Baresi but to us that could mean any of the people in the parish (it was 
and is registered still as an Italian National Parish--without 
italians--anymore) that were from the smaller nearby towns of Bari, who, 
infact were a minority in our parish of mostly Ponzese (Island of Ponza) 
and immigrants from Campania and Abruzzi. At any rate is it possible 
that there are two St. Rock? 
Interesting also is that you say he is known mostly in No. Italy. When 
in Venice this past May, I realized for the first time that there was a 
Parrocca di San Rocco and thouht it odd since I always believed him to 
be the patron of Bari or the Baresi or that district of La Puglia as 
they were called by the non-Baresi of my childhood parish. 
******************
Dr Carolyn Muessig
Department of Theology and Religious Studies
University of Bristol
Bristol BS8 1TB
UK
phone: +44(0)117-928-8168
fax: +44(0)117-929-7850
e-mail: [log in to unmask]



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