©Wellcome Library, London

St Roch was a 14th century nobleman from Montpellier in southern France who made a pilgrimage to Rome at the time of the Black Death. He went about the city giving succour to its many victims and eventually caught the disease himself. However, instead of succumbing, he is said to have nursed himself back to health through divine assistance. Afterwards, he gave his personal fortune to finance hospital care for other sufferers. He returned to Montpellier where he died. In the late 15th century, his remains were disinterred and taken to Venice where they were enshrined in a church dedicated to his memory and named San Rocco. Thereafter, St Roch became the patron saint of plague.

Oil painting after Giacomo Robusti, il Tintoretto (1518-1594).