Although most friends of those with fur, fin and feathers know that Saint Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of animals, did you know that there is also a patron saint of dogs? To commemorate the annual Feast Day of St. Roch, we have fetched the information you need to know!
Who was St. Roch, the Patron Saint of Dogs?
Born in 1348, an image of a cross that marked his chest from birth was an outward sign of Roch’s inner devotion. Although raised the son of a noble governor, at age 20 he gave away his worldly possessions and embarked on a pilgrimage to Rome at a time when Italy found itself in the grip of the bubonic plague. Believed to have miraculously cured many who were ill along the way, while administering to the sick in Piacenza, Roch himself fell victim to the disease.
Leaving the city, Roch retreated into the forest. Although he made a shelter with materials that the trees provided, and drank water from a nearby spring, Roch would have starved to death if not for the act of a nobleman’s kind-hearted canine.
The dog took bread each day to the sick pilgrim and licked his wounds to help him heal. A depiction of the devoted dog accompanies renditions of the saint in works of art to this day.
When is the Feast Day of Saint Roch?
Saint Roch is remembered with prayers on August 16, known as the Feast Day of Saint Roch and St. Roch’s Day. The observance marks the anniversary of the day Roch passed away, either in 1376 or 1379.
The Patron Saint of Dogs, and…
Along with being the patron saint of dogs, Saint Roch is also the patron saint of:
- people who have been falsely accused
- tile makers
- second-hand dealers
- diseased cattle
- patron saint against epidemics
The Tale of Saint Roch and Guinefort, A Canine Folk Saint
Although their timelines made it impossible for their paths to cross, the story of Saint Roch is often interwoven with that of Saint Guinefort, with the four-legged French folk saint taking on the role of Roch’s canine carer, whose name has been lost in the mist of time.
For those who do not know the story of Guinefort, he was a faithful Greyhound of a knight who lived in the 1300s. Upon the knight’s return from a hunting expedition his guardian found the dog by an overturned crib, his mouth dripping with blood. Believing that the dog had eaten his infant son, the knight struck Guinefort down.
As the dog lay dying, the truth came to light: the canine had in fact killed a snake that would have taken the life of the baby.
Heartbroken by his hasty action, Guinefort’s human family buried the brave Greyhound in a well, which they turned into a shrine.
Although never officially recognized by the Catholic church, as late as the 1930s worried parents in the region of Lyon with an ill little one would visit Guinefort’s shrine to pray to the four-legged patron saint of children.
St. Roch Prayer for Dogs
O Blessed saint Roch, patron saint of dogs, I ask you to pour out your love upon my dog.
May my sweet dog always be loving and loyal and be a joy to me and those I love.
Carry my dog to the throne of the Father and ask Him to bless my dog with long life and great happiness.
Pray dear saint that my dog stay free from illness and that my dog always comforts me as your beloved dog comforted and cared for you.
Thank you for asking the Lord to bless my dog and for begging him to pour our special graces upon all dogs and dog owners.
May they bring great love to one another and live companionably in peace. Amen.
Patron Saint of Montpellier
Saint Roch came into this world and passed out of it in the French city of Montpellier, which commemorates the date of his death each year with the Fete de la Saint Roch, which includes a blessing of animals among the day’s activities.
Saint Roch in Art
The patron saint of dogs has inspired a number of sculptors over the centuries. Along with statues that hold a place of honor in many houses of worship around the world, there are also depictions of Saint Roch and the pup who helped him on the path to recovery on display in museums:
A painted pinewood statue from an unknown 16th century Spanish artist can be viewed at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The city is also home to a 15th century German wooden rendition of the saint at The Science Museum.
At The Cloisters at The Met in New York City, art aficionados can view early 16th century French and German wooden representations of the saint among the museum’s collection of Byzantine and medieval works of art.
The 16th century Italian artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo captured his interpretation of the saint and the dog who cared for him in a painting which today hangs in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Another Patron Saint of Dogs: St. Hubert
Although St. Roch is better known as the patron saint of dogs, St. Hubert also holds that title.
A patron saint of hunters (although he himself disavowed the practice upon seeing the shape of a crucifix between the antlers of a stag), the “apostle of the Ardennes” has been prayed to for help to cure rabies and is often portrayed with a canine companion.
Other Patron Saints of Animals
There are over 10,000 patron saints, with several acting as guardians for our animal friends:
- Patron Saint of Animals: Saint Francis of Assisi (Feast Day: October 4– a date which is also World Animal Day)
- Patron Saint of Bees: Saint Ambrose (Feast Day: December 7)
- Patron Saint of Birds and Poultry: Saint Gall (Feast Day: October 16)
- Patron Saint of Blackbirds: Saint Kevin (Feast Day: June 3)
- Patron Saint of Cats: Saint Gertrude of Nivelles
- Patron Saint of Cattle: Saint Bridgid of Ireland (Feast Day: February 1)
- Patron Saint of Domestic Animals and Livestock: Saint Anthony the Abbot (Feast Day: January 17)
- Patron Saint of Fish: Saint Neot (Feast day: July 31)
- Patron Saint of Geese: Saint Martin of Tours (Feast Day: November 11)
- Patron Saint of Horned Animals: Saint Guy of Anderlecht (Feast Day: September 12)
- Patron Saint of Horses and Cattle: Saint Eligius (Feast Day: December 1)
- Patron Saint of Lions: Saint Mark (Feast Day: April 25)
- Patron Saint of Rams: Saint Giles (Feast Day: September 1)
- Patron Saint of Sheep: Saint Drogo (Feast Day: April 16)
- Patron Saint of Storks: Saint Agricola (Feast day: September 2)
- Patron Saint of Whales: Saint Brendan The Navigator (Feast Day: May 16)
- Patron Saint of Wolves: Saint Edmund of East Anglia (Feast Day: November 20)
The Patron Saint of Veterinarians
Having cared for ailing animals (some of whom, it is believed, would seek him out on their own for help) St. Blaisis, whose feast day falls on February 3rd, became a patron saint to both animals and veterinarians.