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San Roque

SAN ROQUE


Montpellier was the birthplace of this French character, whose name we don´t know and who is the most popular and celebrated of the town, but never in it. Born in the 13th century, he was the son of the governor of the city, one of the most important man in the service of King Pedro I of Aragon, The Great, across the Pyrenees.

After spending his childhood and youth in a palatial enviroment, he was orphaned at the age of 20, inheriting a large fortune. Following the parable of the gospel, he divided his properties and dressed with a coarse shirt and a wide-brimmed hat and started his way to Rome.
The Italian cities he found were decimated by the plague and their hospitals filled of stunks.

Roque devoted himself to the service of those unhappy persons, cleaning their infected sores, serving them and giving consolation. In Rome he spent three years begging from hospital to hospital. His saint’s reputation and the belief that he was curing the plague, caused many people of all social classes to come to him. However, in Piacenza, he felt his skin was covered with black spots and red and festering wounds, taking his face a monstrous aspect. Expelled for stinking and foreigner, sheltered in a forest.

The legend says that in order that it should satisfy his thirst it sprouted a source to his feet and a dog approached him in the mornings with a piece of bread in the mouth, licking her wounds. Curing the plague, he returned to Montpellier without anyone recognizing him, being locked up in jail where he died five years later in14th century.
His reputation as protector against the plague spread quickly in Europe and being canonized and being fixed on August 16 as his festivity. In the Middle Ages, when so terrible were the ravages of the Black Death, his devotion spread over Biscay, where there proliferated the hermitages dedicated to him.

However, the response was higher in commercial ports such as Bilbao and Portugalete, with greater chance of infection and also were on the Camino de Santiago, where pilgrims came telling he was very popular and brought news of his miracles. So in the town he was venerated from the first centuries and in one of its hills a chapel was erected under his patronage, knowing that hill with his name.

People went on in pilgrimage the Saint's day, dancing in front of the chapel and using the house tavern and of supplies that the village had in the area of the “Poza de Abacholo”.
In the hillside, a fair of cattle was celebrated in 1.783 the day of his festivity, which reached great importance in the zone, so in 1.790, the town hall named him officially " Employer, Attorney and Saint", , in recognition of the services and miracles he had performed.


In one of the wars of the last century, the shrine was destroyed and in its place, as in Campanzar’s high place, a military fort was built later. In 1892 they tried to do a public subscription for recovery but the idea did not work. The image of the saint was placed, meanwhile, in the chapel of Santo Cristo del Portal.
In 1.910, they moved the hermitage of the Saint Christ to the laundry camp (campa del lavadero) and they also moved San Roque to a lateral shrine. In this camp Portugalete´s people celebrated San Roque’s party, so the new generations forgot that the true owner was the Christ of the Portal (Cristo del Portal) and after the civil war when it was demolished to realize the sports field, there was done a project of hermitage dedicated to San Roque, who initially placed in the primitive place, but the construction of a warehouse forced to take it to the end of the Ojillo street.
The urban growth of the sixties also forced to remove it from there, looking for a small and unnoticed corner as a chapel in the other side of the street, behind the wall of the fronton.

 

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