EARTHLY LIFE: Fourteenth century; France, Italy
CHARACTERISTICS AND ACTIVITY: Hermit who took pilgrimage to Rome, where he aided plague victims
PATRON OF: Surgeons; pharmacists; those who work the earth; gravediggers; pavers; pilgrims; travellers; invalids; the poor; prisoners
SPECIAL DEVOTIONS: Invoked against the plague
CONNECTIONS W/ OTHER SAINTS: One of the 14 Holy Helpers
SYMBOLS: Dresses as pilgrim, w/ staff and/or seashell and/or keys of St Peter. Wound can be seen on leg; frequently accompanied by little dog holding bread
(Blatently stolen from "Saints in Art" by Rosa Giorgi, Trans. by T. M. Hartmann)
Okay, so I went a little overboard on the sores.
Basically, St Roch was born to rich family in France, but decided to give all his possessions to the poor and go on a pilgrimage to Rome. That's why the crossed keys, they're the pilgrim's little "I went to Rome!" symbol.
When he got to Rome, everyone had the plague. Well, most of them, anyway. All the other pilgrims were, like, "Heck! I don't wanna get sick! I'm outta here!" but Roch stayed to help the sick. According to some versions, he performed some healing miracles.
Then he got the plague. So, either because people chased him away or because he didn't want to impose, Roch went into the woods to die.
But he didn't, because a dog showed up with bread. Every day. And then licked Roch's wounds so he got better.
And then Roch /definitely/ went around healing people.
He was a very popular saint during the Black Plague.