Edit ModuleShow Tags

Why St. Roch Rolls

Cheryl Gerber Photographs

St. Roch, the saint, was best known for tending to 13th-century victims of the plague. St. Roch, the neighborhood, is best known for tending to victims of boredom because it’s a quirky little part of town. There is, for example, Our Lady Star of the Sea Church (St. Roch Avenue at N. Prieur Street) where one of the stained glass windows is quite modern, at least by stained glass standards. Pictured is Pope Pius XI, who was fascinated with the invention of radio, initiating the first broadcast from the Vatican. Among those in the background is fellow Italian, Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of radio. While most stained glass images are dated with “AD,” this particular event took place Feb. 12, 1931. As the Catholic News Service reports:

“… with a flick of a switch, the pope’s words spoken from a tiny, bare-bones studio in Vatican City were heard simultaneously in New York, Quebec, London, Paris, and Melbourne and Sydney, Australia.

With Christ, the word was made flesh; with radio, the pope’s words were made trans-Atlantic and truly universal.”

Nearby is St. Roch Cemetery, which began as a chapel built in 1876 by a local priest in response to his belief that the saint helped his congregation survive a yellow fever epidemic. A cemetery was also built on the property in the above-ground vaults-style common at the time. The chapel contains a statue of St. Roch and his dog who, according to legend, rescued him from dying of the plague in the forest. Most notable, however, is a side room in which worshippers through the centuries have placed “ex-votos,” most often replicas of body limbs representing an infirmity needing saintly attention.

St. Roch cemetery is in many ways the epicenter of traditional New Orleans Catholicism, including long having been a must-stop for the Good Friday tradition of visiting nine churches.

Curiously, a young boy who grew up in this neighborhood must have been influenced by its spirituality so much that he became a devout Catholic, even meeting his wife-to-be at St. Louis Cathedral. It seems appropriate that Tom Benson would one day own a team called “the Saints,” and in the spirit of Marconi, a television station, too.

You Might Also Like



When Thoth Reigns

Uptown’s special parade

Lâche Pas

Sustaining and spreading the tradition of Cajun boucherie

Lunacy in the Air

Lunacy in the Air

Goodbye, Old Neighborhood

Life's Migration Continues

Add your comment:
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Latest Posts

Scent of a Woman

Every New Orleans bride needs a signature scent on her wedding day

I Do, Take 2

Renewing my commitment to NOLA

Three-Week Onion-Lichen and Fried Chicken for the Masses

Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Forager

The Orpheum Marks an Anniversary

Celebrate the Rebirth of a Great New Orleans Theatre

Location Spotlight: Marche

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags