The history of the Church of Saint Rocco
In 1533, the plague hit Spilimbergo, causing the death of 450 people in three months.
The population gathered to invoke the Virgin Mary and Saint Rocco against the plague and built a church as an offering. According to tradition, on his way back from a pilgrimage in France, Saint Rocco came across a town devastated by the plague and healed its people with prayer and the sign of the cross. During his travels he too contracted the disease and took shelter in a forest to avoid spreading it.
Here, an angel consoled him and healed him while a dog brought him a piece of bread every day. Saint Rocco became the protector against the plague, replacing Saint Sebastian in popular devotions.
The people’s church
The Church of Saint Rocco was completed in 1536. A rectangular plan, single-nave church enriched with depictions of Saint Rocco (by Gaspare Narvesa) and Saint Florian (invoked as a protector against epidemics, especially in Friuli) with the Our Lady of Good Health higher up. In 1883, the church was provided with a steeple. Shortly afterwards, the external portico was demolished. During the first world war, the church (like many others) was confiscated and turned into a warehouse. In 1922, it was finally restored.
Inside, you can admire a 1922 altarpiece by Umberto Martina and three stained glass windows with the Annunciation and Saint Rocco (2001).
According to the town’ tradition, the church of Saint Rocco has always been the People’s church, while the Cathedral was the church of the aristocracy and Saint Pantaleon (the Friars’ Church) was the church of the bourgeoisie.