Giovanni Maria Morlaiter, St. Roch Curing the Plague Victims

17th century
Façade, Church of San Rocco, Venice

In William Caxton's version of the legend St. Roch served the plague victims of Acquapendente, a city in Italy, and "them that were sick he blessed in the name of Christ, and as soon he had touched the sick men they were all whole." The relief shows the first of these two actions, the blessing of the sick people (men and women both, pace Caxton).

The figure above and behind the saint's head is not an angel, because he has no wings. Rather, considering his trumpet and the cloud background in which he is set, he is most likely a personification of the unhealthy air that was thought to be the cause of plague. The flames erupting from his trumpet would represent the "fire of pestilence" (as Caxton's version calls the disease) that these ill winds have blown upon the populace.

Read more about images of St. Roch.

Photographed at the church by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.