Yellow fever killed almost 8000 New Orleanians in 1853. A local parish priest decided to pray to the patron saint of good health, St. Roch, to save the people of his parish. Miraculously, no one in the parish died. So in thanks, the parish built a chapel to St. Roch. It sits in the middle of St. Roch Cemetery #1.
Today, the chapel is known for its collection of odd objects, left behind by people who go there to pray to St. Roch for a cure for their ailments — crutches, glasses, even representations of various body parts. Having visited most of the usual tourist sights on previous visits to New Orleans, I looked up “unusual things you should see in New Orleans” and St. Roch was on every list. So I thought I’d give it a go.
Once I left Louis Armstrong Park, I walked east on Rampart. And walked, and walked, and walked. In the muggy and the heat. Crazy, since there’s a trolley that goes down Rampart.
Eventually, Rampart turned into St. Claude and on the corner of St. Claude and St. Roch Avenue was the St. Roch Market. It’s a food hall that originated as a market in 1875. It’s air-conditioned. And has rest rooms. I stopped for lunch.
There are 12 vendors with everything from seafood to cakes to alcoholic drinks. It was hard to choose but I opted for a salad from a stand called “Chido.” I’d definitely recommend the market and Chido. I’d even go out of my way to eat at the market.
After I’d sucked up all the air conditioning I could, I continued my walk, turning up St. Roch Avenue toward the cemetery. It’s a wide street with lovely old shotgun houses on either side.
And large trees shading the sidewalk.
Disappointment awaited me at St. Roch: the chapel was locked (for renovation “due to termites” says one website). So no gawking at weird objects for me.
I didn’t have the energy to wander the cemetery. So there was nothing left but to turn around and take the long path back down St. Roch toward the French Quarter. That did get me a better look at the houses along the road.
St. Roch was a 14th century Italian nobleman who cared for plague victims. When he himself caught the plague, the story goes, he took refuge in the forest, where he was sustained by a dog who brought him food. When the dog licked him, St. Roch was miraculously cured, thus making him the patron saint of dogs, plague victims and good health. Since the dog was the one who cured St. Roch, I don’t understand why it wasn’t the dog who became the patron saint of plague victims and good health. Sit. Heal. Good saint.