Italians Celebrating Saint Roque's Day 1902

St. Roque, a thirteenth century king of the town of Montpelier in France, who abdicated his throne and became a saint in Italy and later a martyr in France, is the patron saint of the Italian colony of Johnson, Tillary and Navy streets. Today the San Rocco Society, comprising nearly all the Italians of this colony, is celebrating the festival of San Rocco. Not even on the Feast of the Assumption, which is a holy day, and the biggest feast the Italians celebrate, did this colony decorate so lavishly and enter into the celebration with such spirit as they have on this fete day. Navy street, from Park avenue to Johnson street, is hung with such a profusion of flags and studded with such imposing pasteboard statues and picturesque clusters of decoration as would only be put out by Italians in honor of a patron saint.

The celebration began last night, and will end tonight at 12 o'clock. The anniversary of St. Roque's martyrdom fell on August 16, and this was the day it should have been celebrated, but as this was Saturday and a busy day with the Italians, and as they were not prepared to do their patron saint justice on that day, the festival was postponed. The San Rocco Society is a benevolent and religious organization and its membership is about the same as that of St. Michael's Church in Tillary street, where the religious part of today's celebration occurred today at 11 o'clock, when Father Garofalo said mass and preached a sermon about St. Roque.

St. Roque, according to the Italian belief, was born with a red cross on his left side. He was king of the town of Montpelier, but abdicated early in life in favor of his uncle. He left France and went into Italy, where he became a wanderer from city to city, going among the poor and healing and converting them. He performed many alleged miracles and was always the friend of the poor.

He would bury the poor, taking their bodies on his shoulders and carrying them to the grave. He went into the catacombs and remained for some time. All this time he was known as a poor beggar, and not as an abdicated king. After many years he went back to Montpelier, when that town was engaged in war with another town. He was arrested and thrown into prison as a spy. To this treatment he quietly submitted, not securing his release by the mere announcement, "I am St. Roque."

After five years of prison life he died, still unknown as the former ruler of the town. But after his death it was declared that the sound of melodious music came from his prison cell and lights were seen there. Then by the discovery of the red cross birthmark on his left side the populace knew that the supposed spy was St. Roque.

The Italians of Tillary, Johnson, Navy and other streets of that section have chosen him as their patron saint and celebrate each year. The Italians in the Carroll street quarter have St. Bartholomew as their patron saint and celebrate on another date.

The San Rocco festival is not a holy day, but is observed about as generally among the Italians of the Tillary street quarter as holy days are. The biggest feature of the celebration today was the parade, which started from Navy street and Park avenue. About 1500 Italians were in line and three Italian bands furnished the music. Over a dozen barouches were in the parade, f filled with children. After marching through several streets in the neighborhood, the parade ended at St. Michael's Church, where services were held from 11 to 1 o'clock. At 3 o'clock this afternoon the 200 honorary presidents of the San Rocco Society reviewed a special parade and listened to music from the three bands.

For two blocks Navy street with its picturesque decorations presents the picture of an Italian town on a fete day, about the only difference being that the Stars and Stripes is intermingled with the crimson cross and crown of Italy. By far the most gorgeous part of the decorations are the three music stands, two of which are erected over the sidewalk. The principal one of these stands is combined with an altar, surmounted with a cross, and such splendor as is shown here would have attracted especial notice on Dewey day. The brightest colors have been lavished on these stands, and not wholly without artistic effect. Every Italian shop in the neighborhood is decorated, and several fairs or bazaars are open. In these cooking utensils and household ornaments are raffled off. Around the counters throng countless children with their mothers. Most of the men gather in the saloons and cafes.

To-night will occur the chief events of the festival. There will be a lot of parading and music from the three bands and everybody will go to the brilliant altar and kneel in honor of Saint Roque. The raffling increases as the hours of the festival progress. it seems to be a part of the homage paid to the patron saint. The fireworks tonight will be on a meager scale on account of the danger from fire, but two large designs are promised. One is a picture of Admiral Dewey and another is the Brooklyn Bridge. At 12 o'clock the festival will end with a concert by all three of the bands.

Those who arranged the festival are Alphonso Marone, president; Ernese Luca-damo, vice president; Angelo Coppolo, cashier, and Andrea Puglielli, secretary.

Website: The History
Article Name: Italians Celebrating Saint Roque's Day 1902
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


Brooklyn Daily Eagle 8/26/1902
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