Beginning in 1817, a wave of yellow fever struck the gulf coast, taking more than 40,000 lives in half a century, just in New Orleans alone.
In 1867, during a desperate attempt to protect his parish members from the scourge, Reverend Peter Thevis decided to dedicate his prayers to Saint Roch, Patron Saint of Good Health. Saint Roch ministered to plague victims, and was said to have saved many lives from the pestilence.
His legend grew after he himself contracted the black death and was banished from the parish. He went into hiding in the nearby forest, where a dog that belonged to a local noble frequently visited him and took to bringing him bread to sustain him. According to the tale, the dog licked his wounds and healed him, after which the nobleman discovered him and became a disciple.
The community miraculously suffered no losses during this time, and this Gothic Revial chapel surrounded by a cemetery was erected in Saint Roch's honor.
The locals continued to revere him for graces of welfare and remission. For decades, believers have been leaving their polio braces, glass eyes, dental plates and other parts of their prosthetic selves when their health was recovered.
The resulting bric-a-brac of anatomical ex-votos, vintage medical artifacts and religious iconography has made the Saint Roch Shrines one of the most unusual in America.