Marseille and the chevalier Roze, hero of the 1720 plague

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The statue - ©Christophe.moustier / CC-BY-SA The statue - ©Christophe.moustier / CC-BY-SA
Chevalier Roze's statue Statue Epidemic

The chevalier helped Marseille out a lot, during the big plague epidemic in 1720! You’ll find his statue in a small public garden, surrounding by modern buildings... It was made in 1880 by sculptor from Marseille, Jean-Baptiste Hugues. But who are you, Nicolas Roze?

The generous chevalier

Nicolas, nicknamed "chevalier", was born in Marseille in February 15th 1671, from a family of merchants. He was a trader, too, and he’s been all over the wold... but when he came back to Marseille, the plague was here!

Roze immediately helped the city: they lacked place in the general hospital? He founded another one on the Rive-Neuve! He came everyday to visit ill people, to talk with them and cheered them up a little.

He also raised a gallows to show to other people that he was the law, now: because, you know, in calamities times, everything gone downhill. So looters started to steal in houses, for foods, mainly.

Well, Roze sent them to the gallows! He foresaw everything: they said that in order to feed orphans babies, he brought nannies-goats with udders full of milk! He spent his own money to provide for orphans needs.

Plague hero

But Roze was famous for his dedication during the Tourette episode: on August 1720, the weather was terribly hot, more than 1 000 corpses laid strewn on the ground of the Tourette esplanade since weeks. The smell, indescribable, monstrous, made people faint. And yet, they had to bury those putrid remains, quickly!

The Tourette was the only place in the city that had not been disinfected. They had to be quick... but they lacked place, because too much people were dying every day!

So Roze decided something pretty crazy: "here, look at that", he said to the city mayors. "We have walls flanked by big towers. Under these bastions, we have to dig huge holes... we have to put corpses in there and put quicklime on it!"

Roze, helped by 100 convicts, put bodies in the holes (they promised them freedom for their help, if they escaped alive). Of course, all those convicts died, but our chevalier came through... Roze, hero of the plague of Marseille, rare nobleman who dedicated himself to his compatriots' survival!


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