St. Roch Chapel in New Orleans is filled with prosthetic legs, false teeth, and polio braces

Offer Your Leg (Or Eyes, Or Canned Corn) at This Chapel

Offer Your Leg (Or Eyes, Or Canned Corn) at This Chapel

Atlas Obscura
Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
May 7 2014 11:59 AM

Honor The Healing Powers of St. Roch By Leaving Him Your Leg

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In the neighborhood of St. Roch, New Orleans, there's a cemetery. At the center of that cemetery is a chapel. Inside that chapel, in a small room behind an iron gate, are rows of prosthetic legs, plaster feet, false teeth, and a few pairs of artificial eyeballs.

The chapel, dedicated in 1867, honors St. Roch, who is associated with good health and healing. Born in the mid-14th century in the Montpellier, Majorca — now part of France — St. Roch is said to have cared for and cured plague victims in Italy.


When a yellow fever epidemic hit 19th century New Orleans, Reverend Peter Thevis, the pastor of Holy Trinity Catholic Church, prayed to St. Roch for relief and promised to build a shrine to him if the members of his parish were protected from the disease.

Though 40,000 people in New Orleans succumbed to yellow fever, Father Thevis' community recorded no losses. The reverend therefore held up his end of the bargain and built St. Roch Chapel and the surrounding cemetery. The gates opened to the public in 1876.

A room in the chapel has since become filled with offerings left by those in need of healing — as well as people who have prayed to St. Roch and recovered. Bricks on the ground are inscribed with the word "thanks" and littered with coins. Children's polio braces, crutches, and false limbs line the walls, interspersed with praying hands, rosaries, and figurines. More eclectic objects such as a can of corn and a Ronald McDonald figurine appear occasionally, either laden with personal meaning or put there on a whim.

Other places around the world where you can make offerings to saints:

View St Roch Cemeteries in a larger map

Ella Morton is a writer working on The Atlas Obscura, a book about global wonders, curiosities, and esoterica adapted from Atlas Obscura. Follow her on Twitter.