Saint Martha and the Tarasque

In the Bible, siblings Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were good friends of Jesus. A legend in the region of Provence tells that they were exiled from the Holy Land along with many other early Christians, and Martha wound up in the south of France. Her potential new converts in the town of Nerluc asked for a miracle. Maybe Martha could save them from the Tarasque?

At that time, on the banks of the Rhone River, between Avignon and Arles, there was a fearsome monster terrorizing the region. It was called a Tarasque, and it was a horrendous creature. It had the face of a lion and razor-sharp teeth. Its body was similar to a dragon, and it had six legs ending in claws so sharp that one swipe could slice a boat in half. On its back was an armored shell, like that of a turtle, with spikes running along it, and to finish off, it had a tail that it used like a whip.

This monster killed every living creature that crossed its path: man or beast, on land or in the river. It could shoot fire from his eyes and its mouth, even its breath would burn whatever it touched. Legions of soldiers were sent out to fight it, but because of its impenetrable shell, their spears and weapons were useless.

Martha indeed conquered the Tarasque, but not by killing it. The result was that the villagers converted to Christianity, Martha eventually became a saint, and the town of Nerluc changed its name to Tarascon in honor of the beast. The Festival of the Tarasque was established in 1469, and now it is held every summer, with parades featuring a mockup of the terrifying creature. You can read the full story of Saint Martha and the Tarasque at The Curious Rambler. -Thanks, Newton!

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