At that time, there was in a certain grove by the Rhone, between Arles and Avignon, a dragon, half beast and half fish, bigger than a cow, longer than a horse, having teeth like swords that were as sharp as horns, and fortified, as it were, with two shields on either side; and it would lay low in the river, and destroy all those who passed along it, and sink the ships. … Besought by the people, Martha came to it, and found it in the grove as it was eating a man. She threw holy water on it, and showed it a cross, and so it was immediately beaten, and stood still like a sheep. Martha tied it up with her belt, and the people at once destroyed it with spears and stone. The dragon was called by the inhabitants “Tarasconus”; wherefore in memory of this, that place is still called “Tarascon”… (From the Golden Legend)
This story from the Golden Legend was included in the Roman Breviary even so late as 1529, in one of the last editions before the Tridientine reform. All trace of it was removed in the revision of Pope St Pius V, but it survives to this day in the folk traditions of southern France. The monster, also called “Tarasque” in French, appears on the shield of the city of Tarascon, where the legend is commemorated in a folk festival held every year, and an effigy of the creature is carried through the city in a parade.
He also appears in some of the Corpus Christi festivals in Spain, as seen here in Valencia.
|St Martha and the Tarascon, from the Hours of Louis de Laval, 1470-85; Bibliothèque nationale de France, ms Latin 920, folio 317v|
|(Image from Wikipedia by Gérard Marin)|
|(Image from Wikipedia by Chosovi)|