The legend of the taming of the dragon by St Martha
Tarasque, the water dragon
In the French town of Nerluc, people lived in fear and terror. For in the river, in the lower reaches of the Rhone, lived a huge water dragon with shimmering blue scales like steel. His name was Tarasque. He wreaked much destruction, devoured cattle, hikers and virgins, and destroyed the farmers' land and farms.
Hopeless situation for 16 brave heroes
Sixteen of the bravest men in the village had set out to fight him - without success. Half of them were burnt by the dragon fire, the others managed to escape.
The villagers had also asked the king for help in vain. The king had more important matters to attend to. The noble knights were also not interested in coming to the aid of the village.
Saint Martha, Martha of Bethany
Then a small ship docked at Les-Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer and a young woman in a white dress stepped ashore. It was St Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus. She agreed to help the inhabitants. Martha went to the river and began to sing.
Taming the Dragon
Attracted by her singing, the dragon came out of the water and lay down at her feet. Martha continued to sing until he fell asleep. Then she took her belt and put it around the dragon's neck. The dragon now followed her like a dog.
Slaying the Dragon
But the people outside Nerluc were terrified when they saw the dragon at Martha's side and threw stones at him. Before Martha could stop the angry crowd, Tarasque, hit by a stone, sank to the ground dead.
The Feast of Pentecost
In memory of this event, the town was renamed Tarascon. Every year at Whitsun, the town celebrates the Tarasque Festival.