Avignon and the tarasque, between legend and traditions

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The tarasque - ©Véronique PAGNIER / CC-BY-SA The tarasque - ©Véronique PAGNIER / CC-BY-SA
Avignon's tarasque House Festivities Miracle Legend

In Avignon, in the rue des Teinturiers, we have the low-relief of the tarasque eating a man, at number 20... The tarasque?

A horrible beast!

Between Arles and Avignon, we found insalubrious swamps. In those swamps, a naughty beast: the Tarasque! A horrible amphibious beast, a ferocious animal which was bigger than a beef, longer than a horse, with a lion head, teeth sharp as swords, a horse mane, back cutting as an axe, scales, 6 bear paws, a snake tail, a shell like turtle on its flanks... It was squatted in the river Rhône's banks, but also guzzled all the people! Only one person could release them from the Tarasque, one woman...

Saint Marthe rallies round

Who? A saint, Marthe, who arrived in the area to christianize inhabitants. But Marthe also made lots of miracle. Maybe she could save people from the Tarasque? Well, of course!

She found the beast, hidden in a wood eating a man. Marthe sprinkled it with blessed water and showed it a cross. The beast suddenly submitted itself to her, paralyzed! Marthe put it a silk ribbon around its neck. The Tarasque became as docile as a lamb...

But meanwhile, people shout for revenge!! As soon as the monster died, they came and cut it into pieces! So... the naughty beast was defeated and the christianism imposed itself in Provence. Thanks to... Marthe!

Tarasque’s games

King René of Provence was inspired by the legend of the Tarasque: he created games in its honour, in Tarascon, in 1469! Twice a year, on Pentecost and Ascension, people took out a big effigy of the Tarasque, in Tarascon's streets.

Knights of the Tarasque (an order found in April 1474) carried the beast. It blew smoke by its big nostrils, shook his huge head and ran into the crowd, who had to quickly parry it!

Oh, there were lots of wounded people, during these celebrations... UNESCO listed those Games in 2008, as Humanity immaterial inheritance!


And also!