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Martha and the Dragon

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Well, this dragon extravaganza shows no signs of stopping! Much to my surprise, I found that Saint Martha (famous for the story of Jesus, Mary and Martha in Luke 10) also subdued a dragon! So today I'll be blogging the story of Martha and the Dragon, following up on the dragon stories about Philip, Daniel, Margaret, Jason, and George.

medieval image of Martha (look closely to see the dragon!)

The story of Martha and the Dragon comes from Voragine's Legenda Aurea, or Golden Legends. According to this account, Martha went with her sister Mary Magdalene to Marseilles after the death of Jesus. It was in France that she tangled with the dragon! Specifically, it was in the town of Tarascon, and the dragon is referred to as the "Tarasque" in French, or "Tarascurus" in Latin, as you will see in the legend below. This bizarre dragon also shows up in the Dungeons and Dragons fantasy game, where the name has a slightly different spelling: tarrasque.

You can read more about Martha at wikipedia, the Catholic Encyclopedia, Catholic Forum and Catholic Online. You can read an English translation of the Legenda Aurea online. The story is #105 in Ryan's English translation, and the Latin text below is #101 in Maggioni's edition.

Erat autem tunc temporis super Rodanum in nemore quodam inter Arelatem et Avinionem draco quidam, medius animal, medius piscis, grossior bove, longior equo, habens dentes ut spata acutos, et cornibus utraque parte munitus, qui latens in flumine omnes transeuntes perimebat et naves submergebat.

Venerat autem per mare de Galatia Asye, generatus a leviathan, qui est serpens aquosus et ferocissimus, et a bonacho animali, quod Galatie regio gignit, quod in sectatores suos per spatium iugeris stercus suum velut spiculum dirigit et quidquid tetigerit velut ignis exurit.

Ad quem Martha a populis rogata accedens ipsumque in nemore quendam hominem manducantem reperiens aquam benedictam super eum iecit et crucem quandam sibi ostendit.

Qui protinus victus ut ovis stans a sancta Martha proprio cingulo alligatur et ilico a populo lanceis et lapidibus perimitur. Vocabatur autem draco ab incolis Tarascurus, unde in huius memoriam locus ille adhuc vocatur Tarasconus.

Martha and the Tarasque, St.-Lorenz Church in Nuremberg

Beginning in the year 1474, there has been an annual celebration in the town of Tarascon, commemorating Martha's defeat of the dragon! You can read all about the festival at the website.

old postcard of Saint Martha celebration in Tarascon


© The segmented texts, annotations and audio files at are copyrighted by Laura Gibbs, 2006. No copyright is claimed for any images.