This is a Provençal Romanesque church built in the 11th and 12th century in honour of Martha of Bethany, a monster-taming saint from Judaea who subdued the Tarasque, a monster terrorizing the population. Legend has it that she tamed the beast, which haunted the marshland, through the power of her Christian faith alone. The villagers then killed the Tarasque. Martha settled in Tarascon, converting the town to Christianity before dying there in the year 68.
The Fête of the Tarasque, which takes place in Tarascon on the last weekend of June, was proclaimed a Cultural and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
During four festive days, the town celebrates this ancient rite that the King René had made fashionable again in 1474.
The Collegiate Church is composed of two superimposed churches, the crypt and the upper church, with extensions made during the 14th, 16th and 17th centuries.
In addition to the crypt, only some of the enclosing walls and the gate (of which the bas reliefs and statues decorating it were destroyed in 1793 by the revolutionaries) remain from the Romanesque period.
The crypt, remodelled in the 17th century, houses the ancient sarcophagus (ca. 3rd century) which contains the relics of Saint Martha.
Over the centuries, many of the faithful came to worship at the site of Martha's tomb:
Clovis in the year 500, the popes of Avignon, kings and queens such as Charles XI and Catherine de Medicis), Queen Anne of Austria, Francois , Charles IX and his mother Anne of Austria, Mazarin, Napoleon Bonaparte...
Still today many pilgrims flock to the Sainte-Marthe Collegiate Church. Saint Martha's feast day is celebrated by the Roman Catholic church on July 29th.
The gothic church was built according to a tripartite layout and on the keystones we can make out Saint Martha, Saint Michael, an Agnus Dei and a floral decor.
The side chapels were built between the buttresses. The north chapels are the oldest and date from the 14th and 15th centuries.
The Boisselin-Moitessier organ, listed as a historic monument, was entirely restored in the 19th and 20th centuries. Its polychrome organ case is one of the most beautiful in Provence.
You can also admire the 15th century altarpiece and paintings by Nicolas MIGNARD (1606-1668), Pierre PARROCEL (1670-1739), Joseph Marie VIEN (1716-1809) who was David's teacher, Carle VAN LOO (1705-1765).
The Sainte-Marthe Royal Collegiate Church in Tarascon
The Choir of the Sainte-Marthe Collegiate Church
The Crypt in the Sainte-Marthe Collegiate Church or Lower Church
The Tomb of Saint-Martha
The reliquary bust of Saint-Martha
The Arrival of Christ in Bethany, Nicolas Mignard, 17th century
The organ in the Sainte-Marthe Collegiate Church