Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Tarascon

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TARASCON, a town of France, in the department of Bouches-du-Rhöne, is situated on the left bank of the Rhone, opposite Beaucaire, with which it is connected by a suspension and a railway bridge. It is on the Lyons and Marseilles Railway, 156 miles south of the former town. The church of St Martha, built in 1187‒97 on the ruins of a Roman temple, rebuilt in 1379‒1449, has a Gothic spire, and many interesting pictures in the interior, which is of fairly pure Pointed architecture. Of the original building there remain a porch, and a side portal with capitols like those of St Trophimus at Arles. The former leads to the crypt, where are the tombs of St Martha and Louis II., king of Provence. The castle, picturesquely situated on a rock, was begun by Count Louis II. in the 14th century and finished by King René of Anjou in the 15th. It contains a turret stair and a chapel entrance, which are charming examples of 15th-century architecture, and fine wooden ceilings. It is now used as a prison. The civil court of the arrondissement of Arles is situated at Tarascon, which also possesses a commercial court, a hôtel de ville, and fine cavalry barracks. Hats, and the so-called Arles sausages, are made here. The population in 1886 was 6647 (commune 9314).

The town wakes up for the fair of Beaucaire and the fête of La Tarasque, the latter in celebration of St Martha’s deliverance of the town from a legendary monster of that name. King René presided in 1469, and grand exhibitions of costume and strange ceremonies take place during the two days of the festival. Tarascon was originally a settlement of the Massaliots, built on an island of the Rhone. The mediæval castle, where Pope Urban II. lived in 1096, was built on the ruins of a Roman castrum. The inhabitants of Tarascon preserved the municipal institutions granted them by the Romans, and of the absolute power claimed by the counts of Provence they only recognized the rights of sovereignty. Tarascon played a bloody part in the White Terror of 1815.