The story of the Babau (pronounced “Babaou”) is quite an amazing story. Its setting is the Salanque and more particularly the villages of Rivesaltes, Pia and Ortolanes (today it is only the old hermitage Notre Dame de la Salut).
According to legend, dans la nuit de 2 février 1290 un monstre sanguinaire surgit des berges de l’Agly. D’où venait-il ? Qui était-il ? Nul le sait. Toujours est-il qu’il est là, et bien là. Le monstre s’approcha des murailles de Rivesaltes, mais en cette nuit calme tout était verrouillé. S’approchant du grand mur, il voit une brèche et s’y faufile. Il se trouve alors près du four banal à l’intérieur de la cité. L’histoire raconte qu’un véritable carnage eu lieu : 6 enfants furent dévorés, dont le plus âgés n’avait que 7 ans. A partir de ce jour le « forat d’al fourn » (trou du four) entre dans la légende en même temps que le Babau.
The next day the St Blaise procession was canceled and the hole was urgently blocked. But during the night the wall was pierced again and traces of the monster appeared in the sand of the bank. The watchmen swore they had heard hissings in the night and seen the eyes of the beast. According to their descriptions the beast had eyes that shot red flames!
The next evening the lord of Fraisse, present in the city of Rivesaltes, remained awake. As the Babau engulfed the city again, he was able to mortally wound him. The animal fled and ran aground near Ortolanes, where it died. The inhabitants of Rivesaltes, relieved, took the following day a rib of the sinister beast as a relic. The most fantastic thing is that this coast is still visible in Rivesaltes, at the tourist office!
In fact, and too bad for the legend, it is a whale rib, the very one that ran aground in St Cyprien on November 27, 1828 and which was missing a few ribs when the specialists arrived. This is how bloodthirsty monster ribs can also be found in Arles sur Tech!
On a building in the city center of Rivesaltes is drawn a trompe-l'oeil. We see on the left the lord of Fraisse, crossbow in hand, while the monster approaches the city on the right. At the top, on the right, we can see the citadel of the Salveterra, the castle of Opoul. The drawing on the red sheet stretched on the balcony is the coat of arms of Rivesaltes, a Saint André of complexion and the cross in saltire, called "of Saint André".
You should know that a brotherhood of Babau was created recently, in 1996. It inherited an older commandery, known in the Middle Ages towards the end of the 13th century. As such, she is the guardian of the Babau tradition in Rivesaltes.