The Word of God – the Waldenses and their many Promised Crowns of Life

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12).

This was prepared by me a number of years ago as a chapter in a book I am writing on the assembling of the saints prior to Christ’s Second Coming.

Peter of Waldo, who many wrongly consider the founder of this movement and others but an early adherent to it, was a wealthy businessman from Lyons, France. History does tell us that the precepts of the Waldensian Apostolic faith predate Peter of Waldo as attested to by an early Confession of Faith that is dated to 1120 A.D. and by other ancient writings which also preceded him. Details of his early life are not known, however, we do know that in and about 1173-5 he dispersed his wealth and began preaching a simple gospel message in Lyons and elsewhere in France. What had convicted Peter was Christ’s injunction to another rich businessman: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”[1] Peter began preaching: “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”[2]

Peter was soon to gather around him other adherents to this simple Gospel message and they came to be known as the Poor of Lyon. Their distinctive, setting them apart from the established church, was the preaching of the Gospel and in the common language of the people. The preaching of God’s Word so that the common people might understand it would seem only common sense. The local priests however, sought to curb their preaching and Peter appealed to Pope Alexander III. The Pope responded in 1179 by praising the group’s vows of poverty but said that because they had no theological training they could preach only if the archbishop of Lyons gave them permission, which he refused to do. This preaching of the Gospel in the language of the people was a direct challenge to the Church as the guardian of the faith [3], yet preach the gospel they continued to do.

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Peter of Waldo set about to bring the Scriptures to the people so that they might hear, understand and believe. The Word of God, through the established Church, was to be heard only in Latin and therefore it was kept hidden from the common man. Waldo, before he had given away his wealth, employed two priests, Bernard Ydros and Stephen of Ansa, the one to translate, and the other to copy into the vernacular, large portions of the Holy Scriptures. Peter and the other Poor of Lyon continued to teach and preach as the Lord had instructed His followers to do. Shortly before Jesus ascended into Heaven he commanded His followers “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” The Poor of Lyon would obey what their Lord had commanded regardless the consequences even to death.

The established Church would not take kindly to opening the Word of God for all to hear and believe. In 1183 the Waldenses would appeal to Pope Lucius III, successor to Alexander, but to no avail. At the synod of Verona in 1184 they were excommunicated for the heresy of sharing the Gospel in the vernacular of the people. Bishop John de Belles-Mains of Lyons in turn expelled them from the diocese of Lyons. Much of the persecution that was to follow revolved around the Waldenses’ obedience to what the Lord had commissioned His people to do. In 1199 Pope Innocent III stated:

“… to be reproved are those who translate into French the Gospels, the letters of Paul, the Psalter, etc. They are moved by a certain love of Scripture in order to explain them clandestinely and to preach them to one another. The mysteries of the faith are not to be explained rashly to anyone. Usually in fact, they cannot be understood by everyone but only by those who are qualified to understand them with informed intelligence. The depth of the divine Scriptures is such that not only the illiterate and uninitiated have difficulty understanding them, but also the educated and the gifted.”[4]

These ancient Christians were part of the unbroken Apostolic Church. The Waldenses’ Confession of faith that had predated Peter of Waldo and the precepts that they believed in and preached have survived them even to the present.

Waldenses Confession of 1120[5]

1. We believe and firmly maintain all that is contained in the twelve articles of the symbol, commonly called the apostles’ creed, and we regard as heretical whatever is inconsistent with the said twelve articles.

2. We believe that there is one God – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

3. We acknowledge for sacred canonical scriptures the books of the Holy Bible. (Here follows the title of each, exactly conformable to our received canon, but which it is deemed, on that account, quite unnecessary to particularize.)

4. The books above-mentioned teach us: That there is one GOD, almighty, unbounded in wisdom, and infinite in goodness, and who, in His goodness, has made all things. For He created Adam after His own image and likeness. But through the enmity of the Devil, and his own disobedience, Adam fell, sin entered into the world, and we became transgressors in and by Adam.

5. That Christ had been promised to the fathers who received the law, to the end that, knowing their sin by the law, and their unrighteousness and insufficiency, they might desire the coming of Christ to make satisfaction for their sins, and to accomplish the law by Himself.

6. That at the time appointed of the Father, Christ was born – a time when iniquity everywhere abounded, to make it manifest that it was not for the sake of any good in ourselves, for all were sinners, but that He, who is true, might display His grace and mercy towards us.

7. That Christ is our life, and truth, and peace, and righteousness – our shepherd and advocate, our sacrifice and priest, who died for the salvation of all who should believe, and rose again for their justification.

8. And we also firmly believe, that there is no other mediator, or advocate with God the Father, but Jesus Christ. And as to the Virgin Mary, she was holy, humble, and full of grace; and this we also believe concerning all other saints, namely, that they are waiting in heaven for the resurrection of their bodies at the day of judgment.

9. We also believe, that, after this life, there are but two places – one for those that are saved, the other for the damned, which [two] we call paradise and hell, wholly denying that imaginary purgatory of Antichrist, invented in opposition to the truth.

10. Moreover, we have ever regarded all the inventions of men [in the affairs of religion] as an unspeakable abomination before God; such as the festival days and vigils of saints, and what is called holy-water, the abstaining from flesh on certain days, and such like things, but above all, the masses.

11. We hold in abhorrence all human inventions, as proceeding from Antichrist, which produce distress (Alluding probably to the voluntary penances and mortification imposed by the Catholics on themselves), and are prejudicial to the liberty of the mind.

12 We consider the Sacraments as signs of holy things, or as the visible emblems of invisible blessings. We regard it as proper and even necessary that believers use these symbols or visible forms when it can be done. Notwithstanding which, we maintain that believers may be saved without these signs, when they have neither place nor opportunity of observing them.

13. We acknowledge no sacraments [as of divine appointment] but baptism and the Lord’s supper.

14. We honour the secular powers, with subjection, obedience, promptitude, and payment.[6]

The fury of Rome which was to come down on them could not wipe out these people of faith. Philippe de Marnix, Baron de Saint Aldegonde[7] observed, “it is the work of God;
since whatever diligence the popes and their clergy have used, employing the assistances of princes and secular magistrates, they have not been able to exterminate them, nor by proscriptions, banishments, excommunications, publications of crusades, and pardons to all those who would wage war upon them; nor by all sorts of torments, fires, flames, gibbets, and cruel blood-shedding, have been able to hinder their doctrine from spreading itself almost through all the ends of the earth.”[8] In the words of Tertullian: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church”.

The early Waldenses were of southern France and the Piedmont region of Italy, eventually being forced through persecution into the towering Cottian Alps between those two European countries. In French, the name Waldenses or Vandois means “People of the Valleys” this being that they lived in the deep valleys between the mountain ridges that fanned out like fingers on a hand from the northern Italian city of Turin. It was here that the persecutors continued to pursue them. This short description of the land of the People of the Valleys is drawn from author J.A. Wylie’s personal observations from his travel there in 1851:

waldenses-one-a

“Within the limits of her own land did God provide a dwelling for this venerable Church. Let us bestow a glance upon the region. As one comes from the south, across the level plain of Piedmont, while yet nearly a hundred miles off, one sees the Alps rise before one, stretching like a great wall along the horizon. From the gates of the morning to those of the setting sun, the mountains run on in a line of towering magnificence. Pasturages and chestnut-forests clothe their base; eternal snows crown their summits. How varied are their forms! Some rise like castles of stupendous strength; others shoot up tall and tapering like needles; while others again run along in serrated lines, their summits torn and cleft by the storms of many thousand winters. At the hour of sunrise, what a glory kindles along the crest of that snowy rampart! At sunset the spectacle is again renewed, and a line of pyres is seen to burn in the evening sky.

“Drawing nearer the hills, on a line about thirty miles west of Turin, there opens before one what seems a great mountain portal. This is the entrance to the Waldensian territory. A low hill drawn along in front serves as a defence against all who may come with hostile intent, as but too frequently happened in times gone by, while a stupendous monolith—the Castelluzzo—shoots up to the clouds, and stands sentinel at the gate of this renowned region. As one approaches La Torre the Castelluzzo rises higher and higher, and irresistibly fixes the eye by the perfect beauty of its pillar-like form. But to this mountain a higher interest belongs than any that mere symmetry can give it. It is indissolubly linked with martyr-memories, and borrows a halo from the achievements of the past. How often, in days of old, was the confessor hurled sheer down its awful steep, and dashed on the rocks at its foot! And there, commingled in one ghastly heap, growing ever the bigger and ghastlier as another and yet another victim was added to it, lay the mangled bodies of pastor and peasant, of mother and child! It was the tragedies connected with this mountain mainly that called forth Milton’s noble sonnet:

“Avenge, O Lord, Thy slaughtered saints, whose bones
Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold.
Who were Thy sheep, and in their ancient fold,
Slain by the bloody Piedmonteses, that rolled
Mother with infant down the rocks. Their moans
The vales redoubled to the hills, and they
To heaven.” [9]

It is in this pastoral setting of beautiful valleys and mountains that those who believed in the sanctity of God’s Word and believed that it was God’s intent to reveal His Character, His Righteousness, His Law, His Love, His Justice and His Salvation Plan for mankind would meet with those who did not. For in 1487 Pope Innocent VIII issued a bull for the extermination of the Waldenses.  Albert Cataneo, archdeacon of Cremona, responded to the bull by organizing a crusade to complete the process and launched an offensive in the provinces of Dauphiné and Piedmont.  The fate of these faithful Christians is well recounted by J.A. Wylie.

“It was the year 1487. A great blow was meditated. The process of purging the Valleys languished. Pope Innocent VIII, who then filled the Papal chair, remembered how his renowned namesake, Innocent III, by an act of summary vengeance, had swept the Albigensian heresy from the south of France. Imitating the vigour of his predecessor, he would purge the Valleys as effectually and as speedily as Innocent III had done the plains of Dauphine and Provence.”

“The first step of the Pope was to issue a bull, denouncing as heretical those whom he delivered over to slaughter. This bull, after the manner of all such documents, was expressed in terms as sanctimonious as its spirit was inexorably cruel. It brings no charge against these men, as lawless, idle, dishonest, or disorderly; their fault was that they did not worship as Innocent worshipped, and that they practised a “simulated sanctity,” which had the effect of seducing the sheep of the true fold, therefore he orders “that malicious and abominable sect of malignants,” if they “refuse to abjure, to be crushed like venomous snakes.”

“To carry out his bull, Innocent VIII appointed Albert Cataneo, Archdeacon of Cremona, his legate, entrusting to him the chief conduct of the enterprise. He fortified him, moreover, with Papal missives to all princes, dukes, and powers, within whose dominions any Vaudois[10] were to be found. The Pope especially accredited him to Charles VIII of France and Charles II of Savoy, commanding them to support him with the whole power of their arms. The bull invited all Catholics to take up the cross against the heretics; and to stimulate them in this pious work it “absolved from all ecclesiastical pains and penalties, general and particular; it released all who joined the crusade from any oaths they might have taken; it legitimatised their title to any property they might have illegally acquired; and promised remission of all their sins to such as should kill any heretic. It annulled all contracts made in favour of Vaudois, ordered their domestics to abandon them, forbade all persons to give them any aid whatever, and empowered all persons to take possession of their property.”

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“These were powerful incentives—plenary pardon and unrestrained license. They were hardly needed to awaken the zeal of the neighbouring populations, always too ready to show their devotion to Rome by spilling the blood and making a booty of the goods of the Waldenses. The King of France and the Duke of Savoy lent a willing ear to the summons from the Vatican. They made haste to unfurl their banners, and enlist soldiers in this holy cause, and soon a numerous army was on its march to sweep from the mountains where they had dwelt from immemorial time, these confessors of the Gospel faith pure and undefiled. In the train of this armed host came a motley crowd of volunteers, “vagabond adventurers,” says Muston[11], “ambitious fanatics, reckless pillagers, merciless assassins, assembled from all parts of Italy”–a horde of brigands in short, the worthy tools of the man whose bloody work they were assembled to do.”

“Before all these arrangements were finished it was the month of June of 1488. The Pope’s bull was talked of in all countries: and the din of preparation rung far and near, for it was not only on the Waldensian mountains, but on the Waldensian race, wherever dispersed, in Germany, in Calabria, and in other countries, that this terrible blow was to fall. All kings were invited to gird on the sword, and come to the help of the Church in the execution of her purpose of effecting an extermination of her enemies that should never need to be repeated. Wherever a Vaudois foot trod, the soil was polluted, and had to be cleansed; wherever a Vaudois breathed, the air was tainted, and must be purified; wherever Vaudois psalm or prayer ascended, there was the infection of heresy, and around the spot a cordon must be drawn to protect the spiritual health of the district. The Pope’s bull was thus universal in its application, and almost the only people left ignorant of the commotion it had excited, and the bustle of preparation it had called forth, were those poor men on whom this terrible tempest was about to burst.”

“The joint army numbered about 18,000 regular soldiers. This force was swelled by the thousands of ruffians, already mentioned, drawn together by the spiritual and temporal rewards to be earned in this work of combined piety and pillage. The Piedmontese division of this host directed their course towards the “Valleys” proper, on the Italian side of the Alps. The French division, marching from the north, advanced to attack the inhabitants of the Dauphinese Alps, where the Albigensian heresy, recovering somewhat its terrible excision by Innocent III, had begun again to take root. Two storms, from opposite points, or rather from all points, were approaching those mighty mountains, the sanctuary and citadel of the primitive faith. That lamp is about to be extinguished at last, which has burned here during so many ages, and survived so many tempests. The mailed hand of the Pope is uplifted, and we wait to see the blow fall.”

“We see at this moment two armies on the march to attack the Christians inhabiting the Cottian and Dauphinese Alps. The sword now unsheathed is to be returned to its scabbard only when there breathes no longer in these mountains a single confessor of the faith condemned in the bull of Innocent VIII. The plan of the campaign was to attack at the same time on two opposite points of the great mountain-chain; and advancing, the one army from the south-east, and the other from the north-west, to meet in the Valley of Angrogna, the centre of the territory, and there strike the final blow. Let us follow first the French division of this host, that which is advancing against the Alps of Dauphine.”

“This portion of the crusaders was led by a daring and cruel man, skilled in such adventures, the Lord of La Palu. He ascended the mountains with his fanatics, and entered the

, a deep gorge overhung by towering mountains. The inhabitants, seeing an armed force twenty times their own number enter their valley, despaired of being able to resist them, and prepared for flight. They placed their old people and children in rustic carts, together with their domestic utensils, and such store of victuals as the urgency of the occasion permitted them to collect, and driving their herds before them, they began to climb the rugged slopes of Mount Pelvoux, which rises some six thousand feet over the level of the valley. They sang canticles as they climbed the steeps, which served at once to smooth their rugged path, and to dispel their terrors. Not a few were overtaken and slaughtered, and theirs was perhaps the happier lot.”

“About half-way up there is an immense cavern, called Aigue-Froid, from the cold springs that gush out from its rocky walls. In front of the cavern is a platform of rock, where the spectator sees beneath him only fearful precipices, which must be clambered over before one can reach the entrance to the grotto. The roof of the cave forms a magnificent arch, which gradually subsides and contracts into a narrow passage, or threat, and then widens once more, and forms a roomy hall of irregular form. Into this grotto, as into an impregnable castle, did the Vaudois enter. Their women, infants, and old men, they placed in the inner hall; their cattle and sheep they distributed along the lateral cavities of the grotto. The able-bodied men posted themselves at the entrance. Having barricaded with huge stones both the doorway of the cave and the path that led to it, they deemed themselves secure. They had provisions to last, Cataneo says in his Memoirs, “two years;” and it would cost them little effort to hurl headlong down the precipices any one who should attempt to scale them in order to reach the entrance of the cavern.”

“But a device of their pursuer rendered all these precautions and defences vain. La Palu ascended the mountain on the other side, and approaching the cave from above, let down his soldiers by ropes from the precipice overhanging the entrance to the grotto. The platform in front was thus secured by his soldiers. The Vaudois might have cut the ropes, and dispatched their foes as they were being lowered one by one, but the boldness of the manoeuvre would seem to have paralysed them. They retreated into the cavern to find in it their grave. La Palu saw the danger of permitting his men to follow them into the depths of their hiding-place. He adopted the easier and safer method of piling up at its entrance all the wood he could collect and setting fire to it. A huge volume of black smoke began to roll into the cave, leaving to the unhappy inmates the miserable alternative of rushing out and falling by the sword that waited for them, or of remaining in the interior to be stifled by the murky vapour. Some rushed out, and were massacred; but the greater part remained till death slowly approached them by suffocation. “When the cavern was afterwards examined,” says Muston, “there were found in it 400 infants, suffocated in their cradles, or in the arms of their dead mothers. Altogether there perished in this cavern more than 3,000 Vaudois, including the entire population of Val Loyse. Cataneo distributed the property of these unfortunates among the vagabonds who accompanied him, and never again did the Vaudois Church raise its head in these blood-stained valleys”.

“The terrible stroke that fell on the Vale of Loyse was the shielding of the neighbouring valleys of Argentiere and Fraissiniere. Their inhabitents had been destined to destruction also, but the fate of their co-religionists taught them that their only chance of safety lay in resistance. Accordingly, barricading the passes of their valleys, they showed such a front to the foe when he advanced, that he deemed it prudent to turn away and leave them in peace. This devastating tempest now swept along to discharge its violence on other valleys. “One would have thought,” to use the words of Muston, “that the plague had passed along the track over which its march lay: it was on the inquisitors.”

“A detachment of the French army struck across the Alps in a south-east direction, holding their course toward the Waldensian Valleys, there to unite with the main body of the crusaders under Cataneo. They slaughtered, pillaged, and burned as they went onward, and at last arrived with dripping swords in the Valley of Pragelas.”

“The Valley of Pragelas, where we now see these assassins, sweeps along, from almost the summit of the Alps, to the south, watered by the rivers Clusone and Dora, and opens on the great plain of Piedmont, having Pinerolo on the one side and Susa on the other. It was then and long after under the dominion of France. “Prior to the revocation of the Edict of Nantes,” says Muston, “the Vaudois of these valleys [that is, Pragelas, and the lateral vales branching out from it] possessed eleven parishes, eighteen churches, and sixty-four centres of religious assembling, where worship was celebrated morning and evening, in as many hamlets. It was in Laus, in Pragelas, that was held the famous synod where, 200 years before the Protestant Reformation, 140 Protestant pastors assembled, each accompanied by two or three lay deputies; and it was from the Val di Pragelas that the Gospel of God made its way into France prior to the fifteenth century”.

“This was the valley of Pragelas which had been the scene of the terrible tragedy of Christmas

, 1400. Again terror, mourning, and death were carried into it. The peaceful inhabitants, who were expecting no such invasion, were busy reaping their harvests, when the horde of assassins burst upon them. In the first panic they abandoned their dwellings and fled. Many were overtaken and slain; hamlets and whole villages were given to the flames; nor could the caves in which multitudes sought refuge afford any protection. The horrible barbarity of the Val Loyse was repeated in the Valley of Pragelas. Combustible materials were piled up and fires kindled at the mouths of these hiding-places; and when extinguished, all was silent within. Folded together in one motionless heap lay mother and babe, patriarch and stripling; while the fatal smoke, which had cast them into that deep sleep, was eddying along the roof, and slowly making its exit into the clear sunlit summer sky. But the course of this destruction was stayed. After the first surprise the inhabitants took heart, and turning upon their murderers drove them from their valley, exacting a heavy penalty in the pursuit for the ravages they had committed in it.”

“We now turn to the Piedmontese portion of this army. It was led by the Papal legate, Cataneo, in person. It was destined to operate against those valleys in Piedmont which were the most ancient seat of these religionists, and were deemed the stronghold of the Vaudois heresy. Cataneo repaired to Pinerolo, which adjoins the frontier of the doomed territory. Thence he dispatched a band of preaching monks to convert the men of the Valleys. These missionaries returned without having, so far as appears made a single convert. The legate now put his soldiers in motion. Traversing the glorious plain, the Clusone gleaming out through rich corn-fields and vineyards on their left, and the mighty rampart of the hills, with their chestnut forests, their pasturages and snows, rising grandly on their right, and turning round the shoulder of the copse-clad Bricherasio, this army, with another army of pillagers and cut-throats in its rear, advanced up the long avenue that leads to La Torre, the capital of the Valleys, and sat down before it. They had come against a simple, unarmed people, who knew how to tend their vines, and lead their herds to pasture, but were ignorant of the art of war. It seemed as if the last hour of the Waldensian race had struck.”

“Seeing this mighty host before their Valleys, the Waldenses sent off two of their patriarchs to request an interview with Cataneo, and turn, if possible, his heart to peace. Jolin Campo and John Desiderio were dispatched on this embassy. “Do not condemn us without hearing us,” said they, “for we are Christians and faithful subjects; and our Barbes are prepared to prove, in public or in private, that our doctrines are conformable to the Word of God … Our hope in God is greater than our desire to please men; beware how you draw down upon yourselves His anger by persecuting us; for remember that, if God so wills it, all the forces you have assembled against us will nothing avail.”

“These were weighty words, and they were meekly spoken, but as to changing Cataneo’s purpose, or softening the hearts of the ruffian-host which he led, they might as well have been addressed to the rocks which rose around the speakers. Nevertheless, they fell not to the ground.”

“Cataneo, believing that the Vaudois herdsmen would not stand an hour before his men-at-arms, and desirous of striking a finishing blow, divided his army into a number of attacking parties, which were to begin the battle on various points at the same time. The folly of extending his line so as to embrace the whole territory led to Cataneo’s destruction; but his strategy was rewarded with a few small successes at first.”

“One troop was stationed at the entrance of the Val Lucerna; we shall follow its march till it disappears on the mountains which it hopes to conquer, and then we shall return and narrate the more decisive operations of the campaign under Cataneo in the Val Angrogna.”

“The first step of the invaders was to occupy the town of La Torre, situated on the angle formed by the junction of the Val Lucerna and the Val Angrogna, the silver Pelice at its feet and the shadow of the Castelluzzo covering it. The soldiers were probably spared the necessity or denied the pleasure of slaughter, the inhabitants having fled to the mountains. The valley beyond La Torre is too open to admit of being defended, and the troop advanced along it unopposed. Than this theatre of war nothing in ordinary times is more peaceful, nothing more grand. A carpet of rich meadows clothes it from side to side; fruitful trees fleck it with their shadows; the Pelice waters it; and on either hand is a wall of mountains, whose sides display successive zones of festooned vines, golden grain, dark chestnut forests, and rich pasturages. Over these are hung stupendous battlements of rock; and above all, towering high in air, are the everlasting peaks in their robes of ice and snow. But the sublimities of nature were nothing to men whose thoughts were only of blood.”

“Pursuing their march up the valley, the soldiers next came to Villaro. It is situated about midway between the entrance and head of Lucerna, on a ledge of turn in the side of the great mountains, raised some 200 feet above the Pelice, which flows past at about a quarter of a mile’s distance. The troop had little difficulty in taking possession. Most of the inhabitants, warned of the approach of danger, had fled to the Alps. What Cataneo’s troops inflicted on those who had been unable to make their escape, no history records. The half of Lucerna, with the towns of La Torre and Villaro and their hamlets, was in the occupation of Cataneo’s soldiers; their march so far had been a victorious one, though certainly not a glorious one, such victories as they had gained being only over unarmed peasants and bed-rid women.”

“Resuming their march the troop came next to Bobbio. The name of Bobbio is not unknown in classic story. It nestles at the base of gigantic cliffs, where the lofty summit of the Col la Croix points the way to France, and overhangs a path which apostolic feet may have trodden. The Pelice is seen foreing its way through the dark gorges of the mountains in a thundering torrent, and meandering in a flood of silver along the valley.”

“At this point the grandeur of the Val Lucerna attains its height. Let us pause to survey the scene that must here have met the eyes of Cataneo’s soldiers, and which, one would suppose, might have turned them from their cruel purpose. Immediately behind Bobbio shoots up the “Barion,” symmetrical as Egyptian obelisk, but far taller and more massive. Its summit rises 3,000 feet above the roof of the little town. Compared with this majestic monolith the proudest monument of Europe’s proudest capital is a mere toy. Yet even the Barion is but one item in this assemblage of glories. Overtopping it behind, and sweeping round the extremity of the valley, is a glorious amphitheatre of crags and precipices, enclosed by a background of great mountains, some rounded like domes, others sharp as needles; and rising out of this sea of hills, are the grander and loftier forms of the Alp des Rousses and the Col de Malaure, which guard the gloomy pass that winds its way through splintered rocks and under overhanging precipices, till it opens into the valleys of the French Protestants, and lands the traveller on the plains of Dauphine. In this unrivalled amphitheatre sits Bobbio, in summer buried in blossoms and fruit, and in winter wrapped in the shadows of its great mountains, and the mists of their tempests. What a contrast between the still repose and grand sublimity of nature and the dreadful errand on which the men now pressing forward to the little town are bent! To them nature speaks in vain! they are engrossed with but one thought.”

“The capture of Bobbio—an easy task—put the soldiers in possession of the entire Valley of Lucerna; its inhabitants had been chased to the Alps, or their blood mingled with the waters of their own Pelice. Other and remoter expeditions were now projected. Their plan was to traverse the Col Julien, sweep down on the Valley of Prali, which lies on the north of it, chastise its inhabitants, pass on to the Valleys of San Martino and Perosa, and pursuing the circuit of the Valleys, and clearing the ground as they went onward of its inveterate heresy, at least of its heretics, join the main body of crusaders, who, they expected, would by this time have finished their work in the Valley of Angrogna, and all together celebrate their victory. They would then be able to say that they had gone the round of the Waldensian territory, and had at last effected the long-meditated work, so often attempted, but hitherto in vain, of the utter extirpation of its heresy. But the war was destined to have a very different termination.”

“The expedition across the Col Julien was immediately commenced. A corps of 700 men was detached from the army in Lucerna for this service.[12] The ascent of the mountain opens immediately on the north side of Bobbio. We see the soldiers toiling upwards on the track, which is a mere foot-path formed by the herdsmen. At every short distance they pass the thick-planted chalets and hamlets sweetly embowered amid mantling vines, or the branches of the apple and cherry tree, or the goodlier chestnut; but the inhabitants have fled. They have now reached a great height on the mountainside. Beneath is Bobbio, a speck of brown. There is the Valley of Lucerna, a ribbon of green, with a thread of silver woven into it, and lying along amid masses of mighty rocks. There, across Lucerna, are the great mountains that enclose the Valley of Rora, standing up in the silent sky; on the right are the spiky crags that bristle along the Pass of Miraboue, that leads to France, and yonder in the east is a glimpse of the far-extending Plains of Piedmont.”

“But the summit is yet a long way off, and the soldiers of the Papal legate, bearing their weapons, to be employed, not in venturesome battle, but in cowardly massacre, toil up the ascent. As they gain on the mountian, they look down on pinnacles which half an hour before had looked down on them. Other heights, tall as the former, still rise above them; they climb to these airy spires, which in their turn sink beneath their feet. This process they repeat again and again, and at last they come out upon the downs that clothe the shoulders of the mountain. Now it is that the scene around them becomes one of stupendous and inexpressible grandeur. Away to the east, now fully under the eye, is the plain of Piedmont, green as meadow, and level as ocean. At their feet yawn gorges and abysses, while spiky pinnacles peer up from below as if to buttress the mountain. The horizon is filled with Alpine peaks, conspicuous among which, on the east, is the Col la Vechera, whose snow-clad summit draws the eye to the more than classic valley over which it towers, where the Barbes in ancient days were wont to assemble in synod, and whence their missionaries went forth, at the peril of life, to distribute the Scriptures and sow the seed of the Kingdom. It was not unmarked, doubtless, by this corps, forming, as they meant it should do, the terminating point of their expedition in the Val di Angrogna. On the west, the crowning glory of the scene was Monte Viso, standing up in bold relief in the ebon vault, in a robe of silver. But in vain had Nature spread out her magnificence before men who had neither eyes to see nor hearts to feel her glory.”

“Climbing on their hands and knees the steep grassy slope in which the pass terminates, they looked down from the summit on the Valley of Prali, at that moment a scene of peace. Its great snow-clad hills, conspicuous among which is the Col d’Abries, kept guard around it. Down their sides rolled foaming torrents, which, uniting in the valley, flowed along in a full and rapid river. Over the bosom of the plain were scattered numerous hamlets. Suddenly on the mountains above had gathered this flock of vultures that with greedy eyes were looking down upon their prey. Impatient to begin their work, the 700 assassins rushed down on the plain.”

“The troop had reckoned that, no tidings of their approach having reached this secluded valley, they would fall upon its unarmed peasants as falls the avalanche, and crush them. But it was not to be so. Instead of fleeing, panic-struck, as the invaders expected, the men of Prali hastily assembled, and stood to their defence. Battle was joined at the hamlet of Pommiers. The weapons of the Vaudois were rude, but their trust in God, and their indignation at the cowardly and bloody assault, gave them strength and courage. The Piedmontese soldiers, wearied with the rugged, slippery tracks they had traversed, fell beneath the blows of their opponents. Every man of them was cut down with the exception of one ensign. Of all the 700, he alone survived. During the carnage, he made his escape, and ascending the banks of a mountain torrent, he crept into a cavity which the summer heats had formed in a mass of snow. There he remained hid for some days; at last, cold and hunger drove him forth to cast himself upon the mercy of the men of Prali. They were generous enough to pardon this solitary survivor of the host that had come to massacre them. They sent him back across the Col Julien, to tell those from whom he had come that the Vaudois had courage to fight for their hearths and altars, and that of the army of 700 which they had sent to slay them, he only had escaped to carry tidings of the fate which had befallen his companions.”

“The great devastation and massacre of the saints was only lessened by the weariness of the attackers and the protection afforded by the mighty fortresses that God’s creation had sheltered His people with. The brutal design of Pope Innocent VIII was not permitted to fully reach its brutal intent through God’s grace. Yet Rome was not through with the people of the Book and much persecution and brutality was yet to befall the Waldenses. They did not and would not turn from their Lord for in His Word they took comfort in His promise of eternal life.  They triumphed over Innocent and his armies by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.[13] “The cause in which they suffered, was for the word of God; the best any man can lay down his life for; faith in God’s word, and the unshaken confession of that faith. They commit their cause to Him to whom vengeance belongs. The Lord is the comforter of his afflicted servants, and precious is their blood in his sight.”[14]

“The saints in heaven are received to a fellowship or participation with Christ in the glory of that dominion to which the Father hath exalted him. The saints, when they ascend to heaven as Christ ascended, and are made to sit together with him in heavenly places, and are partakers of the glory of his exaltation, are exalted to reign with him. They are through him made kings and priests, and reign with him, and in him, over the same kingdom. As the Father hath appointed unto him a kingdom, so he has appointed to them. The Father has appointed the Son to reign over his own kingdom, and the Son appoints his saints to reign in his. The Father has given to Christ to sit with him on his throne, and Christ gives to the saints to sit with him on his throne, agreeably to Christ’s promise. Christ, as God’s Son, is the heir of his kingdom, and the saints are joint heirs with Christ: which implies, that they are heirs of the same inheritance, to possess the same kingdom, in and with him, according to their capacity. Christ, in his kingdom, reigns over heaven and earth; he is appointed the heir of all things; and so all things are the saints’; ‘whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come,’ all are theirs; because they are Christ’s, and united to him. The angels are given to Christ as a part of his dominion: they are all given to wait upon him as ministering spirits to him. So also they are all, even the highest and most dignified of them, ministering spirits, to minister to them who are the heirs of salvation.[15]

[1]    Matthew 19:21 (New International Version)

[2]    Matthew 6:24 (New International Version)

[3]   The priest is the minister of Divine worship, and especially of the highest act of worship, sacrifice. In this sense, every religion has its priests, exercising more or less exalted sacerdotal functions as intermediaries between man and the Divinity.  “New Advent is an online version of the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia.”

[4]    Denzinger-Schonmetzer, Enchiridion symbolorum, definitionum et declarationum de rebus fidei et morum (Compendium of Catholic dogma) 770-771, Source: Bridging the Gap – Lectio Divina, Religious Education, and the Have-not’s by Father John Belmonte, S.J.

[5]     An ancient Confession of Faith of the Waldenses, Copied out of certain Manuscripts, bearing date Anno Dom.

1120. That is to say, near 400 years before the time of either Calvin or Luther.

[6]    William Jones, The history of the Christian church : from the birth of Christ to the eighteenth century, including the very interesting account of the Waldenses and Albigenses ; two volumes in one, Louisville, Ky. : Published by Ephraim A. Smith, 1831. Edition: 3d American from the 4th London edition; pp 332-33

[7]    Marnix de Sainte-Aldegonde studied theology under John Calvin and Theodore Beza at Geneva.

[8]    Marnix de Sainte-Aldegonde, Table of Difference, Part iii., p. 150. Source: History of the ancient Christians inhabiting the valleys of the Alps: I. The Waldenses. II. The Albigenses. III. The Vaudois. by Jean Paul Perrin;  Robert Baird;  Samuel Miller, Philadelphia : Griffith and Simon, 1847. p42

[9] The History of the Waldenses, by J. A. Wylie

[10] The Waldensians (also known variously as Waldenses, Vallenses, Vaudois (French), or Valdesi (Italian)

[11]   Israel of the Alps: A Complete History of the Waldenses and Their Colonies – in Two Volumes by Alexis Muston 1875

[12]   A History of the Vaudois Church from its Origin, and of the Vaudois of Piedmont to the Present Day by Antoine Monastier, formerly Pastor in the Cantone De Vaud, and a Native of the Vaudois Valleys of Piedmont.  1848

[13]   Revelation 12:11

[14]   Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on Revelation 6:9-11

[15]   TRUE SAINTS, WHEN ABSENT FROM THE BODY, ARE PRESENT WITH THE LORD by Jonathan Edwards

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