History of the Waldensians

In Latin referred to as Valdenses, in Italian as Valdese, in French as Vaudois, in German as Waldenser, in English as Waldensians.

Around 1170 a wealthy merchant from Lyon gave away much of his property and, with a number of followers, founded a community which was based on the teaching of the new testament (the translation into the Provencal language he had financed). This community was pased on the right of laymen to hold sermons, which was permitted even to women, on chosen poverty and on social service. As the community eperienced repression by the Catholic church and by political authorities, they withdrew into remote mountain valleys; Waldensian communities covered the western and central Alps, from Tyrol to the Mediterranean. Waldensian communities underheld very simple churches devoid of ornamentation. They emphasized community life over individual self-realization.

The Waldensians of the Cottian Alps preserved their identity into the period of the reformation. In the 15th century they established contact with the HUSSITES, with whom they sympathized. Most Waldensian communities were located within the territory of the Dukes of SAVOY. The CONSILIUM GENERALE IN CHANFORAN 1532 decided the Waldensian movement would join the Swiss Reformation (at the suggestion of GUILLAUME FAREL, who would soon afterward introduce the reformation in GENEVA.
In 1545, French troops destroyed several Waldensian communities in the Provence. In the 17th century the Waldensian community suffered severe suppression, in 1655 from the Piemontese side (6,000 killed, 10,000 emigrated), in 1685 through the Cancellation of the Edict of Nantes, followed by a similar edict in Savoy-Piemont in 1686 and a French 'cleansing operation' that year. Many Waldensians emigrated. The reconquest of some of their valleys in 1689 and a toleration promise by the Duke of Savoy in 1690 was of temporary nature; in 1696 they were again ordered to leave.
A small community of Waldensians survived in the Italian Alps; it forms the Protestant church of Italy. An emigrant community in Uruguay has preserved her Waldensian identity. Elsewhere, the emigrant communities over time largely have been integrated into protestant communities of the hist countries.

Einführung in die Geschichte der Waldenser (Introduction in the History of the Waldensians), from Evangelische Waldenser-Kirchengemeinde, in German
Judith Collins, Heritage of the Waldensians (Valdese)
Dennis McCallum, The Waldensian Movement from Waldo to the Reformation
Article Waldensians, from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1912 edition
Protestantism in the Waldensian Valleys, from The History of Protestantism by James A. Wylie, 1878
REFERENCE Mark Greengrass, The Longman Companion to the European Reformation c.1500-1618, Harlow (Essex): Longman 1998, pp.40-41, KMLA Lib.Sign. 274.06 GB 121

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on January 10th 2003, last revised on November 15th 2004

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