Concerning the persecutions which the Waldenses have suffered since the eleventh century.


WE have given an account of the true rise of the name of the Paterines and of the Waldenses; but that true original of the word was soon after thrust out by another: for, before the end of the twelfth century, the name Paterine passed for a word derived from the Latin word pati, because of the great sufferings to which the believers of Italy found themselves exposed by the violence of the Popes and Emperors, who had abandoned their power to the Popes, to exterminate and root out whatsoever opposed itself against their authority.

And the same happened to the word Vallenses, which signified no more than inhabitants of the valleys; which their enemies would needs derive from Waldo, and which at last they imposed upon the Vaudois, as living in the Valley of Tears, according to the derivation which Everard of Bethune gives us of that name. Indeed it must be acknowledged, that New Rome has carried the art of persecuting much beyond any thing that Old Rome ever arrived to, though she seemed to have attained the mastery of that art, after the ten persecutions which she carried on against the Christians. To judge of this, we need only take notice of some laws which have served for a rule to the persecutors, how they were to behave themselves therein. The first law I have here set down is equally levelled against the Paterines and the Poor of Lyons, maliciously confounding them with the Manichees, that so they might appear the more execrable in the eyes of the people. It was published by Pope Lucius III. Cap. ad abolendam.


“To abolish the malignity of diverse heresies, which of late time are sprung up in most parts of the world, it is but fitting that the power committed to the Church should be awakened, that by the concurring assistance of the imperial strength, both the insolence and impertenence of the heretics, in their false designs, may be crushed, and the truth of catholic simplicity shining forth in the holy Church, may demonstrate her pure and free from the execrableness of their false doctrines. Wherefore we, being supported by the presence and power of our most dear son Frederick, the most illustrious Emperor of the Romans, always Increaser of the Empire, with the common advice and counsel of our brethren, and other Patriarchs, Archbishops, and many princes, who from several parts of the world are met together, do set ourselves against these heretics, who have got different names from the several false doctrines they profess, by the sanction of this present general Decree, and by our apostolical authority, according to the tenor of these presents, we condemn all manner of heresy, by what name soever it may be denominated.

“More particularly we declare all Cathari, Paterines, and those who call themselves the Humbled, or Poor of Lyons, Passagines, Josephines, Arnoldists, to lie under a perpetual anathema: and because some under a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof, as the Apostle saith, assume to themselves the authority of preaching, whereas the same Apostle saith, How shall they preach, except they be sent? we therefore conclude under the same sentence of a perpetual anathema all those who either being forbid or not sent, do notwithstanding presume to preach publicly or privately, without any authority received either from the apostolic see, or from the Bishops of their respective dioceses; as likewise all those who are not afraid to hold or teach any opinions concerning the sacrament of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, baptism, the remission of sins, matrimony, or any other sacraments of the Church, differing from what the holy Church of Rome doth preach and observe; and generally all those who the same Church of Rome, or the several Bishops in their dioceses, with the advice of their Clergy, or the Clergy themselves, in case of a vacancy of the see, with the advice, if need be, of neighboring Bishops, shall judge to be heretics. And we likewise declare all entertainers and defenders of the said heretics, and those that have showed any favor, or given countenance to them, thereby strengthening them in their heresy, whether they be called Comforted, Bellowers, or Perfect, or with whatsoever superstitious names they disguise themselves, to be liable to the same sentence.

“And though it sometimes happens, that the severity of ecclesiastical discipline, necessary to the coercion of sin, is condemned by those who do not understand the virtue of it, we notwithstanding by these presents decree, that whosoever shall be notoriously convicted of these errors, if a Clergyman, or one that endeavors to conceal himself under any religious order, he shall be immediately deprived of all prerogative of the Church orders, and so being divested of all office and benefice, be delivered up to the secular power, to be punished according to demerit, unless, immediately upon his being detected, he voluntarily returns to the truth of the Catholic faith, and submits publicly to abjure his errors, at the discretion of the Bishop of ‘the diocese, and to make suitable satisfaction. And as for a layman who shall be found guilty, either publicly or privately, of any of the aforesaid crimes, unless by abjuring his heresy, and making satisfaction, he immediately returns to the orthodox faith; we decree him to be left to the sentence of the secular judge, to receive condign punishment, according to the quality of his offense.

“And as for those who are taken notice of by the Church, as suspected of heresy, except at the Bishop’s command they give full evidence of their innocence, according to the degree of suspicion against them, and quality of their persons, they shall all be liable to the same sentence. But those who after having abjured their errors, or cleared themselves upon examination, to their Bishop, shall be found to have relapsed into their abjured heresy; we decree, that without any further hearing they be forthwith delivered up to the secular power, and their goods confiscated to the use of the Church.

“And we further decree, that this excommunication, in which our will is, that all heretics be included, be by all Patriarchs, Archbishops, and Bishops, renewed and repeated in all the chief festivals, and on any public solemnity, or upon any other occasion, to the glory of God, and the putting a stop to all heretical pravity; ordering by our apostolical authority, that if any Bishop be found wanting or slow herein, he be suspended for three years from his episcopal dignity and ad ministration.

“Furthermore, with the counsel and advice of Bishops, and intimation of the Emperor and Princes of the empire, we do add, that every Archbishop or Bishop, either in his own person, or by his Archdeacon, or by other honest and fit persons, shall once or twice in the year visit the parish in which it is reported that heretics dwell, and there cause two or three men of good credit, or, if need be, the whole neighborhood, to swear, that if they know of any heretics there, or any that frequent private meetings, or differ from the common conversation of mankind, either in life or manners, they will signify the same to the Bishop or Archdeacon: the Bishop also or Archdeacon shall summon before them the parties accused, who, except they at their discretion, according to the custom of the country, do clear themselves of the guilt laid to their charge; or if, after having so cleared themselves, they relapse again to their former unbelief, shall be punished at the Bishop’s discretion. And if any of them, by a damnable superstition, shall refuse to swear, that alone shall suffice to make them heretics convict, and liable to the punishments before mentioned.

“We ordain further, that all earls, barons, governors, and consuls of cities, and other places, in pursuance of the conmonition of the respective Archbishops and Bishops, shall promise upon oath, that in all these particulars, whenever they are thereto required, they wild powerfully and effectually assist the Church against heretics and their complices, and endeavor faithfully, according to their office and power, to execute the ecclesiastical and imperial statutes concerning the matters herein mentioned.

“But if any of them shall refuse to observe this, they shall be deprived of their honors and charges, and be rendered incapable of receiving others, and moreover be involved in the sentence of excommunication, and their goods be confiscated to the use of the Church. And if any city shall refuse to yield obedience to these decretal constitutions; or that, contrary to the episcopal commonition, they shall neglect to punish opposers; we ordain the same to be excluded from all commerce with other cities, and to be deprived of the episcopal dignity.

“We likewise decree, that all favorers of heretics, as men stigmatized with perpetual infamy, shall be incapable of being attorneys or witnesses, or of bearing any public office whatsoever. And as for those who are exempt from the law of diocesan jurisdiction, as being immediately under the jurisdiction of the apostolic see; nevertheless, as to these constitutions against heretics, we will, that they be subject to the judgment of the Archbishop and Bishops, and that in this case they yield obedience to them, as to the delegates of the apostolic see, the immunity of their privileges notwithstanding.”

Ildephonsus also, King of Arragon, testified his zeal against the Waldenses, by his edict published in the year 1194, which was printed by Pegna, in his notes upon the Directory of Inquisitors.


“Ildephonsus, by the grace of God, King of Arragon, Earl of Barcelona, Marquess of Provence, to all Archbishops, Bishops, and other Prelates of the Church of God, Earls, Viscounts, Knights, and to all people of his kingdom, or belonging to his dominions, wisheth health, and the sound observance of Christian religion. “Forasmuch as it has pleased God to set us over his people, it is but fit and just, that according to our might we should be continually solicitous for the welfare and defense of the same; wherefore we, in imitation of our ancestors, and obedience to the Canons, which determine and ordain heretics, as persons east out from the sight of God and all Catholics, to be condemned and persecuted every where; do command and charge the Waldenses, Inzabbati, who otherwise are called the Poor of Lyons, and all other heretics, who cannot be numbered, being excommunicated from the holy Church, adversaries to the cross of Christ, violaters and corrupters of the Christian religion, and the avowed enemies of us and our kingdom, to depart out of our kingdom and all our dominions. Whosoever therefore from this day forwards shall presume to receive the said Waldenses and Zapatati, or any other heretics, of whatsoever profession, into their houses, or to be present at their pernicious sermons, or to afford them meat, or any other favour, shall incur thereby the indignation of Almighty God, as well as ours, and have his goods confiscated, without the remedy of an appeal, and be punished as if he were actually guilty of high treason. And we strictly charge and command, that this our edict and perpetual constitution be publicly read on the Lord’s days by the Bishops and other Rectors of churches, in all the cities, castles, and towns of our kingdom, and throughout all our dominions: and that the same be observed by Vicars, Bailiffs, Justices, Merins, and Zenalroedins, and all the people in general; and the aforesaid punishment be inflicted upon all transgressors. “We will further, that if any person, noble or ignoble, shall in any part of our dominions find any of these wicked wretches, who shall be known to have had three days’ notice of this our edict, that do not forthwith depart, but rather obstinately staying or lingering, shall any way plague, despitefully use, or distress them, (wounding unto death, and maiming of them only excepted,) he will, in so doing, act nothing but what will be very grateful and pleasing to us, and shall be so far from fearing to incur any penalty thereby, that he may be sure rather to deserve our favor.

Furthermore, we do afford to these wicked miscreants respite (though this may in some sort seem contrary to our duty and reason) till the day after All Saints day; but that all those who either shall not be gone by that time, or at least preparing for their departure, shall be spoiled, beaten, cudgelled, and shamefully and ill entreated.

“The seal of Ildephonsus, King of Arragon, Earl of Barcelona, and Marquess of Provence. The seal of Peter, King of Arragon, and Earl of Barcelona, in the original of this paper. And the seal of Lord Regimund, Archbishop of Tarfacona, and Lord G. Bishop of Tirassona, and Lord R. Bishop of Jacca. This was copied at Ilerda by William de Bastia, the King’s notary, ann. Dom. 1194. and compared with the original; witness Martinus de Seribas, notary.” Innocent III. caused search to be made after them in all places. We have a letter of his, writ to those of Metz, where he ordains them to be driven out and persecuted with the extremest barbarity, because they took the liberty to read the Scripture translated by Peter Waldo into the vulgar tongue. Honorius III. obliged the Emperor Frederick II. to publish that terrible law which we find at the end of the book De Feudis, in the civil law, and which has since served for a rule to the Inquisitors, as well as given them their authority. Which law is as follows:

“Frederick, by the grace of God, Emperor of the Romans, always Increaser of the Empire, to all Marquesses, Earls, and all people under our government, health and grace.

“Forasmuch as nothing can conduce more to the honor of the empire and praise of the Emperor, than by the purging away of error, and the abrogating of some unjust statutes, to procure the peaceable and flourishing state of the Church of God, and secure her liberty:

“We do condemn to perpetual infamy the Cathari, Paterines, Leonists, Speronists, Arnoldists, Circumcised, and all other heretics of both sexes, by what names soever they are called, commanding their goods to be confiscated, so as never to return to them again, or by way of inheritance to devolve to their children; since it is a much more heinous crime to offend the majesty of the eternal God, than any temporal prince. And as for those who are only suspected of heresy, except at the command of the Church, according to the degree of suspicion and quality of the person, they make their innocence to appear by a sufficient vindication of themselves, shall be accounted infamous and outlawed; and if they continue so for a whole year, we condemn them for heretics. “We also ordain by this perpetual edict, that all that are in authority, Consuls and Rectors, whatsoever their office may be, do publicly take an oath, for defense of the faith, that they will faithfully endeavor, to the utmost of their power, to exterminate all heretics in the places subject to their jurisdiction; so that from henceforward, as soon as any one shall be taken into any place of power, either perpetual or temporary, he shall be obliged to swear to this article; and that in case of failure, they shall neither be accounted persons in power or consuls; and we from thenceforward declare all their acts and sentences null and void. “And in case that any temporal lord, being required and admonished by the Church, shall neglect to purge his territories from heretical pravity, after a whole year elapsed from the time of his admonition, we give leave to Catholics to possess themselves of his lands, who, after having rooted out the heretics, shall quietly possess the same, and preserve it in piety. Provided always that the rights of the principal lord of the fee be preserved but that the foresaid law shall be wholly in force against those who have no such superior lords of the fee.

“Moreover, we proscribe all heretics, entertainers and favorers of heretics, firmly ordaining, that as soon as any such, being excommunicated by the Church, shall contemptuously refuse to make satisfaction within a year’s time, that then he be made infamous by law, and incapable of any office, or of being a member of any council, or of having a voice in the choice of officers, or being a witness: that moreover he be deprived of the power of making a will, and of succeeding into an inheritance. Furthermore, that nobody shall be bound to answer to his complaint or charge, but he be obliged to answer the charge of others against him: and if he be a judge, that his sentence be of no force, and that no causes be brought before him; if he be a lawyer, that his pleading be not admitted; and if a scrivener, that the writings drawn up by him be invalid.

“And we Honorius, Bishop, servant of the servants of God, do praise, approve, and confirm these laws, to continue for ever, which are made by Frederick, Emperor of the Romans, our dearest son, for the good of all Christians. And in case any man, by a presumptuous attempt, being instigated thereto by the enemy of mankind, shall any way endeavor the infraction of them, let him be assured, that by so doing he will incur the indignation of Almighty God, and of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.

We may take a guess from hence of the miseries these Christians have been exposed to, who from the time of these bloody edicts scarce enjoyed the least interval of rest. And we may add also the settling of the Inquisition, which was introduced with the title of an office by Gregory IX. They who will take the pains to consult the Annals of the Church of Rome will find, that from the thirteenth century her purple hath been dyed in the blood of the Waldenses and Paterines. The primitive Christian Church suffered ten persecutions, but most of them at considerable intervals, and their whole continuance was not at the most above two hundred and fifty years; and it hath been demonstrated, that the number of the martyrs was not excessive. But Rome now can vaunt itself to have almost continually maintained a persecution against these Churches of Italy, and to have carried it on to that degree, that there are none of them now to be found in their own country, except those she locks up in her dungeons, and reserves for capital punishments.

My design is not to draw the picture of these cruelties, since Rome has monopolized the trade of persecution; he that would undertake this, ought to be furnished with the registers of the Inquisitors, who have been the executioners of the bloody sentences of that tribunal, in all the places where the Churches of Piedmont have spread their faith, by planting of their colonies. I shall only make some few observations upon this matter, which may give us a compendious view of the horridness of the Inquisitors’ proceedings.

First, They have not omitted any cruelty, whereby they might find a pretence of running them down, as persons of most abominable lives. They have put them to tortures in vast numbers, both men and women, to force them to confess, that in their assemblies they committed filthiness against nature. Hereof we have an illustrious example in Perrin, chapter 7 which is a pregnant proof that the spirit of Paganism is by transmigration passed into the Church of Rome.

Secondly, They have made use of a devilish cheat, to make people believe that they were guilty by their own confession. There is a memorable example of this in the year 1487, recorded by Perrin, chapter 3 in these words:

“I took notice of an extraordinary piece of villainy in a process formed by the Monk Veiletty; for having the aforesaid process in my hand, we found the short billets in which the aforesaid commissary took the answers of the accused simply, as they came from his mouth; but we have found them afterwards enlarged in the process, and often quite contrary to what was taken from his mouth, by changing the intention of the accused, and making him say those things of which he never thought. As for example; when he was asked, whether he believes, that after the words in the sacrament of the Mass, pronounced by the Priest, the body of Christ was in the Host, large and extended, as it was upon the cross; and the Vaudois answered, that it was not; Viletty framed his answer thus: That he had confessed that he did not believe in God; or at the least his scribe by his order. Also they asked him, if the saints were to be invocated; he answered, not: and they framed it in writing, that he had cursed and spoke evil of the saints. He was asked, if the Virgin Mary was to be worshipped, and to be prayed unto in our necessity; he answered, no: they write, that he had spoken blasphemy against the Virgin Mary.

Behold the fidelity of the aforesaid Monk’s Inquisitors, of so important an action.

This was not without a considerable providence of God, that the memory of these wickednesses have been preserved unto this present, that it may be seen with what spirit they were acted, who, having the power of killing and destroying, made use of such impostures, to make them more odious under the burden of such calamities.

Perrin gives an account how he was informed of those villainies; that when Ambrum was taken in the year 1588, by the Mareschal of Lesdiguieres, those processes that were kept in original in the house of the Bishop, were obtained from a famous man, Calignon, Chancellor of Navarra, and were put in the hands of M. Wulqon, Counsellot in the parliament of Grenoble, from whom he had a view of them.

Those processes were put afterwards in the hand of Mr. Morland, and are now in the public library of the University of Cambridge, from whence I thought fit to make an extract in the next chapter, and at the end of this book to justify what was asserted by Perrin with so much assurance. The reader may compare the billet and the process, and thereby judge of the honesty of the Inquisitors, and whether I was obliged to review with concern such villainous and wicked calumnies.

Thirdly, They have employed the fury of soldiers, and the cruelty of executioners to root them out.

Fourthly, These great accusers of the Waldenses, as being unclean and filthy people, have made use of the Inquisition to ravish their wives and their daughters; as one may see in the history of Perrin, chapter 7.

Fifthly, They have exercised their cruelties even upon those whom the rage of the most barbarous wars is wont to spare, old men, women, and sucking children.

Sixthly, They have involved in the same punishments with them, all those who spoke the least word in favor of them: as may be seen in many instances.

Seventhly, They have obliged princes to break the treaties they had made with this poor people, when, forced by the extremity of their violences, they undertook their own defense, forcing their adversaries to come to a treaty with them.

Those that are desirous to be more particularly informed concerning the behavior of the Inquisitors, need only peruse their Directory printed at Rome, 1593 by order of Gregory XIII. and from thence may easily judge how they behaved themselves in the persecution of these poor Christians in 1375 which Spondanus mentions; in that of 1380, stirred up by Borelli the Monk, mentioned by Leger; in that of 1400, set down by the same author; in that of 1160, which he mentions, which continued until the year 1487, under the conduct of the Franciscan Friar Veyletti; in that of 1488, under Innocent VIII. carried on by Albert de Capitaneis, and continued by Plorreri, a Franciscan, mentioned by Leger; in that of 1494 managed by Antonius Fabry; in that of 1506, under Lewis XII.; in that of 1532, by Pantalcon Berser, mentioned by Leger; in the year 1540, and 1541, in which were involved those of Cabrieres, Merindol, and the neighboring places; in the years 1560, and 1561, and I do not know in how many more, which are mentioned by the Jacobins in the annals of their order. But we may form a truer judgment of their sufferings, by four very memorable new instances, the first of which is, the desolation and destruction of the churches of Pragela in Dauphind, in the year 1545, under Francis I. The history of the destruction of Cabrieres and Merindol is as remarkable and notorious in France as the Parisian massacre. Sleidan hath writ the history of it in his book, and Thuanus has confirmed whatever he has writ concerning it. The speech of Monsieur Aubery de Maurier, attorney of the French King, touching the same matter, is still in being, which is capable of drawing tears from the eyes of cannibals themselves, and the most enraged dragoons.

The second is, the destruction of their churches in Bohemia, by Ferdinand II.; whereof we have an account printed in 1648.

The third is, the persecution, or rather desolation, which happened in 1655, in our days, and which is set down by Sir Samuel Morland, and Monsieur Leger, Pastor of those Valleys.

The fourth is, the business of 1686, which caused the total ruin of those churches, and the dispersion of the inhabitants of the Valleys: a short account whereof was printed at the Theatre at Oxford, in 1688.



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