Scenes of the Ancient Waldensian Church
(Click on the links to view the pictures.)
Waldensian Symbol, “Lux Lucet in Tenebris,” or “Light Shines in the Darkness”
Peter Waldo (Valdesius) (Reformation monument, Worms, Germany)
The St. Nizier quarter in Lyon. Valdesius lived in Rue Vandran, which was called Rue Maudicte (Jinxed Street) after his expulsion from the city (from A. Molnar, Storia dei Valdesi, Claudiana 1974).
A group of Waldensians at the stake near Toulouse in 1251. Engraving of the Dutch Jan Luyken (16th century)
Interior of the coulége, cut by Paolo Paschetto, 20th century.
An ancient stone hut deep in the Angrogna Valley, at Pra del Torno, where in pre-Reformation times itinerant Waldensian teachers (barba) studied scripture and prepared themselves for their rounds across the continent.
The site, restored through the efforts of Pastor Stefano Bonnet in the nineteenth century, occupies a key niche in the Waldensian collective memory.
“At length we came upon that mysterious sanctuary-fortress Pra del Torno, the very heart of the Valleys: here in the pre-Reformation era was the theological school for ‘teachers, evangelists, and martyrs.’ Here scripture and Latin alike were studied, pocket manuscripts of portions of scripture were copied and religious tracts were written.
“From here the neo-pastors departed, two-by-two, to meet their sisters and brothers all across the continent — to Calabria, to Puglia, to Moravia, Hungary, and Bohemia. Ostensibly, lest they draw attention to hostile eyes, they were merchants or physicians, but their real calling, as opportunity would provide, was seeding the word of God.”
— from Alle Porte D’italia, a book by the famous Italian writer, Edmondo De Amicis (1884)
The opening to the guieiza, cut by Paolo Paschetto.
This cavern was formed by the natural juxtaposition of massive rock slabs. Tradition has it that the site in times of pogroms against the Waldensians served as a secret refuge and worship place, guieiza meaning ‘church’ in dialect.
“. . . In the persecution era the cavern was a venue for Waldensian worship and shelter. If one does not know just where it is, it is almost impossible to find. . . .
“Though wide, the entrance is just several hand-lengths in depth, all jagged edges, permitting only a labored entry in distorted positions . . . .
“Long and narrow, a great shaft in the rock, the interior can accommodate some 200 persons. It is illuminated by three upper apertures which admit only enough light as to have the rocky depths resemble a castle’s subterranean dungeon whose prisoners were fed from breaks in the vault above. . . .
“It all must have moved deeply the white-bearded pastor who, from that pulpit of stone, a torch in hand, preached in guarded voice to a people who, bent over in a kind of natural crypt, could well imagine having worked their way inside for the last time. While the pastor preached or the faithful sang psalms in muted voices, youth stood watch on nearby heights. Upon any distant sign of approaching hostile force, signal was given. Below, in the cavern, the silence of the tomb stole over all. Until the threat had passed, embraces and prayers took over. When spies and police dogs headed the soldiers in the right direction, sentinels raced to bring the terrifying news, mothers pressed children to their breasts, fathers blessed their families, and friends exchanged farewells. Then, motionless, wordless, scarcely breathing, all strained their ears and commended their spirits to God. Oh! The frenzy at the entrance, the ultimatums to come out! And the sound of timber and dry leaves at the aperture! And the first whiffs of smoke stealing in, accompanied outside by bursts of cursing and contemptuous laughing . . . .” From Alle Porte D’italia, by Edmondo De Amicis (1884).
A meadow at Serre in the Angrogna Valley, where in their Synod of 1532 the Waldensian leadership considered the appeal of Swiss reformers and acted to merge into the Protestant Reformation. giving up some of their former beliefs. The Waldensian leadership worked out a declaration of faith, with seventeen articles, which, with another from the twelfth century, would take its place as a Waldensian foundation document. Four hundred years later, in 1932, a monument based upon the design of artist Paolo Paschetto, was erected at the Chanforan site.
The Waldensians went from persecution and martyrdom, to compromising their faith. Do we still practice the faith of the School of the Barba and the Cave Church? Or instead, have we, like the Waldensians, gone to Chanforan, and surrendered to Protestantism and Rome?
For more interesting Waldensian historical scenes, see www.geocities.com/luoghistorici/English.
For proof that many Waldensians were Sabbath-keepers, see Truth Triumphant, by Benjamin Wilkinson, 424 pages, $15.00. This book covers a whole range of Sabbatarian history. For post-Waldensian Church History, we recommend History of the Seventh Day Church of God, by Richard C. Nickels, 158 pages, $9.50, and Six Papers on the History of the Church of God, by Richard C. Nickels, 354 pages, $14.00.