Did you ever hear of the
Waldensians? Probably not. They were originally known as the
Valdese--the dwellers in the valley. They were also called the
Vaudois, and the
Cathars. The word changed through the centuries, to
Waldensians. They lived in the
Piedmont mountain valleys of Northern Italy and Southern France. They were simple people. They were hardworking faithful people.
There was a Christian leader named Peter Waldo, who ministered to the
Waldensians in the 1100's. Because of the similarity of name, he was thought to be the founder of the Waldensians.
But the Waldensians were the very
first true Christian denomination.
LUCET IN TENEBRIS
LIGHT SHINES IN DARKNESS
"THE LIGHT SHINES IN DARKNESS" was the motto of the Waldensians----they lived up to that motto through all the
From the very first century, the Valdese---the
"dwellers in the valley" heard the truth of the Gospel. They had the entire New Testament. The books that
have always been the recognized canon of the Christian Church. They lived by its teachings.
The Waldensian ministers were called "barbas". The word meant something like
"uncle". these Barbas, and other Waldensian missionaries, spread the light of the Gospel throughout their portion of
Europe in those early centuries. They did not build fancy buildings. They did not own lots of land, or have political
power. All they had was the simple word of the Gospel. Jesus Saves.
From the fifth
century, they refused to recognize the church at Rome as a genuine Christian church. The bishops and popes had set themselves
up with political power, lived in the lap of wealth and luxury, claimed that they were the final authority on all things Christian,
and insisted that all Christians everywhere were under their jurisdiction. At the same time, they had taken all
the rituals and ceremonies and liturgies of the ancient pagan Roman religions, called them Christian liturgy, and insisted
that these ceremonies were the heart and reality of the Christian religion.
They went so far as to deny
the work that Jesus had done on the Cross. They denied the saving power of the Word of God. They denied that Jesus
Blood cleanses us from all sin, and set up the system of confessions, and penances, and purgatory, where the sinner was told
he had to suffer for his own sins before he could get into Heaven. Yet they still claimed to have absolute power over
everything that called itself Christian.
Revelation 2:6 JESUS
SAID--But this you have---You hate the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.
Nicolaitans is a compound word that means "conquerors of the laity"-----"overcomers of the people"----the
How were these bishops and popes "powergrabbers"?
They declared "You can't come to Christ without us and our
ceremonies!" "You must belong to us and be subject to us!"
But the Waldensians had the Bible. The Word of God.
They had it in their own language from the very beginning. The first century. They studied it and lived by it.
Every generation of Waldensians was faithful to what their parents had read to them from the Word of God.
They hated the deeds of the Powergrabbers, which Jesus had
declared in the Book of Revelation, that He also hated.
Is it really possible for Jesus to look at something going
on in His church, among the people He died for, and declare that He hates it?
Yes it is. Read Revelation, 1,2,3.
In the year 1229 A.D., the
Roman church had become an apostate. An apostate is someone who used to be a Christian but is not, any more. The
hierarchy had forsaken its faith, but did not want to forsake its political power.
They held a meeting called the Council
of Valencia. They declared that the Bible was a forbidden book. No one but members of the clergy could own or
read or translate the Bible! The 119th Psalm declares that the entrance of God's word brings Light. These
apostate church leaders were not interested in God's Light.
They declared that they themselves
were in charge, and that no one but they themselves were allowed to read the Bible.
But the Waldensians had the entire
New Testament in their own language from the first century.
The entrance of God's Word gave light to their souls.
Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee."
So what did the
pope do to these Bible believing protestants dwelling in the Piedmont Mountain Valleys?
IN 1229, The Roman Church had placed the Word of God, the Bible,
on a list called the
Index of Forbidden Books. This was done at the
Council of Valencia. It meant that the Bible, the word of Almighty God, given by the Spirit to the Prophets,
was declared, by these "churchmen" to be against the law. It was now against the law to own, read, or translate any
portion of God's Word, and share it with the people. But Psalm 119:11 says, "Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I
might not sin against Thee."
The missionary Barbas, (the word used for the Waldensian ministers), ran great
risks as they travelled the continent of Europe as peddlars. When they were caught, and found to have a portion of the
Holy Bible in their possession, they were sent to
prison or death. So they took to memorizing large portions of the Bible, so
they would not need the "incriminating" paper. As they travelled as peddlars, they preached the Word of God and the
salvation of Jesus Christ wherever they went.
Even the ordinary men, women, and children of the Waldensians, who never left home
to go on these missionary journeys, were in constant danger. The official Church in Rome could not tolerate any
rebellion aginst its own claim of absolute authority over everything that called itself Christian.
Many times over the years, great armies would overrun the valleys of Piedmont, in
the attempt to destroy the Waldensians and their faith in the Bible as the only authority regarding the teachings of Jesus.
The efforts of the succeeding popes to destroy the
Protestant faith of the Waldensians in the Piedmont valleys were highly organized military campaigns.
One of these campaigns took place in 1486.
Pope Innocent V111
Charles 1, the Duke of Savoy, to assemble an army to destroy the "
heretics" who dared to believe the Christ was the Head of His Own church, and there was no other.
An army of over 18,000 men, looking forward to victory and plunder, marched into
the valleys to wage war against the saints of God.
The large and fierce army marched into the valleys. The general in charge decided
to split his force and storm all of the mountain villages at the same time. It was the battle of David and Goliath.
Goliath was Rome, armed with swords and spears, versus David, the poor humble
Waldensians, who fought with bows and arrows.
Isaiah 54:17 The Lord told His people, "NO WEAPON FORMED
AGAINST THEE SHALL PROSPER"
The invasion broke up in disarray. One of the leaders of the soldiers
of the invading army was called "Nero of Mondovi".
He and his men managed to get to the top of a ridge. When the Waldensians
assembled there saw him, they fell on their knees in prayer.
Nero of Mondovi mocked them. He thought they were already conquered.
He lifted the visor on his helmet, in order to laugh
at them with greater ease, and shouted "you shall be saved with a vengeance."
At that moment a Waldensian arrow, fired by an anonymous "David", pierced
his forehead, killing this "Goliath".
His army fled in disorganized retreat, getting lost in the unfamiliar terrain, and
falling to their deaths over the slippery mountain slopes.
Charles 1, Duke of Savoy, withdrew his support from the expedition. The pope's
representative, called the Papal Legate,
was sent away having been told the mission was complete.
Then a representative of the House of Savoy met with the Waldensian Barbas, to assure
them that the war agaist them was over. During this meeting, he met some Waldensian children. He exclaimed in
surprise, "Is it possible that these are the children of heretics?" His surprise was due to the fact that he had been
told that the Waldensian "heretics" were monsters born with black throats and a horn in their forehead.
It was attitudes like that, that earned that time of history the name "Dark Ages".
When there was not an actual war being waged against them, the Waldensians were still
under threat of the Inquistion. To explain it in modern terms, the Holy Office of the Inquisition was the Religious
Police. These church officers invaded every family, every home, to make sure that the religious laws were
being obeyed. Waldensian parents taught their children the Bible. The Religious Police would arrest the parents,
and take the children away from them and put them in monasteries and nunneries, where they would be taught the ancient pagan
ceremonies that were now called Christian, and would be denied the Light of God's word.
The history of the Waldensians is a history of non-stop persecution, non-stop arrest,
torture, imprisonment, beatings, hangings, and burnings, in an attempt to force them to give up the Bible and be subject to
the pope in all their ways. It began in the fifth century, and continued through all generations until the 1700's.
In the 16th century, a great event shook the entire continent of Europe. The
The true, Bible believing Christians, had always existed, from the very first century.
But the Reformation started something new. The German nobles took the side
of Martin Luther against the pope, and it began a political revolution as well as a religious one.
Starting with Germany, and moving to England, and the Netherlands, this new idea
took hold. People began to think, "We should be a free people, to serve Jesus Christ in obedience to the true Gospel."
All of the Reformers had been members of the Roman clergy. They began to read
the Bible, and learned what the Gospel message really is. They began to preach the Gospel as it is in the Bible.
And to do that, they had to rebel against the religious tyranny that had ruled the world for so many centuries.
They put thier lives on the line. The political setup of the world was shaken. The entire history of the world
News of these events reached the remote Waldensian homes in the Piedmont mountains.
The barbas sent Barba Martin of the town of Lucerna to investigate. He returned from his journey with a good report.
The Gospel was being preached in Germany, in Switzerland, and France. The same Gospel the Waldensians
had believed and held true to since the first century.
A city in Switzerland, named
Geneva, seemed to be the center of activity for this movement, and two Barbas were sent to Geneva
to meet and greet the Reformers there.
The meeting was looked upon as a miracle by both sides. To the Reformers, here
was a church that had been preserved in the pure Gospel from the first Christian century. The Waldensians and and the
Reformers greeted each other with great joy.
These two Barbas were arrested on their way home. One of them was burned alive
in the town of Dijon.
In 1532, Sept 12, two years later, there was historic meeting in the small town of
Chanforan in the Angrogna Valley. This came to be known as the Synod of Chanforan.
The Waldensians embraced the brothers and sisters in Christ who were just coming
out of the religious darkness that had ruled for centuries.
The Reformers embraced a people who had known and believed
the true Gospel from the very beginning.
You have been told that the Roman Church was the first and only Christian church.
That is not true.
The Waldensians heard the pure Gospel in the first century.
They had the Bible from the first century, and refused to depart from its holy teachings
of Christ's Redemption.
The Roman Church was begun by Emperor Constantine in
312 AD. He set it up along the existing political structure. The office
of Pontifex Maximus, "high priest", had always been held by the leader of the religion of Mithra. Constantine filled
the now vacant office with a bishop who didn't mind living in luxury and power next to the emperor. That's where the
papacy came from. Jesus Christ had nothing to do with it.
In the following years, the Roman church compromised more and more, until it no longer
believed in the the Redeeming power of the death and resurection of Christ. Jesus was the resurrected Son of God, but you
had to go to someone else to get your sins forgiven.
When these apostates saw the defiance of the Waldensians, who insisted on believing
the Bible instead of the Roman church, their
hatred and jealousy against them led to the wars and persecutions that lasted over
a thousand years.
This article is indebted to the work of "THE YOUNG REFORMER" Published by The
PROTESTANT ALLIANCE, Edited by Dr. Stephen J. Scott-Pearson. Alliance Publications
77Ampthill Road, Filtwick, Bedford, MK45 1BD