University of Iowa
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From the Alps to Appalachia: the evolution of the Waldensians Ashley Nicole Tickle University of Iowa
Copyright 2015 Ashley Nicole Tickle This thesis is available at Iowa Research Online: https://ir.uiowa.edu/etd/1776 Recommended Citation Tickle, Ashley Nicole. "From the Alps to Appalachia: the evolution of the Waldensians." MA (Master of Arts) thesis, University of Iowa, 2015. https://ir.uiowa.edu/etd/1776.
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FROM THE ALPS TO APPALACHIA: THE EVOLUTION OF THE WALDENSIANS
by Ashley Nicole Tickle
A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Master of Arts degree in Religious Studies in the Graduate College of The University of Iowa May 2015 Thesis Supervisor: Professor Raymond Mentzer
Copyright by ASHLEY NICOLE TICKLE 2015 All Rights Reserved
Graduate College The University of Iowa Iowa City, Iowa
CERTIFICATE OF APPROVAL
This is to certify that the Master's thesis of Ashley Nicole Tickle has been approved by the Examining Committee for the thesis requirement for the Master of Arts degree in Religious Studies at the May 2015 graduation. Thesis Committee: Raymond Mentzer, Thesis Supervisor
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This thesis could not have been written without the help of many people. I would like to thank my parents for supporting me in this journey and for encouraging me to do my best. I would like to thank my thesis committee: Drs. Raymond Mentzer, Kathleen Kamerick, and Kristy Nabhan-Warren for their advice, comments, and encouragement in making this thesis a success. Finally, I would like to thank Mrs. Gretchen Lane-Costner, curator of the Waldensian Heritage Museum for answering my many questions and directing me to resources. Any mistakes are my own.
ABSTRACT Our self and communal identity is important for everyday life. Our identity determines how we act, where we live, who we love, and how we worship. Identity is especially important in a religious context, including the religious community of the Waldensians. Do the present day Waldensians share an identity with their medieval ancestors; how is this identity constructed? I argue that the medieval and modern day Waldensians create a similar cultural and religious identity which is constructed through three specific practices: the commitment to the vita apostolica, medical practices, and education and the perpetuation of a historical narrative. Although these practices have evolved with modernity the summation of the practices form a coherent communal identity across time. In order to demonstrate the shared cultural and religious identity of the Waldensians of the Middle Ages and present day I examined inquisitorial documents, religious tracts, pamphlets, and conducted interviews. I have set these findings in the larger social context of the Middle Ages and Modern Era in order to show that although similarities of practice exist with other groups the summation of the three specific practices especially with the creation and perpetuation of a historical narrative creates a unique communal identity. This is important for future examination of other religious communities and how similar communal identities do not negate uniqueness of the said community. This study also shows that the evolution of practices does not detract from the continuation of communal identity. Thus although the cultural practices of the Waldensians evolved over time the communal identity remained strong and continues to thrive today.
PUBLIC ABSTRACT Our self and communal identity is important for everyday life. Our identity determines how we act, where we live, who we love, and how we worship. Identity is especially important in a religious context, including the religious community of the Waldensians. I asked the question: do the present day Waldensians share an identity with their medieval ancestors and if so how is this identity created? I argue that the medieval and modern day Waldensians create a similar cultural and religious identity which is constructed through three specific practices: the commitment to preaching and poverty, medical practices, and education and the perpetuation of a historical narrative. Although these practices have evolved over time taken together the practices form an identity which remains strong. In order to demonstrate the shared cultural and religious identity of the Waldensians of the Middle Ages and present day I examined inquisitorial documents, religious tracts, pamphlets, and conducted interviews. I have set these findings in the larger social context of the Middle Ages and Modern Era in order to show that although similarities of practice exist with other groups when taken together the cultural practices of the Waldensians create a unique communal identity. This is important for future examination of other religious communities and how similar communal identities do not negate uniqueness of the said community. This study also shows that the evolution of practices does not detract from the continuation of communal identity.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
LIST OF FIGURES ..................................................................................................................... vi Introduction .................................................................................................................................. 1 Historical Background .............................................................................................................. 2 Chapter One: The Vita Apostolica ............................................................................................. 10 Preaching .................................................................................................................................... 10 Poverty .................................................................................................................................... 21 Conclusion .............................................................................................................................. 29 Chapter Two: Medicinal Practice ............................................................................................... 30 Conclusion .............................................................................................................................. 40 Chapter Three: Education and the Perpetuation of a Historical Narrative ................................. 41 Education ................................................................................................................................ 41 Historical Narratives and Memory ......................................................................................... 49 Conclusion .............................................................................................................................. 63 Epilogue ..................................................................................................................................... 64 Bibliography ............................................................................................................................... 67
LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1: Overview of the Pidemont Region of the Alps. From www.goitaly.about.com. ......... 5 Figure 2: Detailed map of the Waldensian Valleys of the Piedmont Region. From Euan Cameron’s Waldenses, 167. .......................................................................................... 6 Figure 3: Merindol is shown in red and is part of the Dauphine region mentioned earlier. Image from http://www.cartesfrance.fr ........................................................................ 7 Figure 4: The Construction of the Waldensian Presbyterian Church of Valdese NC in October 1897. ............................................................................................................. 20 Figure 5: A reconstruction of the communal oven on the Trail of Faith in Valdese NC. .......... 26 Figure 6: A Waldensian woman in traditional dress in the Waldensian Heritage Museum in Valdese NC. The women who raised the funds for the communal oven dressed in a similar fashion to this woman when they went to the local churches. .................... 26 Figure 7: School of the Barba. This is a reconstruction on the Trail of Faith of the school found in the Agrogna Valley in Italy. Small animals were kept in the lower level which helped heat the schoolhouse. The top was used for studying and the training of the barbes. ............................................................................................................... 44 Figure 8: Bibles of the barbes. The books that the barbes carried would have been similar to this copy of the Bible from the 1700s. This particular Bible is on display at the Waldensian Heritage Museum in Valdese NC. ........................................................... 45 Figure 9: Ghiesa d’la Tana where the Waldensians worshiped. Notice the original entrance on the right through which worshipers would have crawled to enter. The entrance on the left was built into the structure for the purposes of the Trail and is not part of the original found in Italy. ..................................................................................... 53 Figure 10: Monument of Chanforan. The open Bible says “The Bible” on the left and “Be Faithful” on the right with a reference to Revelation 2:10 which says, “do not fear what you are about to suffer. Beware, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison so that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have affliction. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”...................................... 54 Figure 11: Temple of Ciabas built in 1555. This replica features the barred windows and the simple interior of the original Temple and is used in the Easter Sunrise Service annually. ................................................................................................................... 55 Figure 12: Monument of Sibaud. This monument commemorates the Glorious Return. This is a photo of the replica on the Trail. The misshapen stones represent places in the Waldensian Valleys. They are Torre Pellice, Pomereto, Agrogna, and Vellar. . 56 vi
Figure 13: The Edict of Emancipation. This replica on the Trail is the fountain which commemorates the Edict of Emancipation by Charles Albert I granting civil rights to the Waldensians in 1848. ........................................................................... 57 Figure 14: Tron House. This is the original house of the first pastor of Valdese, Charles Albert Tron. .............................................................................................................. 58 Figure 15: This map of the Waldensian Valleys show the towns where many of the American Waldensians still have relatives living. Map is from the Waldensian Presbyterian Church Historical Committee, History of the Waldensian Presbyterian Church, front cover. ............................................................................. 62
Introduction How does a community create identity? Communal identity is constructed by several means: ethnicity, geographical location, language, religion, and cultural practices. How did the medieval Waldensians construct identity? How was it different from the ways in which present day Waldensians construct identity? In order to answer these and related questions I will examine closely the ways in which communal identity is negotiated through religious and cultural practices. In particular I will examine three practices that helped to create identity for the Waldensians over time. These include: the vita apostolica, medicine, the perpetuation of a historical narrative through education. I believe that although the Waldensians of the Middle Ages and those of the modern era may be diverse doctrinally, each makes use of those three cultural practices in order to create similar identities. To be Waldensian is much more than identifying with a set of religious doctrines; it is a cultural and historical way of life. Before discussing what it means to be a Waldensian, I must first define what culture and religion mean in this context. Religion is a set of beliefs and opinions about the world in which we live that are transmitted through the use of symbols, narratives, and ritualized actions. According to Clifford Geertz “culture is historically transmitted, embodied in symbols, and a system of inherited conceptions with which men [and women] communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes toward life.”1 Therefore, culture is history, symbol, and actions. In short, religion is a form of culture in that it is transmitted through symbols over time and helps form and perpetuate the ideas a particular community has about the world around it. If we look at religion as culture then it can be argued that the modern day Waldensians share the same religious culture as those of their predecessors. 1
Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures (New York, NY: Basic Books, 1977), 89.
Historical Background Some historical background on the Waldensians is needed before looking at specific cultural/religious practices which connect historical and present day groups of Waldensians. The Waldensian movement began roughly in 1170 with a man called Valdes (d 1205). Valdes was a merchant in the town of Lyon, France. One day he heard the story of St. Alexis told by a minstrel. St. Alexis, according to the Golden Legend, a popular collection of Saints’ lives in the Middle Ages, was a man from a wealthy family, who ran away on his wedding night to live the life of an ascetic. He returned years later and lived the remainder of his life in his father’s house. Valdes was so moved by this story that he sought advice from a religious leader asking him what was the “most sure and perfect way of all” to attain salvation. In response the religious leader quoted Matthew 19:21, “if you will be perfect, go sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven: and come follow me.”2 Taking this to heart, Valdes went to his wife, gave her his properties and sold his moveable goods, put his two daughters into the convent at Fontevrault, and then gave the rest of his possessions to the poor.3 After this Valdes had the Gospels and other parts of the Bible translated into French and began to preach in the streets.4 People at first thought him mad but eventually began to follow him and his way of life. In the beginning Valdes’ way of life and commitment to the vita apostolica or apostolic life was accepted by Pope Alexander III (r. 1159-1181) at the Third Lateran Council of 1179. The orthodoxy of the Waldensians was further established by Valdes’ Confession of Faith in 1180. The Waldensians at that time were given permission to live out their commitment to the
All biblical translations are taken from the Vulgate. I have converted thou to you were applicable. http://vulgate.org. 3 Walter L. Wakefield and Austin P. Evans, Heresies of the High Middle Ages: Selected Sources Translated and Annotated (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1969), 201. Translated from the Chronican Universale Anonym: Laudunensis. 4 Bernard Gui, The Inquisitor’s Guide: A Medieval Manual on Heretics, trans. Janet Shirley (Welwyn Garden City, UK: Ravenhall Books, 2006), 49.
vita apostolica through preaching and voluntary poverty. However, as the movement gained members it was increasingly condemned by religious leaders such as the Archbishop Jean aux Belles-Mains. Thus, at the Synod of Verona in November 1184, Pope Lucius III (r. 1181-1185) condemned the Waldensians as schismatics of the Latin Church.5 The Waldensians were then given the option to become a monastic order; however, this option was refused by Valdes who did not wish to become a clergyman. Gabriel Audisio believes this reaction of Valdes to forming a monastic order was “an expression of the laity’s desire to play a different, more important role in a church which had become too clerical.”6 Perhaps Valdes believed that because the clergy were corrupted by wealth it would follow that if the Waldensians became a monastic order it would pollute his reform movement and make it less successful. Another possible theory is that Valdes felt that the equality present in the movement which encouraged all to preach no matter what gender or station would be lost in a monastic movement. In any case, some of Valdes’ followers disagreed and chose to form a monastic order and were reconciled with Pope Innocent III (r. 1198-1216) in December 1208. This group became known as the Poor Catholics. This order did not last long and by 1247 the members had either been incorporated into other existing orders or had left the monastic life altogether.7 Eventually the Waldensians were declared heretics by the 1215 Fourth Lateran Council. According to this Council the Waldensians were to be excommunicated and punished if unrepentant.8 This condemnation led to the persecution of the Waldensians by the Inquisition and many years of uncertainty for the group. The condemnation by the Fourth Lateran Council and the resulting persecution by the Inquisition led the Waldensians to move from the city where they openly preached in the streets
Gabriel Audisio, The Waldensian Dissent (Port Chester, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 16. Ibid, 23. 7 Wakefield, Heresies of the High Middle Ages, 220, 221. 8 “Fourth Lateran Council 1215”, accessed 3/18/14, www.ewtn.com/library/COUNCILS/LATERAN4.HTM. 6
to the countryside where they were forced to meet in secret for fear of persecution. Waldensianism continued to be practiced in secret and in some peace until the late fourteenth century. Most modern day Waldensians are descendants of those who lived in what came to be known as the Waldensian Valleys in the Piedmont and Dauphine regions of the Alps in modern day northern Italy. Pope Gregory XI (r. 1370-1378) in 1375 became frustrated that the Waldensians in these valleys were able to practice “their evil in safety, since they enjoyed the protection of the nobility of that region and inquisitors who tried to deal with them were frustrated.”9 This vexation led to increased Inquisitorial activity in the region and eventually the 1487 crusade against the Waldensians under the leadership of the Archdeacon of Cremona, Alberto Cattaneo. This crusade was approved by a papal bull of Pope Innocent VIII (r. 14841492).10 By the end of this crusade in 1507, “some 160 suspected [Waldensians] were killed.”11 The crusade “contributed significantly to patterns of migration from the Alps to Provence and southern Italy.”12 This crusade is not the only instance of persecution of the Waldensians in these valleys. In fact, persecution in the Waldensian Valleys continued sporadically for many years. As the Protestant Reformation gained momentum, the Waldensians became interested in this movement. In 1526 a group of Waldensians meeting in Laux in the Val Chisone elected two barbes or Brothers to send to a meeting with the reformer Guillaume Farel (1489-1565). These barbes returned with information about the Reformation which they shared with the community. The Waldensians then composed a list of doctrinal differences with the Reformers and presented them at a synod of Waldensians in 1530 at Merindol. This list was sent with the barbes George
9 Euan Cameron, The Reformation of the Heretics: The Waldensians of the Alps 1480-1580 (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1984), 26. 10 Waldensian Heritage Museum Timeline, seen May 2014 11 Cameron, The Reformation of the Heretics, 32. According to Cameron this number equates to about 10% of the Waldensian population in the region. 12 Euan Cameron, Waldenses: Rejections of Holy Church in Medieval Europe (Oxford UK: Blackwell Publishers Inc., 2000), 193.
Morel and Pierre Mason when they went to see the reformers Berthold Haller (1492-1536), Johannes Oeclampadius (1482-1531), and Martin Bucer (1491-1551) at Strasbourg. Based upon these discussions, the Waldensians of the Valleys drew up a new confession of faith. A subsequent set of emissaries were sent to meet with Guillaume Farel in 1532. Farel along with Antoine Saunier attended a synod in September that year in the Val d’Angrogna. At this synod the Waldensians drew up another confession of faith “which incorporated the ideas of the Reformers.”13 Some of these ideas which were different from the previous beliefs held by the Waldensians include a denial of the efficacy of good works for salvation and the efficacy of auricular confession, the doctrine of election, and the assertion that ministers are allowed to marry and own property.14
Figure 1: Overview of the Pidemont Region of the Alps. From www.goitaly.about.com.
Cameron, The Reformation of the Heretics, 132. For a full list of the articles of faith see Euan Cameron, Waldenses, 246-250.
Figure 2: Detailed map of the Waldensian Valleys of the Piedmont Region. From Euan Cameron’s Waldenses, 167. This incorporation of Reformed ideas was not accepted unanimously. A couple of barbes, Daniel de Valence and Jean de Molines left the synod in objection to this synthesis of the Waldensians’ previous beliefs with the new Reformed beliefs. The German branch of the Waldensians went so far as to send “a letter of reproach to the Valleys of Piedmont [which was later] debated at another synod in Prali in the Val Germanesca in 1533.” Moreover, the Waldensians of Bohemia and Moravia “wrote a general letter on 25 June 1533 which criticized the Vaudois [i.e. the Waldensians] for dealing so readily with a newfangled movement.”15 Nonetheless, the majority of Waldensians accepted this new synthesis and joined the Reformation. However, outward acceptance of Reformed ideas by the majority of Waldensians 15
Cameron, The Reformation of the Heretics, 143.
did not affect the persecutions the Waldensians of the Valleys experienced. In 1540, nineteen Waldensians were burned at the stake by the Parlement of Provence, a result of the Merindol Edict. This Edict “declared that the entire population of Merindol, Cabrieres-d’Avignon, and a number of surrounding villages were obstinate heretics, sentenced them all to death, and decreed the village of Merindol itself should be razed to the ground.” The Waldensians were doubly heretical. They were now seen by the Catholic Church as heretics twice over as Waldensians and as Calvinists. On February 1, 1545, Francois I (r. 1515-1547) the French King, approved a decree for what became known as the Massacre of Merindol killing many Waldensians and causing others to migrate to Geneva.16
Figure 3: Merindol is shown in red and is part of the Dauphine region mentioned earlier. Image from http://www.cartesfrance.fr
Cameron, Waldenses, 260-262.
Although the Waldensians accepted Reformed ideas at the synod in 1532, the first ministers from Geneva were not sent to the Piedmontese Valleys until 1555. The first Reformed Waldensian churches were established in August of that year at San Lorenzo and Il Serre.17 However, even with the establishment of these Reformed churches the Waldensians were never secure. The year 1560 brought more persecution to the Valleys with the Edict of Nice on February 15. This Edict issued by Emmanuel Philibert (1528-1580), Duke of Savoy, “forbade on pain of a fine and sending to the galleys, the hearing of ‘Lutheran’ preaching in the Valle di Luserna or elsewhere.”18 Relationships with the secular powers began to improve on June 5, 1561 with the Edict of Cavour which overturned the Edict of Nice and granted tolerance to the Waldensians. Relative peace and limited freedom of religious worship was maintained until 1650. At that time another Duke of Savoy, Charles Emanuel II (r. 1638-1675), ordered the removal of the Waldensians from Piedmont for their beliefs. This caused a massacre of Waldensians in the Piedmont on April 17, 1655. However, a few years later on February 24, 1664, the Patent of Turin granted tolerance to the Waldensians. Despite this patent, the Waldensians again found themselves the objects of persecution in 1687, because of pressure by Victor Amadeus II (1666-1732), the next Duke of Savoy. He caused many Waldensians to flee to Switzerland to avoid forcible conversion to Catholicism. In 1688, political unrest with the French King Louis XIV (r. 1643-1715) caused Amadeus II to change his policy and grant tolerance to the Waldensians. On August 16, 1689, Pastor Henri Arnaud led a group of 900 Waldensians back to their homeland in the Valleys from their refuge in Sweden. This event became known as the Glorious Return. On May 23, 1694 Amadeus II issued another edict of religious liberty for the Waldensians. However, this edict did not last and
Ibid, 267. Cameron, The Reformation of the Heretics, 163.
the Waldensians were exiled again in 1699 and continued to experience persecution until the 1848 Edict of Emancipation. The Edict of Emancipation “gave the Protestant subjects of Savoy civil rights.”19 This new peace also brought with it population growth in the Waldensian Valleys. “By 1892, twentyfive thousand [Waldensians] were crowded into this mountainous area, no more than eighteen miles in length by fourteen miles in width.”20 When M. F. Scaife, the president of the Morganton Land and Improvement Company, offered to sell the Piedmontese Waldensians land in Burke County, North Carolina, a small group of twenty-nine Waldensians decided to sell all they owned, leave the Valleys, and immigrate to North Carolina, arriving on May 29, 1893. The colony which this group and others who emigrated after them settled became known as Valdese. Today, the descendants of those first settlers still live in Valdese and even though the church is called The Waldensian Presbyterian Church those who live there continue to identify with their Waldensian ancestors through cultural practices.21 The chapters which follow trace three pivotal cultural practices among the Waldensians: the commitment to the vita apostolica, medical practices, and the perpetuation of a historical narrative through education. The focus is on the continuity and change in each of these practices through the turbulent past of the Waldensians from 1170 to the present day. It is this continuity which creates the Waldensian identity of the present.
19 Cameron, Waldenses, 294. Many of these previous dates and events are taken from the Historical Timeline found in the Waldensian Heritage Museum in Valdese NC in May 2013. 20 Fred B. Cranford, The Waldenses of Burke County (Burke County Cultural Heritage Project, Title III, ESEA: 1969), 10. 21 This historical timeline has been condensed as I do not seek to repeat what has already been so well written. For a more in depth history see Euan Cameron, Waldenses: Rejections of Holy Church in Medieval Europe (Oxford UK: Blackwell Publishers Inc., 2000).
Chapter One: The Vita Apostolica The first cultural practice is the Waldensian commitment to the vita apostolica or apostolic life. This type of life consists of two key parts: preaching and poverty. The practice of both of these aspects of the vita apostolica changed over time for many reasons, including the necessity of secrecy and changing societal norms that came with modernization. However, despite these changes there is still an adherence to this type of life by the Waldensians down to the present. I will divide this chapter into two parts, each focusing on one aspect of the vita apostolica and tracing the evolution of the practices associated with that aspect from the beginning of the movement in the Middle Ages to the present day Waldensians in North Carolina. Preaching After Valdes’ “conversion” in the 1170s, he had parts of the Bible translated from Latin into French and began to preach in the streets.22 This translation of the Bible was completed by two priests. One “Stephan d’Anse translated the Gospels, Psalms, and other books into Lyonnais dictating the translation to Bernard Ydros who then wrote down the translation.”23 Valdes taught that the Scriptures were to be read literally and not interpreted. In the Gospel of Matthew 28:1921, Jesus tells his disciples to “going therefore, teach you all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” To the Waldensians this meant everyone, even women, was urged to teach and preach the Gospels. The public preaching of the Waldensians became the main aspect of their practices which led to their branding as heretics by the Latin Church. Stephen of Bourbon (d 1261) a Dominican Inquisitor, stated that Valdes, by
Bernard Gui, The Inquisitor’s Guide, 49. See the introduction for details on Valdes’ conversion experience. Prescot Stephens, The Waldensian Story: A Story in Faith, Intolerance, and Survival (Lewes, Sussex: The Book Guild Ltd. 1998), 12. Lyonnais is also known as Franco-Provençal. 23
preaching in the streets and the broad ways the Gospels and those things that he had learned by heart, drew to himself many men and women that they might do the same, and he strengthened them in the Gospel. He also sent out persons even of the basest occupations to preach in nearby villages.24 This quotation from Bourbon’s Tract about the Diverse Matters of Preaching was written sometime after 1249, almost eighty years after the beginning of the movement. The information claims to document the period between 1173 and 1184. This information might be considered problematic because of the time lapse except for the fact that there are two other accounts of the preaching of the Waldensians from the beginning of the movement. A report in the Chronicle of Laon stated that Pope Alexander III, at the 1179 Third Lateran Council, told the Waldensians not to preach unless express permission was given to them by the local priests. Walter Mapp (1140c1208) also mentions that the Waldensians were publically preaching in 1179 and lists several reasons why he believes this lay preaching is problematic.25 Furthermore, there is evidence from this time that Waldensian women were allowed to publically preach. Again from Stephen of Bourbon, “men and women alike, stupid and uneducated, wandered through the villages, entered homes, preached in the squares and even in the churches, and induced others to do likewise.”26 Alain of Lille (c1128-1203), a theologian writing about twenty years later, also mentions Waldensian women preachers. He stated that the Waldensians “resist the Apostle in that they have women with them and have them preach in the gatherings of the faithful.”27 There is evidence that women continued to preach into the thirteenth century. Berchard of Ursperg (c 1177-1231) a Premonstratensian provost, stated that,
Wakefield, Heresies of the High Middle Ages: Selected Sources Translated and Annotated, 209. From Tractatus de diversis materiis praedicabilis. 25 Ibid, 203. From Chronicon universal anonymi Laudunensis and De nugis curialium respectively. 26 Ibid, 209. Also from Tractus de Diversis Materiis Praedicabilis. 27 Ibid, 219. This quotation is taken from A Scholar’s Attack on Heretics and documents the time between 11901202.
“men and women traveled the roads together, often lodged in the same house.”28 The records of inquisitorial trials from Toulouse during the years 1237-1289, contain thirteen explicit references to Waldensian sorores (sisters) or to women preaching.29 For example, one deposition states that Guillelmus de Barnat received the Waldensian sisters into his house.30 In another deposition a woman named Guillelma de la Barta said that she listened to the preaching of the Waldensian women and they told her that she should not swear or murder.31 Two final examples demonstrate the public preaching of these women. Bertrandus Brodo saw Waldensian women preaching in the streets of Montauban and Nafauressa heard a Waldensian woman preach about the passion the day before the Sabbath.32 These examples from inquisitorial records and the writings of theologians suggest that women played a key role in preaching at the beginning of the movement and for at least the first seventy years women’s preaching was public. Nevertheless, a question must be asked: should we trust these sources? After all these theologians may have exaggerated the role of women in order to sway public opinion against this
Ibid, 229. This was written between the years 1210-1216. I find this criticism ironic since many Premonstratensian monasteries were double monasteries housing both monks and nuns. 29 These records are contained in Doat 21, a collection of trials from the thirteenth century in Languedoc, Toulouse, and Carcassonne which mainly deal with the Waldensians and the Cathars. The Doat collection was assembled by Jean de Doat between 1665 and 1670. He and a group of scribes copied manuscripts found in southern France. For further information see Peter Biller, Caterina Bruschi and Shelagh Sneddon ed. Inquisitors and Heretics in Thirteenth Century Languedoc: Edition and Translation of Toulouse Inquisition Depositions, 1273-1283 (Leiden: Brill, 2011). All references which follow to Doat 21 are cited by Peter Biller in The Waldenses 1170-1530 pages 155-158. 30 Peter Biller, The Waldenses, 1170-1530: Between a Religious Order and a Church, (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001), 155: Folio 221v-222r “Guillelmus de Barnat recepit sororem suam Valdensem in domo sua.” 31 Ibid, 156 : Folio 222v-3r “Guillelma de la Barta vidit Valdenses, et dedit eis de bonis suis, et audivit praedicationem eorum [sic] et credebat quod essent bonae mulieres, et audivit ab eis quod non debebat homo iurare nec occidere, et credidit quod esset bonum.” In folio 228r-v Bernarda also says she heard preaching from the women on swearing. “Bernarda fabrissa locavit quondam domum duabus Valdensibus et fuerunt fere per annum. Item dixit quod ipsae Valdenses venibant ad domum in qua ipsa manebat et de contrario, et docebant ipsam quod non iuraret nec mentiretur.” 32 Ibid, 157-158 : Folio 269v and Folio 274r-v “Bertrandus Brodo vidit Valdenses, et audivit sermonem cuiusdam Valdensis mulieris. Item, multotiens audivit praedicationem Valdensium in plateis Montisabani” and “Nafauressa de Jovengas caena vit cum Valdensibus, et credebat quod essent boni homines. Item, alibi vidit Valdenses in die parasceves, et venit ad eos, ut audiret expositotionem passionis, quod et fecit. Item, dixit quod recepit pacem a Valdensibus mulieribus, et dedit multotiens Valdensibus panem et vinum.”
new movement. Inquisitorial records themselves are often criticized because of the methods used by Inquisitors to get confessions. However, Caterina Bruschi notes that “we must remember the obvious: namely that the deponent confessed what he/she wished to be known.”33 Thus we cannot discount the free will and intelligence of the men and women who were interrogated in these depositions. Taken together the evidence from the theologians and the inquisitorial trials indicate a strong argument for the existence of early Waldensian women’s preaching. The Latin Church attempted to control the public preaching of the Waldensians early on by requiring them to gain permission to preach from the local priest or bishop.34 This permission was unlikely to be granted to the Waldensian preachers. In fact, the Archbishop Jean aux BellesMains (c 1120-1204)35 “withdrew the verbal agreement allowing them to preach and when [the Waldensians] refused to comply they were condemned and [banished] from Lyon.”36 The problem with the Waldensian’s public preaching was not so much what they were saying but that the preachers were not theologically trained. The men and women preaching were ordinary townsfolk who had no theological education and from the viewpoint of Inquisitors and theologians the Waldensians were “blind men who understand not what they speak nor what they do” and were “stupid and uneducated…spread[ing] error and scandal everywhere as a result of
Caterina Bruschi, “’Magna diligentia est habenda per inquisitorem’ Precautions before Reading Doat 21-26,” in Texts and the Repression of Medieval Heresy, ed. Caterina Bruschi and Peter Biller (Woodbridge, Suffolk: York Medieval Press, 2003), 91. Even if we account for the fact that some deponents may have confessed things under duress the amount of evidence indicates that women did indeed actively participate in the early Waldensian movement. 34 See the above mentioned Third Lateran Council decree 35 Jean aux Belles-Mains was the Bishop of Poiters in 1181, he was elected the Archbishop of Narbonne then made a Papal legate by Pope Lucius III in 1182. He retired in 1195. It is difficult to know when this event was supposed to have taken place but it seems to have been before 1182 and was certainly before 1184 when the Waldensians were condemned by the Council of Verona. For more on this see Pius Melia, The Origin, Persecutions, and Doctrines of the Waldenses: from Documents Many Now the First Time Collected and Edited (New York, NY: AMS Press, 1978), 14-16. 36 Audisio, The Waldensian Dissent, 15.
their rashness and ignorance.”37 Furthermore, allowing women to preach was also detrimental to the Waldensian’s image as it seemed to the theologians of the time to be contrary to biblical teachings.38 To combat the problem of lay preaching, the Church under Pope Innocent III, attempted to transform the Waldensians into a monastic order. However, as previously stated, Valdes did not wish to enter a religious order. Despite this, the Church was successful in converting some Waldensians to a monastic order. Durand of Huesca and a few others chose to be reconciled to Pope Innocent III in December 1208. These men formed a religious order called the Poor Catholics. This order did not last very long and by 1247 the members of the order had been incorporated into other existing orders or had left the monastic life altogether.39 The interesting thing about this early push for monasticism is that later in the Waldensian movement the barbes (Waldensian Brothers) and the sorores (Waldensian Sisters) exhibited monastic like behavior. The barbes were very much like the itinerant friars of the Franciscan order. They took vows of poverty and chastity and traveled from town to town in pairs. The sorores, it seems, became like enclosed nuns and also took vows of poverty and chastity.40 Once the Church condemned and the Inquisition began to persecute the Waldensians, the movement migrated from the cities to the countryside and was practiced in secret. The itinerant barbes traveled in pairs from town to town to preach to believers in secret. This aspect of the
Wakefield, Heresies of the High Middle Ages, 220. This quotation is taken from Alain of Lille in book II of his Scholar’s Attack on Heretics. 38 Ibid, 219. Alain of Lille quotes from I Corinthians and I and II Timothy. 39 Wakefield, Heresies of the High Middle Ages, 220-221. 40 Evidence for the monasticism of the Waldensians are found in the De Vita et Actibus cited in Peter Biller, “Fingerprinting an Anonymous Description of the Waldensians,” in Caterina Bruschi and Peter Biller ed. Texts and the Repression of Medieval Heresy (Woodbridge: York Medieval Press, 2003), 195-207 and the letters of Georges Morel to Joannes Oecolampadius and Martin Bucer which also mention Waldensian barbes and sorores found in Euan Cameron, Waldenses: Rejections of Holy Church in Medieval Europe (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2000), 233-239.
Waldensian mission had not greatly changed from the beginning of the movement. The greatest change was the secrecy of the preaching rather than public preaching in the streets. These barbes received training in southern Italy, where they learned from elder barbes to read and where the new barbes memorized parts of the Gospels.41 They were then sent out in pairs with a senior barbe paired with a junior barbe. The barbes carried small books with them. Some of these books were Bibles, some were sermons, and others contained religious tracts. The barbes were similar to the mendicant friars of the twelfth and thirteenth century in that they practiced asceticism and the senior barbe did not handle money. This asceticism “set them apart as holy men and in this rested their power.”42 When the barbes reached their destination, they sought out a believer who took them to a safe place, a house or hospice, and notified other believers in the area of when a service would be held. When the people had gathered together, the barbes gave a sermon and exhortation as well as heard confessions. The barbes, as itinerant preachers, were not available to instruct the believers at most times. When a new believer joined the sect, another believer, usually a woman, would “act as a ‘minister’ preparing the new recruit to meet a Brother [a barbe] on his next visit and confess to him.”43 This indicates that even though women were no longer able to preach publicly after the condemnation of the Waldensians as heretics and did not
Euan Cameron thinks that the evidence for the school in southern Italy is sparse because of only two testimonies of this school during Cattaneo’s crusade in the Alps in the mid-fifteenth century. However, there is evidence of at least a meeting of barbes in Apulia before and after this crusade. I think this makes a strong case for the existence of some kind of meeting place or training center in the region. For further information see Cameron, The Reformation of the Heretics, 70. 42 Biller, The Waldenses 1170-1530, 74 and 76. For more on the money handling see the De Vita et Actibus translated in Bruschi and Biller, Texts and the Repression of Medieval Heresy, 205. This practice had not changed from the Confession of Faith of Valdes in 1180, which stated that the Waldensians would “be poor in such fashion that we shall take no thought for the morrow, nor shall we accept gold or silver, or anything of that sort from anyone beyond food and clothing sufficient for the day.” Translated in Wakefield and Evans, Heresies of the High Middle Ages, 208. 43 Cameron, Waldenses, 283.
travel as preachers like the barbes, women continued to play a major role in recruiting and teaching new believers. Over time the Waldensians became more localized in particular regions, such as the Piedmont. This region is unique in that it is relatively inaccessible and had a large number of Waldensians living there. In the mid-fourteenth century, Waldensian preaching in this region changed somewhat. Preaching became the responsibility of members of the local community who traveled occasionally.44 In the late fifteenth century, the barbes were more successful in evading the notice of Inquisitors and thus little is known about specific practices during this time.45 It is not until later that we have hard evidence of the barbes’ practices. Evidence from Georges Morel and Pierre Griot, both barbes from the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century, suggests that the barbes during this period were similar to those of the thirteenth century. According to Morel and Griot the barbes traveled to the homes of believers, read Scripture to them, expounded upon this Scripture, and heard the believer’s confessions. The barbes “travelled around in pairs, an elder being accompanied by one less experienced. The elder commonly addressed the more important and better informed heretic followers, while the junior spoke to the poor.”46 When the Waldensians of the Piedmont came into contact with the Reformed tradition in the 1530s, the preaching practices necessarily changed. The barbe Georges Morel, mentioned earlier, corresponded with the reformers Johannes Oecolampadius (1482-1531) and Martin Bucer (1491-1551). In his letters, Morel asked these Reformers doctrinal and practical questions. In his reply, Oecolampadius upbraided the Waldensians for their secrecy and their celibacy.
Ibid, 162. Ibid, 211. 46 Ibid, 213. Here Cameron is paraphrasing Morel and Griot. 45
Bucer was less severe in his reply but nevertheless he advised “the barbes that, until the time when they could be delivered from their captivity they ought to teach the people how to interpret the Eucharist” correctly. Bucer also viewed the barbes “spending time among celibate sisters as a risk best avoided [saying that] the company of even chaste women would soften the holiest of men.”47 These changes in the practices of Waldensian preaching were just the beginning. The Waldensians eventually decided to adopt the doctrines espoused by Calvin. This decision affected the role of preaching in key ways. First, the new preachers who came to the Piedmont region were from Geneva. These were people who had never been to the region and who did not know the customs of those who lived there nor the dialect which the people spoke. Furthermore, these preachers were unfamiliar with the traditional practices of the Waldensians who had only recently embraced Reformed traditions and these new preachers were highly educated and in some cases were of high birth unlike the previous barbes. Although churches were established in the region it seems that the majority of the Waldensians did not especially welcome the different style of worship that came with the Reformation and this “may explain why it took several decades for Protestantism in this area to take on authentically popular forms.”48 Part of the problem of acceptance was the way that the Waldensians viewed these new preachers. These new preachers did not look like the old barbes who practiced an itinerant and ascetic lifestyle. Moreover, these Reformed pastors, although continuing to travel short distances, lived in the region and settled down with their own families rather than moving from place to place and remaining celibate. The revocation of the vow of celibacy by the new pastors sent from Geneva was one of the harder precepts for the old barbes to accept. Many indicated their customs and
Ibid, 233-238. Cameron, Reformation of the Heretics, 168-176.
advanced age affected their reluctance to embrace the concept of marriage. Thus even though Martin “Bucer wanted to make the barbes into ministers; Calvin ended up by simply supplanting them.”49 Even though the new minsters were different from the old barbes the practice of preaching continued to be an important part of Waldensian faith even through continuing persecution and immigration. The Waldensians were persecuted by the Dukes of Savoy in the seventeenth century and when a peaceful resolution was eventually achieved with the 1848 Edict of Emancipation, the resulting peace caused overcrowding in the Piedmont region. This overcrowding caused the Waldensians to migrate to other countries, including Uruguay, Brazil, and Argentina. In 1893, a group of Waldensians from the Piedmont traveled to the United States, founding a colony in Valdese, North Carolina. These colonists continued to value preaching. The group was led by Dr. Charles Albert Tron, a pastor of the church at San Germano in the Waldensian Valleys of the Piedmont. As head of the colonization committee, he stated that “the colony should have a pastor, a doctor, a surveyor, and a schoolmaster.”50 In a document drawn up shortly after arriving in North Carolina in 1893 for regulation of the colony, Dr. Tron made this statement: “inasmuch as we are Christians and belong to the Waldensian family, blessed and miraculously preserved by Almighty God, we will strive to be witnesses of the Truth through our conduct, our words, our activity, and our entire lives.”51 Thus, even though these Waldensians did not practice public lay preaching like the first medieval Waldensians, these nineteenthcentury believers strove to be witnesses to the biblical narrative in their everyday lives.
Cameron, The Reformation of the Heretics, 177, 220. George B. Watts, The Waldenses of Valdese (Charlotte, NC: Heritage Printers INC., 1965), 18. 51 Ibid, 29. 50
On July 9, 1895 the Waldensians of Valdese decided to join the Presbyterian Church of the United States; before this they had belonged to the Evangelical Waldensian Church of Italy.52 Work on the church of Valdese began on February 17, 1897. The cornerstone of the church has within it “copies of the New Testament in French, Italian, and English; a short history of the colony with the names of the 120 members of the church; several Italian and United States coins; and a photograph of [Barthelemy] Soulier” the pastor at that time.53 These items show that the Bible still played an important role in the lives and religious practices of the Waldensians. The placement of the three translations of the New Testament show the commitment of the community to all of its cultural aspects. The Italian and French New Testaments represent the cultural past of the Waldensians. At the time of immigration to the United States and the erection of the church in Valdese, Italian and French were taught in the Waldensian schools in the Piedmont. Before the Reformed ministers began to conduct worship services in French the Waldensians used Italian in their services. The French New Testament is significant because after this change Waldensian worship services were held in French in the Piedmont Valleys and in Valdese until 1922 and it was not until 1930 when all services in Valdese were held in English. The English New Testament represented their future as they were now citizens of the United States and educating their children in English.54 Thus all three translations are representative of the Waldensian cultural and religious history.
Ibid, 64-66. Although the Waldensians of Valdese joined the Presbyterian Church of the United States, the community and the church continued to follow the regulations of the Church of Italy. The Valdese church “voted to follow the new regulations of the Waldensian Church of Italy as adopted by the Synod in September 1903” 84. Many of the preachers that were sent to the Waldensian Presbyterian Church were trained at Waldensian Seminaries and were from the Waldensian Valleys thus continuing their connection to the Waldensian culture. 53 Ibid, 69. The Waldensian Presbyterian Church was dedicated on July 4, 1899. 54 Waldensian Heritage Museum Historical Timeline and The Waldensian Presbyterian Church Historical Committee, History and Heritage of the Waldensian Presbyterian Church: Valdese, North Carolina 1993-1993 (Valdese NC: Delmar Publishing, 1993), 218.
Figure 4: The Construction of the Waldensian Presbyterian Church of Valdese NC in October 1897.55 The importance of Scripture and church services continued to play a role in the religious lives of the community. In an Annual Report to the Concord Presbytery from the Waldensian Church of Italy in 1902 then Pastor Garrou stated that “the Waldensians find their best pleasure in their church and they wish to express all their gratitude to the many friends in North Carolina who helped them so kindly in the support of their pastor.”56 In 1921, it was decided that the Sunday school of the Valdese church would be taught in English. Before this the students recited Scripture verses they memorized in French and then the pastor taught a brief lesson. At age fourteen children of the church underwent weekly catechism lessons at the end of which they answered questions about the faith. After passing this examination the young person received first communion and “the pastor addressed each young person with an appropriate verse of
All photographs were taken by the author unless otherwise indicated. The Waldensian Presbyterian Church Historical Committee, History and Heritage of the Waldensian Presbyterian Church, 39. 56
Scripture.”57 In 1941, the church established a men and a women’s Bible class. Today the church has a Christian Education Committee whose “purpose is to ‘equip the saints’ through study of the Bible and Christian life.”58 This emphasis on Scripture and preaching, although now a norm for all Christians, is a cultural connection between Valdes’ movement in 1170 and the people who identify themselves as Waldensians today. Poverty The second aspect of the vita apostolica is voluntary poverty. As stated in the introduction, Valdes, after hearing the story of St. Alexis and having a theologian quote Matthew 19:21 to him, gave his properties to his wife, sold his movable goods, put his two daughters in the convent at Fontevrault, and then gave the rest of his possessions to the poor.59 He then practiced voluntary poverty along with all those who joined his movement. In the beginning the Latin Church accepted the voluntary poverty of the Waldensians. At the 1179 Third Lateran Council, Pope Alexander III approved the voluntary poverty of the Waldensians. In the Report of the Chronicle of Laon for that year it was stated that “the pope embraced [Valdes], approving his vow of voluntary poverty.”60 However, others did not view the poverty of the Waldensians in the same way. Alain of Lille (1128-1203), a theologian writing in the 1190s, said that the Waldensians “dare to preach to fill their bellies rather than their minds, and because they do not wish to work with their own hands to obtain food, they make the evil choice of living without employment, preaching falsities so that they may buy food.”61
Ibid, 62. Waldensian Presbyterian Church Website, accessed 12/18/14, www.waldensianpresbyterian.org. 59 Wakefield and Evans, Heresies of the High Middle Ages, 201. From the Chronicon universale anonymi Laudunensis 60 Ibid, 203. Also from the Chronicon universale anonymi Laudunensis. 61 Ibid, 218. From Alan of Lille, De fide catholica contra haereticos sui temporis.. 58
Why was it, if the Pope accepted the Waldensians’ choice of poverty that others did not? During this time there were three kinds of poverty, “voluntary poverty, simulated poverty, and involuntary poverty.”62 In the public’s opinion the Waldensians, as well as the mendicant orders of friars, were taking alms that were truly needed by the genuine poor and using these alms for their own benefit.63 The Waldensians, not working but begging for their bread, could have been associated with the false poor and criminals who sometimes used begging to hide illegal activities in the Middle Ages.64 Thus begging would not have endeared the Waldensians to the religious leaders or the general public. After the Waldensians were condemned as heretics by the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 and began to be persecuted by the Inquisition, the secrecy of the movement refocused the practice of voluntary poverty. The barbes were still required to practice voluntary poverty but the believers were to practice acts of charity and almsgiving instead. Charity, and almsgiving in general, was more acceptable in the Middle Ages because charity was viewed as a condition of salvation.65 It was easier to hide from the Inquisitors the giving of alms to the itinerant barbes, who were supported by these gifts, than to hide begging for alms as a Waldensian believer. This new emphasis on charity allowed the Waldensian believers to better stay hidden from the Inquisitors. There are several examples of the medieval Waldensian practice of charity. In southern France in the mid to late thirteenth century, Waldensian believers supported the sorores and the barbes by providing them with supplies such as “bread, wine, flours, eggs, oils, leeks, and fish.” It seems, according to the Inquisitorial records, that women were more apt to give
Michael Mollat, The Poor in the Middle Ages: An essay in Social History (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1986), 4. 63 Ibid, 127. 64 Bronislaw Geremek, The Margins of Society in Late Medieval Paris, trans. Jean Birnell (London, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 205. 65 Mollat, The Poor in the Middle Ages, 38.
these supplies than men, perhaps because it was women who were in charge of kitchen and food items.66 In October 1311 in Toulouse, an imprisoned Waldensian believer, Stephen Porcherii, was sent clothing from other Waldensian believers. In addition, John Philiberti (d. 1320), a priest, also received clothing from Waldensian believers.67 These examples showcase the ways in which charity was practiced by Waldensian believers during times of persecution. The barbes continued to practice voluntary poverty with believers giving alms for their upkeep. According to the De Vita et Actibus, written in the 1300s, the Waldensian barbes did not “keep money” and the barbes and sorores did not “possess any movable goods, but renounced their own things and followed poverty.”68 The barbes’ and sorores’ lack of possessions follows the account from 1179 by Walter Map. He stated that the Waldensians “go about two by two, barefoot, clad in woolen garments, owning nothing, holding all things in common like the apostles.”69 Thus, little had changed in regards to the poverty of the barbes in the course of a century. Also according to De Vita et Actibus Waldensian believers sent money to the General Chapter whence it was distributed. Some of this money was given for the upkeep of the barbes and the rest was given to those believers who “were pressed down by penury.”70 Hence, the charitable practices of the Waldensian believers supported their preachers and their less fortunate comrades.
Biller, The Waldenses, 100. According to Carolyn Walker Bynumn, food is a woman controlled resource and it is through food that women control themselves and their world. See Bynumn, Holy Feast Holy Fast: The Real Significance of Food to Medieval Women (Berkley CA: University of California Press, 1988), 189-193. 67 Biller, “Fingerprinting an Anonymous Description of the Waldensians,” ed. Bruschi and Biller, Texts and the Repression of Medieval Heresy, 184. John Philiberti was sympathetic to the Waldensians, he believed them to be good, but it is unclear whether or not he became a Waldensian believer himself. He was, however, executed by the Inquisition in 1320. 68 There has been some controversy over the De Vita et Actibus because historians do not agree on its date or origins. Peter Biller in comparing the text to other documents written about the Waldensians argues for an origin date before 1350 and in Languedoc. Ibid, 197. 69 Wakefield, Heresies of the Middle Ages, 204. Even though Map here is talking about all Waldensians, with the movement having to go underground because of the Inquisition, the strictest practices were only carried out by the barbes and to a much lesser degree the sorores. 70 Biller, The Waldenses, 106.
We know that almsgiving continued to be practiced by the Waldensians in the late Middle Ages. In records of wills for the Piedmontese region, it seems that the Waldensians in this region “were more likely to make bequests for the poor” than their Catholic counterparts who made bequests for masses for the dead.71 In 1530, Georges Morel mentions that the clothing for the barbes came from alms.72 Morel also reiterates the existence of a common fund of money. He states that “all the money that is given us by our people is put in common during the general council and taken in by our leaders. A part of it is allotted to travelling, according to what our leaders consider necessary, the rest is sometimes handed out to the poor.”73 The later upheavals in the Piedmont areas caused many Waldensian believers to migrate. There was a migration of Waldensians to Geneva in 1545 because of the Edict of Merindol. There were also migrations to Switzerland during the persecutions by the Dukes of Savoy in 1650 and 1687. These migrations offer evidence of charity by Waldensians during this time scarce. However, we do know that the reformers in Geneva practiced charity. In 1545, the Fund for Poor French Foreigners was started by Genevans and which “collected money from wealthy refugees and then doled it out to poor refugees.”74 There is reason to suspect, based on previous evidence of the importance of charity that any Waldensians who were able to contribute to this fund did so. It is also possible that many Waldensians who fled to Geneva during these treacherous times took advantage of this fund and were helped by it. The fund provided assistance to most anyone who applied including non-French and non-Protestant people. Once
Cameron, Waldenses, 185. This could reflect the Waldensian belief that Purgatory did not exist and therefore masses for the dead were ineffective. However, making bequests to the poor can also indicate the importance of charitable practices for the Waldensians. 72 Biller, The Waldenses, 101. 73 Gabriel Audisio, Preachers by Night: The Waldensian Barbes (15th-16th Centuries), trans. Claire Davison (Leiden: Brill, 2007), 79. 74 Robert M. Kingdon, “Calvinism and Social Welfare.” Calvin Theological Journal 17, no 2 November 1, 1982 pages 212-230, 224-225.
the Waldensians returned to their Valleys in the Glorious Return of 1689, the records for their lives became scarce until the nineteenth century.75 The Waldensians who immigrated to America in May 1893 practiced a unique form of charity, socialism. When the first twenty-three colonists arrived in North Carolina, it was decided that the best way to pay off the loan on the land was to hold everything in common. I consider this communal venture a form of charity because all the people who migrated to America began from the same starting point. Almost all who arrived were poor and by setting up the colony in this way all would share what they had. A few days after arriving in North Carolina, the Valdese Corporation was formed.76 The first instance of this new system was enacted on June 16, 1893, eight days after the formation of the Corporation. On that day, after church, all the colonists met and signed an agreement whereby all the men…should share one-half of the crops [they grew], to be divided in equal parts, no consideration being made for the profession or work of the individual, all being members of the same family. The other half of the crops should be divided among the men, women, and children.77 One of the main establishments of the corporate venture was the building of a community oven where all the colonists could bake their bread for the week, until such a time as they became familiar with American ovens. The women of the community raised the funds to build this communal oven by dressing in their native Waldensian costumes and singing French hymns at local churches.78
75 It is unclear to me whether this lack of record is because there is none or if the lack of record is due to no one looking for evidence of Waldensian activity during this time period. 76 The decision to form a communal society here in America goes back to Acts 4:32 and the early church who “owned all things in common.” 77 Watts, The Waldenses of Valdese, 28. 78 The Waldensian Presbyterian Historical Society, History and Heritage of the Waldensian Presbyterian Church, 16.
Figure 5: A reconstruction of the communal oven on the Trail of Faith in Valdese NC.
Figure 6: A Waldensian woman in traditional dress in the Waldensian Heritage Museum in Valdese NC. The women who raised the funds for the communal oven dressed in a similar fashion to this woman when they went to the local churches.
This communal adventure lasted about one and a half years. It was unsuccessful mainly because of the extreme hardships the colony experienced over the first winter. One man, a Captain W. Murdoch, visited the colony in the winter/spring of 1894. In his opinion the colonists had made many mistakes but “the most serious were, too much land had been purchased, much of the land was remote from the railroad and destitute of roads; the adoption of the Utopian basis of a commune, and the sending out to the colony the very poorest families.”79 The Valdese Corporation was dissolved in November of 1894. The colony sold back all the land to the Morgantown Land Company and individuals then purchased their own land from the Morgantown Land Company itself. This helped to reduce the overall debt of the colony and enabled the colony to survive as each family was now only responsible for their own piece of land. This is not a rejection of charity in itself but a practical move by the early colonists to support the needs of many by lessening the overall debt. Once the Waldensians of Valdese were settled and began to be successful, they continued the practice of charity. Beginning in 1911, the church sent money to the Presbyterian Home Missions, the North Carolina Home Missions, and the Orphans Home in Barium Springs. This same year the church also began to make loans to members of the community in need from the church treasury.80 In 1917, the women of the church sent money to the orphanage in Torre Pellice and the Waldensian Committee for Assistance to the Military.81 In June 1946, the colony received word that “their kinsmen in the Waldensian Valleys were suffering from lack of food and the other necessities of life.” The people of Valdese rallied together and within a year sent
Watts, Waldenses of Valdese, 48-49. The Waldensian Presbyterian Historical Society, History and Heritage of the Waldensian Presbyterian Church, 47. 81 Ibid, 50. 80
“1600 pounds of clothing and more than $2,000” to the people of the Valleys.82 Also during the 1940s, as part of the War Relief Committee, the church sent “large packages to three orphanages, three hospitals, a nurses’ home, three homes for the aged, two institutes, and a home for incurables, under the support of the Waldensian Church of Italy.”83 The women of the Waldensian Presbyterian Church joined the Foster Parents’ Plan and were assigned a little boy from southern Italy. These ladies sent the boy “letters, toys, a bicycle, clothing, money, and household articles” during the years between 1962 and 1964.84 In 1983 a low income retirement home called AGAPE was built. This community is still in use today and the church community holds cook-outs and sings carols there each year.85 Thus the care of those less fortunate continued to be a large part of the ministry of the church.86 Today the Waldensian Presbyterian Church of Valdese has an Assistance Ministry which is in charge of the local food bank which distributes food to those in need. The provision of life’s necessities such as food continues to be important as the church also has a Meal ministry which provides meals for those whom have been hospitalized in the community so that the sick and their families are free from worrying about meals.87 These activities indicate a willingness of the church to participate in charitable acts and constitutes a link with the medieval Waldensians.
Watts, The Waldenses of Valdese, 113. Ibid, 115. 84 Ibid, 123. 85 Gretchen Lane Costner (Curator of the Waldensian Heritage Museum) in discussion with the author, December 22, 2014. 86 There are many more examples of charitable contributions of the Waldensian Church in the community and internationally including clothing drives and Red Cross relief funds. For more information see The Waldensian Presbyterian Historical Committee, History and Heritage of the Waldensian Presbyterian Church, 139-145, 158, 179. 87 Gretchen Lane Costner (Curator of the Waldensian Heritage Museum) in discussion with the author, December 22, 2014. 83
Conclusion The commitment to the vita apostolica was and continues to be a large part of Waldensian identity. Public preaching in the streets in the early movement evolved into private preaching by the barbes after the Waldensians were condemned as heretics—and then evolved again into public preaching by trained minsters after the Protestant Reformation. The Scriptures were heard, memorized, and read by lay people and barbes alike. The reading of the Scriptures continued to be a prominent, if perhaps sometimes exaggerated, part of Waldensian identity into the Modern Era. The Charlotte Observer on June 4, 1893 stated that it is a cardinal decree that every child among them [i.e. the Waldensians] shall be taught to memorize thoroughly one book of the Bible, so that if the Sacred Text were utterly destroyed among men they could reproduce it verbatim. This custom, originating in days of persecution, is still observed in all its first force.88 The voluntary poverty aspect of the vita apostolica evolved from practitioners giving up all their possessions in the early movement to charity and care of the poor in society from the time of persecution to the present day. This commitment to the vita apostolica in all its forms created a communal culture and identity for the Waldensians which connects those who identify as Waldensian today with those who identified as Waldensians in the past.
“The Waldenses in Burke,” Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, NC), June 4, 1893.
Chapter Two: Medicinal Practice In the last chapter I suggested that the Waldensians were and are committed to the spiritual health of their followers through the practices of the vita apostolica. In addition, the Waldensians were and are committed to the physical health of their followers. The second cultural aspect that the medieval Waldensians share with those of the present are medical practices. These practices include occupations as doctors, surgeons, and pharmacists as well as building and supporting hospitals and clinics. First a note on medieval medical practice. The first instance of formal medical training as a separate subject at a university is from 1251 at the University of Paris. Before this time, medical training was part of the arts curriculum associated with natural philosophy.89 Before the advent of scholarly medicine, healing was practiced by anyone who received training through an apprenticeship, including religious.90 However, the Second Lateran Council of 1139 warned against the practice of medicine for monetary gain by religious and in 1163 Pope Alexander III (r. 1159-1181) decreed that no monks were “permitted to depart [the monastery] for the purpose of studying medicine.”91 When medicine began to be taught at universities it spurred the creation of guilds and standards. These standards placed the academic medical physician at the top of a hierarchy followed by “learned surgeons, craft-trained surgeons, barber-surgeons, itinerant specialists such as dentists and occultists, empirics, midwives, clergy, and ordinary family and
Faith Wallis, Medieval Medicine: A Reader (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010), 193. Ibid, xxi, 73-74. 91 Ibid, 364 from Canon 8 of Pope Alexander III enacted at the Council of Tours in 1163. 90
neighbors.”92 In places such as Paris, it also led to the creation of statutes which gave the right of the Faculty of Medicine to punish offenders for illicit practice.93 The courts persecuted those who practiced medicine without formal academic training. In the trial of Jean Domremi, the Faculty of Medicine of Paris stated that Domremi could not be a physician because he did “not understand either French or Latin, nor [did he] know how to read, and therefore he cannot be a physician, because this is not a science that one can know by hearsay.”94 These scholarly views of medical practice are important in examining the medical practices of the medieval Waldensians. The Waldensian barbes were often seen in the same light as Jean Domremi. Many of the theologians and Inquisitors of the Middle Ages believed that the Waldensian barbes were illiterate and uneducated. I will argue later that this was not the case. Nevertheless, the common view of the Waldensians as uneducated meant that they, like Jean Domremi, could not be physicians in the eyes of the educated elite. Another way in which the medieval populace sought healing was through praying to the Saints and pilgrimages to holy sites. Saints such as Theodore, Damian and Cosmos, Gregory, Martin, and Sigismund were some of the more popular Saints to invoke for healing.95 Popular pilgrimage sites included Santiago de Compostella, Tours, Rome, and the Holy Land.96 The poor especially took recourse in the healing of the Saints. Physicians could be costly but praying to the Saints was relatively inexpensive. Although pilgrimages could be quite expensive, medieval people both poor and rich traveled to the holy sites of the Saints for healing. As both praying to the Saints and pilgrimage are part of the normative Roman Church the Waldensians, because
Ibid, 361. Ibid, 369. See the statutes of 1270-1271. 94 Ibid, 372. From the Faculty of Medicine of Paris vs. Jean Domremi, Tuesday, 23 Novemeber 1423. 95 Ibid, 49-72. 96 Diana Webb, Medieval European Pilgrimage, c. 700-c. 1500 (New York, NY: Palgrave Mcmillan, 2002), Chapter 2. 93
they did not believe in the efficacy of prayers to the Saints, had to rely on natural medical practices for healing such as the barbes who acted as barber-surgeons. The first evidence that Waldensians practiced medicine comes from the early 1190s. Bernard of Fontcaude (d. c 1192), a Premonstratensian abbot in Narbonne, complained in a letter about people who sent for Waldensian “preachers” for healing.97 However, Peter Biller speculates that the Waldensians held this mission of healing from the beginning of the movement in the 1170s. He argues that in 1179, just a few years after Valdes began his mission, Walter Map observed the Waldensian barbes “going two by two in literal obedience to the mission of the seventy-two.”98 This mission of the seventy-two is a reference to Matthew and Luke chapter 10 in which Jesus sends out his disciples to preach the good news. However, in this injunction Jesus also tells them to “heal the sick” in those towns which they visit.99 Biller argues that it is unlikely that the Waldensians would have adhered to parts of the command (i.e. going two by two in order to preach the good news) and ignore the admonishment to cure the sick. Because of the literal interpretations that the early Waldensians gave to the Scriptures I would have to agree with Biller in speculating that the early Waldensians obeyed the injunction to heal the sick. Besides the adherence to the literal interpretation of Scripture what other reasons might the Waldensian barbes have to act as physicians? After the Waldensians were condemned as heretics by the Roman Church the role of physician might have continued in order to disguise the activities of the traveling barbes. It gave a reason to travel and to show up at the houses of the believers. Another possible reason the barbes acted as physicians was in order to replace the role that the Saints had in medieval healing. The Waldensians rejected the efficacy of prayers to the
Biller, The Waldenses, 52. Bernard views the Waldensian preachers as heretics and thus I have placed the term in quotes. 98 Ibid, 52. 99 This is specifically in Matthew 10:8 and Luke 10:9.
Saints.100 Oftentimes in order to change a habit or a belief it must be replaced by something else to fulfill the same role. This could be the case with the Waldensians. In order to stop the followers from praying to the Saints for healing the barbes had to provide another route for healing by acting as physicians. Whatever the reason, further evidence of medical practice by the medieval Waldensians is found in the inquisitorial depositions of Peter Selhan contained in Doat 21 as cited by Peter Biller.101 Eighty-four of the two hundred-eighty people sentenced by the Inquisitor Peter Selhan in the years 1241-1242 referenced the practice of medicine by the Waldensian barbes. These depositions testify to the barbes’ treatment of physical ailments of Waldensian believers and non-believers alike as well as the barbes use of medical cures such as herbs, poultices, and plasters.102 From these records we glean the identity of one particular Waldensian barbe, Pierre de Valz. He was mentioned by seven people as a doctor and by fifteen others as a preacher. From this we can speculate on the roles of other barbes during this time period and their commitment to preaching and healing. Since more than twice as many people questioned identified Pierre as a preacher rather than a healer, it would seem that preaching was the most important duty of a barbe. This makes sense because of the medieval emphasis on the afterlife and the salvation of the soul. It was more important to have spiritual health than physical health. This being said, from the evidence it is clear that the barbes also practiced medicine and were concerned with the physical wellbeing of their followers and non-Waldensians.
100 Evidence for the rejection of the Saints is found in Stephen of Bourbon’s Tractatus de Diversis Materiis Praedicabilibus, Anselm of Alessandria’s Treatise on Heretics, and Bernard Gui’s Inquisitor’s Manual translated in Wakefield and Evans, Heresies of the High Middle Ages, 349, 372, 391. 101 See the previous chapter for information about the Doat and in particular Doat 21. 102 Biller, The Waldenses, 54-55. From Doat 21, fols. 185r-282v.
It seems that these Waldensian healers were even used by Cathar credentes. According to Peter Biller, “this use by the Cathar credentes is curious. The Cathar perfecti were themselves seen as medical practitioners in depositions…yet here [in Quercy], even where there is knowledge of Cathar medical activities, the Waldensians are preferred.”103 This is indeed curious. Why would one group desire to use the medical services of a different group? Was the medical training of the Waldensians superior? Was the risk of using the Waldensian doctors less than that of using the Cathar doctors? We can only speculate as to the answer. However, these depositions do show that the Waldensians practiced medicine and were sought out for that purpose during the Middle Ages by both their own followers and others. Aside from these depositions from the early thirteenth century, the evidence for medical practice of the barbes is almost non-existent until the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. Does this mean that medical practice was abandoned? Not necessarily. Perhaps, the Inquisitor Selhan from whom we have our thirteenth-century evidence was the only Inquisitor of the time period who was concerned about these practices. Another possibility is that the need for secrecy was intensified during this time period because of the Inquisition and the new ordinances on medical practices. Nevertheless, the next evidence of medical practice comes from 1486 when a Waldensian believer, Odo Crispin, in the Piedmont region testified to consulting a barbe named Michael to heal his uncle’s leg.104 Later, in 1532, the Dominican Inquisitor Jean de Roma questioned the barbe Piere Griot, from Pragelato, also in the Piedmont region, about his practices. In this deposition, Griot admits to undergoing medical training and when arrested he was carrying medical supplies.105 One year later, Jean de Roma wrote that the barbes “are all
Ibid, 57. Ibid, 64. This information is from the Cambridge University Library MS Dd. Iii.6 H2, fol. 8r. 105 Ibid, 64. 104
workers, or have some trade or craft or are merchants or shoemakers or cobblers or blacksmiths or doctors or herbalists or some are barbers or surgeons or have some other profession.”106 The barbe Georges Morel when writing to Oecolampadius in 1530 also mentioned medical practice. He stated that “when someone is ill, we [the barbes] are summoned to visit him…so that we may help them both spiritually and physically.”107 A final piece of evidence comes from a fifteenthcentury manuscript. This manuscript, found in Cambridge, is in the Provençal dialect of the Piedmontese Waldensians and contains remedies for various ailments including instructions for making an ointment to be applied to wounds…a description of the use of a plaster and instructions for making it…a description of the use of a distillation as an expectorant against colds…and an account of the manifold use of the herb tormentil against catarrh, wound, stomach upsets, scabs, fever, toothache, and other ailments.108 This manuscript is small in size and this may be because it was used by the traveling barbes during their missions to the Waldensian communities spread throughout Europe. Its small size would make it ideal for carrying from town to town. The barbes cared for the sick during their travels and the Waldensian believers depended on them for healing as evidenced by the inquisitorial depositions from Toulouse and the story of Odo Crispin in Piedmont. Besides the practice of medicine by the barbes, there is some evidence, if scarce, of Waldensian hospitals in the Middle Ages. One must remember here that the medieval purpose of hospitals was different from that of modern hospitals. For example, the German medieval hospital of The Holy Spirit in Pfullendorf, had the following purpose: this house shall be dedicated to the exercise of the works of mercy for salvation of the faithful. These works shall be performed day and night. Namely: the naked shall be clothed, the hungry fed, the weak refreshed, women cared for in the six 106
Gabriel Audisio, Preachers by Night, 127. This also corresponds to earlier mention of disguises by Stephen of Bourbon in his Tractatus written in the mid-thirteenth century describing the barbes as using the disguise of a barber or surgeon to escape detection (see Wakefield and Evans, Heresies of the High Middle Ages, 210). 107 Biller, Waldenses, 65. 108 Ibid, 63. From the Cambridge University Library, Dd.x.v.32, fols. 11r-13v.
weeks before childbirth, widows, orphans, and pilgrims who come from every direction shall not be denied food or shelter.109 There are vague references from the depositions of the Inquisitor Peter Selhan contained in Doat 21 of people visiting a Waldensian barbe, presumably at his house.110 Whether this house was meant to act as a hospital or hospice or whether it was only a residential house must be left to speculation. However, many medieval hospitals were in towns and near pilgrimage routes and thus it would only be a small stretch to consider this house a hospital.111 Nevertheless, there is some evidence that the men who reconciled with Rome and became the Poor Catholics did have plans to build a hospital.112 Durand of Huseca in 1212 sought permission from Pope Innocent III for the Poor Catholics “to act as guardians and pastoral visitors of a community of penitents” in Elne (near Roussillon in southern France). This community was to build a house where they would “work for the poor, care for poor people, the sick, foundlings and poor women in childbirth.”113 This sounds very much like a medieval hospital. Who this group of penitents were and whether or not this house was built is not recorded. Euan Cameron believes it possible that this group may have been former Waldensians or even Cathars given the location in southern France and the history of the Poor Catholics.114 I agree that from the information provided that the group may have been former Waldensians based on their emphasis of the poor and healing, which as we have seen is central to Waldensian cultural practices. Perhaps the desire to build a hospital was a manifestation of the emphasis on healing practiced by the Waldensian barbes. The need for the Waldensians to maintain secrecy
Carter Lindberg, Beyond Charity: Reformation Initiatives for the Poor (Minneapolis MN: Fortress Press, 1993), 59. 110 Biller, Waldenses, 56. 111 Lynn T. Courtenay, “The Hospital of Notre Dame des Fontenilles at Tonnerre: Medicine as Misericordia,” in The Medieval Hospital and Medical Practice, ed. Barbara S. Bowers (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007), 79. 112 See the introduction and chapter one for information on the reconciliation of the Poor Catholics. 113 Cameron, Waldenses, 53. 114 Ibid, 54.
during the persecution by the Inquisition and the move of Waldensian communities from cities and towns to the countryside inhibited the building and funding of hospitals by the believers until such a time as they were no longer persecuted. After the Waldensian’s joined the Reformation in the 1530s the importance of physical health did not diminish. The Reformers, like the Waldensians, rejected the efficacy of prayers to the Saints and miraculous healing from Holy sites. Thus, the Reformers supported physicians who did not rely on superstitious practices such as novenas and prayers to the Saints for healing. In Early Modern Geneva, the strict policies enacted in Paris in the twelfth century forbidding the practice of medicine for those without formal academic training, did not hold. The regulation of practice was lax and as long as one provided evidence of previous medical practice he was incorporated into the medical guild.115 Therefore, even though the new Reformed ministers did not practice medicine as the old barbes did, medical practice was made widely available to the populace and perhaps some of the old barbes continued to care for the sick of their communities. Centuries after the Waldensians returned from their exile in Switzerland, in 1824, they were granted permission by Charles Felix (r. 1821-1831), King of Sardina and Duke of Savoy “to build a hospital in Copia near La Torre.”116 In 1832, a Waldensian Hospital was built in Torre Pellice which continues to operate today. In 1985 the Waldensians of Valdese sent $6,000 to Torre Pellice for improvements to this hospital.117 The hospital in Torre Pellice was soon after followed in 1853 by a hospital in Turin built by General Charles Beckwith (1789-1862), an Englishman who later married a Waldensian woman and built many institutions including
115 Philip Reider, “Miracles and Heretics: Protestant and Catholic Healing Practices in and around Geneva 15301750.” Social History of Medicine 23, no 2 August 2010 pages 227-243, 229. 116 William Sime, History of the Waldenses: From the Earliest Period Till the Present Time (Edinburgh: William Oliphant and Son, 1834), 251. As far as I can tell from my research this is the first Waldensian Hospital in the modern period. 117 Waldensian Presbyterian Church Historical Committee, History and Heritage of the Waldensian Presbyterian Church: Valdese, North Carolina 1893-1993, (Valdese NC: Delmar Publishing, 1993), 142.
schools, a subject that will be discussed later.118 These hospitals still operate today although “in recent years the progressive dismantlement of welfare in Italy has caused many difficulties for the Waldensian Church [thus forcing it] to transfer its three hospitals of Piedmont to the Health Public Services.”119 The practice of medicine was and is also prominent for the Waldensians in America. As mentioned in the previous chapter, when the Waldensians immigrated to North Carolina, Dr. Tron emphasized the importance of the colony having “a pastor, a doctor, a surveyor, and a schoolmaster.”120 The need for a pastor and a doctor shows the connectivity of spiritual and physical health for the Waldensians. Because of the economic troubles of many in the early community on May 8, 1909 a group of men in the community founded a mutual aid society called Le Phare des Alpes or the Lighthouse of the Alps. The purpose of this society was to provide payment for the medical care of its members. The society still exists today but the purpose has shifted from an emphasis on medical insurance to the promotion of Waldensian heritage.121 This is because the economic situation of the community improved and an aid society of this sort was no longer needed. In 1939, the Waldensians of Valdese established the Valdese General Hospital. This hospital is still in operation today and this past Thanksgiving became a part of the Blue Ridge Carolina’s Medical. It is a 131 bed non-profit hospital that serves the community of Valdese and surrounding communities in North Carolina.122
“The Waldensian Diaspora,” Chiesa Evangelica Valdese, 2005, www.chiesavaldese.org/eng/pages/history/where_live.php. 119 “Waldensian Church,” 2015 World Council of Churches, accessed January 23, 2015, www.oikoumene.org/en/member-churces/Waldensian-church. 120 Watts, The Waldensians of Valdese, 18. 121 Pamphlet: Le Phare Des Alpes: Mutual Aid Society, (Valdese NC). 122 Watts, The Waldensians of Valdese, 168; Gretchen, Lane-Costner, Curator of the Waldensian Heritage Museum in discussion with the author, December 22, 2014; “Valdese Hospital,” Carolinas Health Care System-Blue Ridge, 2014, http://www.blueridgehealth.org/valdese-hospital.html.
Besides the operation of this hospital, the Waldensian Church of Valdese has also supported medical missionaries Dr. and Mrs. Walter Hull over the years. On December 12, 1970, the church collected about $5,000 dollars in drug samples to send to these missionaries in Zaire. In September 1980 the church raised funds to ship an x-ray unit donated by the Valdese General Hospital to Zaire for Dr. Hull. Two years later the hospital paid to ship medical books to Dr. Hull and in 1987, a member of the church retiring from medical practice shipped all of his office equipment to Dr. Hull in Zaire.123 Pamela Klassen has said that practices of healing became one means through which liberal Protestants sought to live out their dawning vision of a cosmopolitan world—a world in which they sought connections beyond their local communities that would tie them to others not necessarily as Christians, but instead as human beings participating in a universal collectivity of “spirit”.124 This development of connecting one community with a different community through healing adds to the spirit of healing promoted by the early Waldensians through preaching and medical practice. The Waldensians through their support of medical missionaries spread the Gospel message and provided medical relief to those in other countries who may have not experienced this combination of spiritual and physical healing. Besides forming global connections that promote spiritual and physical healing the Waldensians of Valdese also continue to promote healing in their own community. In recent years, the Waldensian Presbyterian Church gave the use of their space for the Good Samaritan Clinic. This interdenominational clinic gives free medical, dental, and psychiatric care to people living in Burke County, NC (in which Valdese is located). The clinic was created in 1996 and
Waldensian Presbyterian Church Historical Committee, History and Heritage of the Waldensian Presbyterian Church, 119, 136, 149. 124 Pamela E. Klassen, Spirits of Protestantism: Medicine, Healing, and Liberal Christianity, (Berkley: University of California Press, 2011) 18.
used the space of the church until the operation became too big. It is now housed in its own building in Morganton, NC, near Valdese.125 In addition to supporting medical missionaries, clinics, and hospitals many members of the Waldensian Presbyterian Church practice medicine themselves either as physicians diagnosing and treating illnesses or as pharmacists fulfilling remedies for such illnesses.126 Perhaps this is not surprising given the history of the medical practices of the early Waldensians. Although, the role of the pastor has changed to focus only on the spiritual health of the community unlike the medieval barbes, the church as a whole is still focused on physical health through the support of hospitals, clinics, and practicing believers in the community. Conclusion The medical practices of the Waldensians is linked to the commitment of the vita apostolica by combining emphasis on spiritual health with physical health. These medical practices have evolved from the barbes themselves acting in the role of physicians to the community support of hospitals and medical missionaries. Nevertheless, physical health is valued by the Waldensian community. In the next chapter I will examine the final cultural practice connecting the medieval Waldensians to their modern day counterparts: the perpetuation of a historical narrative through education. This final practice is important in creating a distinct communal identity for the Waldensians.
125 For more information on the clinic itself see their website, http://burkegoodsamclinic.org. Information on the use of the Waldensian Church’s space is from Gretchen Lane-Costner (Curator of the Waldensian Heritage Museum) in discussion with the author, December 22, 2014. 126 Gretchen Lane Costner (Curator of the Waldensian Heritage Museum) in discussion with the author, December 22, 2014.
Chapter Three: Education and the Perpetuation of a Historical Narrative The previous chapters examined the cultural links between medieval and modern day Waldensians through the lenses of the vita apostolica and medicinal practices. This chapter will examine the final, and perhaps the most important, cultural aspects of the perpetuation of a historical narrative through education. At first glance it may seem that these two aspects are unconnected. However, in order to preserve and transmit a historical narrative accurately a community must have some educated persons to write it down. Thus it is through education that the historical narrative is preserved most accurately for future generations. Education Education was important to the Waldensians from the beginning of the movement. Valdes had parts of the Bible translated into the vernacular and this was read and memorized by his followers who were then expected to preach. Literacy in the twelfth century was not widespread. Only about ten percent of the population was literate at the time of Valdes.127 In the later Middle Ages those who could read usually belonged to one of three classes: the clergy, the scholars and professionals (those who attended university), or the nobility.128 The majority of the Waldensians however, belonged to none of these classes; the Waldensians were, for the most part, from the peasantry. Even in the later medieval period of the Waldensian history the barbes came from this peasant world. Georges Morel in his letter to Oecolampadius in 1530 stated that the barbes “almost always [come] from herding animals or agriculture, twenty or, in most cases,
Audisio, Waldensian Dissent, 23. Gabriel Audisio, “Were the Waldensians more literate than their contemporaries (1460-156)?” in Heresy and Literacy, 1000-1530, ed. Peter Biller and Anne Hudson (Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 177179. 128
thirty [years old], and utterly unlettered.”129 How then did these peasants preach the Scriptures to their followers? The ability to read the Scriptures, or at least memorize large passages from them, had to be taught to the Waldensian barbes in order for them to preach effectively to the followers. However, there is some evidence that teaching went beyond the leaders of the community. In 1241, a man from the region of Montauban in southern France, confessed to an Inquisitor that he frequented the Waldensian schools in the area and read with the Waldensians there.130 David of Augsburg (d. 1272), a Franciscan Inquisitor, stated that the Waldensians taught “even little girls the words of the Gospel and Epistles.”131 The Anonymous of Passau also corroborates this teaching of the Waldensian believers. He wrote in the 1260s that there were forty-one schools for believers in the diocese of Passau where men, women, and children could be educated.132 The Anonymous of Passau also wrote, perhaps exaggeratingly, that “in all the cities of Lombardy and the province of Provence, and in other kingdoms and lands, there are more schools of the heretics than of theologians.”133 It would seem then that the communities of Waldensians in France, Italy, and Germany had schools of some sort to educate both believers and barbes. Later, in the 1400s in Strasbourg, a woman known as Old One Zum Hirtze, testified that there were schools in the buildings behind her house.134 There is also evidence of schools in Merindol in the early 1500s.
Pierette Paravy, “Waldensians in the Duaphine (1400-1530): from dissidence in texts to dissidence in practice,” in Heresy and Literacy, 1000-1530, ed. Peter Biller and Anne Hudson (Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 160. 130 Cameron, Waldenses, 71. 131 Edward Peters, Heresy and Authority in Medieval Europe: Documents in Translation (London: Scolar Press, 1980), 149. From David of Augsburg, On the Waldensians of Bavaria, 1270. 132 Shulamith Shahar, Women in a Medieval Heretical Sect: Agnes and Huguette the Waldensians, trans. Yael Lotan (Woodbridge Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 2001), 17. This seems like a large number of schools and it could be that the Anonymous of Passau exaggerates the number and includes schools associated with other heretical sects in his calculation. 133 Peters, Heresy and Authority in Medieval Europe,” 152. From The Passau Anonymous: On the Origins of Heresy and the Sect of the Waldensians. 134 Shahar, Women in a Medieval Heretical Sect, 105.
When the Waldensians in Merindol were massacred in 1540, the Merindol Edict which condemned them stated that there was “a school of errors and wrong doctrines of the [Waldensians], people who teach the said errors and wrong doctrines, and booksellers who printed and sell books full of wrong doctrines” in the village.135 It seems that the term “school” was used by the Waldensians to refer to any place where the followers were taught the Scriptures and the beliefs of the Waldensians. From the preceding examples there is ample evidence of the Waldensian followers being educated in at least basic reading of the vernacular Scriptures and thus hints at the prizing of education and learning among the Waldensians. Perhaps more important than the education of their followers, especially in literacy, was the education of the leaders, the barbes. It seems that the barbes’ education was through a mixture of apprenticeship and formal schooling. Not much is known about the early school of the barbes which was located in Apulia, in southern Italy.136 A second school was located in the Angrogna Valley in the Piedmont region of northern Italy. This school structure is still standing today.137 While the evidence for earlier formal training is scarce, there is more evidence from the later Middle Ages for the education of the barbes. In one of Georges Morel’s letters from the 1530s, he says that the men sent for training as barbes were between twenty-five and thirty, “and are completely illiterate.” If these men were found suitable for the profession they were taught “to spell and to read, and learned by heart all the chapters of Matthew and John, the so-called
Audisio, “Were the Waldensians more literate than their contemporaries (1460-1560)?” in Heresy and Literacy, 1000-1530, ed. Peter Biller and Anne Hudson, (Cambridge NY: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 184. 136 What is known about this school comes from testimonies of Waldensian believers later (in the mid-fifteenth century). There is however, earlier and later evidence of “general chapter” meetings of the barbes in this region and it seems likely that some sort of training center was located here. See Cameron, The Reformation of the Heretics, 70. 137 Maxine McCall, Milestones of Waldensian History (Valdese NC: Trail of Faith Inc., 1998), 4-5. Because there is scarce evidence pertaining to the first school in Apulia it is unclear how this school in the Piedmont was different and why it was established in this region. Perhaps because of the large population of Waldensians in the Piedmont it was felt that a school in this region would be safer from persecution by the Inquisitors or perhaps it was the quantity of believers themselves that prompted the establishment of a school there.
canonical epistles and a good part of Paul.”138 Pierre Griot, a Waldensian questioned by the inquisitor Jean de Roma in 1532, also attested to the education of the barbes. He stated that he had spent “two or three years” at school. He also stated that besides learning to read a barbe was “made to study the New Testament for four or five years until he knows it all by heart.”139
Figure 7: School of the Barba. This is a reconstruction on the Trail of Faith of the school found in the Agrogna Valley in Italy. Small animals were kept in the lower level which helped heat the schoolhouse. The top was used for studying and the training of the barbes. Further evidence for the education of the barbes comes from their books. Alberic of Trois Fontaines, a Cistercian writing c. 1250 wrote that “some abbots directed to preach against the [Waldensians in Metz] burnt those books about Latin in Roman verses.”140 These books sound like grammar books and were perhaps used in the Waldensian schools mentioned earlier. When 138
Gabriel Audisio, Preachers by Night: The Waldensian Barbes (15th-16th Centuries), trans. Claire Davison (Leiden: Koninklijke Brill NV, 2007), 78. 139 Ibid, 100. 140 Biller, The Waldenses, 212.
many Waldensians were questioned in the years following Alberto Cattaneo’s crusade in 1487, several admitted to seeing the barbes with books. For example a Thomas Griot said that “he saw a small book shown to him by François Lambert, who told him it was a book of the Waldensian barbes.” Another example comes from Jean Brense who stated that “the barbes always carry a book.”141 More evidence of the books of the barbes is contained in large collections of Waldensian books found in many European libraries. Many of these are in the Provençal dialect of the Piedmont region and include Bibles, sermons, poems, and moral treatises. It is believed these books were composed during the early 1520s although the material contained within them may be from an earlier period. It is likely that it was these types of books which the Waldensian believers reported seeing the barbes carrying.142
Figure 8: Bibles of the barbes. The books that the barbes carried would have been similar to this copy of the Bible from the 1700s. This particular Bible is on display at the Waldensian Heritage
Audisio, Preachers by Night, 146. For more information on the contents of these books see Anne Brenon, “The Waldensian Books,” in Heresy and Literacy, 1000-1530, ed. Peter Biller and Anne Hudson, (Cambridge NY: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 184. 142
Museum in Valdese NC. When the Waldensians joined the Reformation in the 1530s the barbes were no longer the leaders of the community. Instead, ministers trained in Geneva were sent to the Waldensian communities to be their spiritual leaders. John Calvin founded the Genevan Academy in 1559. This school was used to train ministers who were sent to communities such as those in the Piedmont as well as serving as a university for the city.143 The new religious leaders of the Waldensians received formal training and no longer came from the peasantry of the Piedmont. These new pastors were very different from the barbes who had received only a few years of training in reading the very basics of the vernacular. The education of the ministers was not the only thing that changed with the joining of the Reformation. The believer’s education experienced changes during this time period as well with formal catechism classes taught by the new pastors and the institutionalization of lay education in Europe. Based upon the previously stated evidence the Waldensian believers of the late Middle Ages seem to have had access to some sporadic education through the barbes and schools set up by fellow Waldensians. When the Waldensians joined the Reformation continued persecution experienced by the community hindered the education of the Waldensian believers. Besides the infringement upon their religious rights the Waldensians also experienced a lack of civil liberties; for example they were denied attendance at public schools during this time period. It was not until the Edict of Emancipation issued on February 17, 1848, by King Charles Albert I of Piedmont and Sardinia that the Waldensians gained the right to attend public schools and
Karin Maag, “From Professors to Pastors: The Convoluted Careers of Jean Diodati and Theodore Tronchin,” in Church and School in Early Modern Protestantism, eds. Jordan J. Ballor, David Sytsma, and Jason Zuidema, (Leiden: Koninkljke Brill NV, 2013), 243.
universities.144 Before being granted this civil liberty the Waldensians in the Piedmont attended their own schools built by General Charles Beckwith in the third and fourth decades of the nineteenth century. Beckwith was an officer in the British army and an aide to Wellington during the battle of Waterloo. During a visit to Wellington he read a book about the Waldensians and decided to visit the Piedmont valleys. He settled in the Valleys in September 1827. One hundred and sixty nine schools were built with his help by 1848. General Beckwith also paid for many Waldensians to travel to Lausanne or Geneva in order to study for careers in the ministry.145 In 1835, the Collegio Valdese was built in Torre Pellice and served as a secondary school for classical languages.146 Thus even with the restrictions to public education the Waldensians were still able to be educated. The Waldensians who immigrated to America continued to prize education. Few of these Waldensians knew English and the majority only spoke French and Italian. This language barrier hindered the early settlers’ children from attending public school in North Carolina. Within the first few months of their arrival in Valdese the Waldensians set up a school to teach the children and separate classes were held to teach the adults English. During the first Christmas celebration in the newly finished and dedicated church in 1900 the school children conducted a program which included singing in French, Italian, and English. An edition of L’Echo des Valles Vaudoises, a newsletter of the Piedmont Waldensians published in Italy, said that “we believe that there is not a single school in all the United States of America where one can sing and recite
Waldensian Presbyterian Church Historical Committee, History and Heritage of the Waldensian Presbyterian Church: Valdese, 11 145 Ibid, 11 and McCall, Milestones of Waldensian History, 18-19. 146 Albert de Lange, Die Waldenser: Geschichte Einer Europaischen Glaubensbewegung in Bildern, trans. Linda Splinter (Karlsruhe: Verlag Staatsanzeiger fur Baden-Wurttemberg Gmbtt, 2000), 115. This is the first Waldensian College if one does not count the school of the barbes which is sometimes translated as the College of the Barbes. In any case this is the first Waldensian secular college.
in three different languages; that is, a school attended only by the children of peasants.”147 In the Piedmont region since the late 1800s, “both French and Italian were taught in schools. French was used for church services” and the Piedmont patois, a dialect of Provençal was used in everyday life. “In Valdese the same pattern of language use continued in the home and church, with English added to the school program.”148 By 1905 the children began attending a public school which was built near the church. This six room school became unnecessary when the Valdese High School was built in 1923.149 The Waldensians of Valdese also value higher education. In 1964, a scholarship was established in honor of Ruth M. Williams, a music director of the Waldensian Presbyterian Church. This scholarship, which today is run by the women of the church, is given to a community member for higher education in music.150 The Waldensians also participate in a study abroad/exchange program. A student from Davidson or Wake Forest Seminary can study abroad at the Waldensian Theological Seminary in Rome and vice versa. This is conducted through the American Waldensian Society and ensures continued cultural exchange between the United States and the Waldensians of Italy. Besides educating members of their own community, the people of Valdese also help to educate others. In 1962, the church decided to support an educational missionary named Miss Lois Grier Moore in her work in Japan supplying her with $3,000 a year.151 In 1991, the church supported a mission team to Mexico to build a school.152 These examples show how the
Watts, The Waldenses of Valdese, 78. Waldensian Presbyterian Church Historical Committee, History and Heritage of the Waldensian Presybterian Church, 218. 149 Ibid, 43. 150 Ibid, 109 and Gretchen Lane Costner (Curator of the Waldensian Heritage Museum) in discussion with the author, December 22, 2014. 151 Ibid, 107. 152 Ibid, 162. 148
Waldensians of Valdese continue to value education. This commitment to education however, is only one small part of the history of the Waldensians. Historical Narratives and Memory Perhaps the most important way the Waldensians form a communal identity is through the perpetuation of a historical narrative. The medieval Waldensians created their own historical narrative through the Liber Electorum or Book of the Elect. The modern day Waldensians create a historical narrative through lieux de memoire. Lieux de memoire “are places, sites, courses [which are] material, symbolic, and functional [and] are created by the interaction between memory and history.”153 Two places of memory used by the Waldensians today are in Valdese, NC. They are the Waldensian Heritage Museum and the Trail of Faith. It is this maintaining of memory and history intertwined that helps solidify the Waldensian identity today. The Liber Electorum, written in the mid-fourteenth century, is an example of a Waldensian historical narrative. There are extant copies of it in both Latin and Provençal.154 It was most likely originally written in Provençal by a Waldensian in Italy and translated into Latin for the benefit of the German Waldensians. This text is brief, about 1,000 words, and its rhythm indicates that it was memorized by the barbes. In fact, one former barbe, John the Lesser in 1368, wrote that he had indeed memorized it and referred to it as the Waldensian’s rule.155 The Liber Electorum presents a history of the Waldensian movement. It purports that the history of the Waldensians begins with the reign of Pope Sylvester I (r. 314-335). According to a medieval legend about the Donation of Constantine, the Emperor Constantine gave a donation of money and power to Pope Sylvester in the fourth century. The Liber Electorum places the beginning of
153 Pierre Nora, Realms of Memory: Volume I: Conflicts and Divisions, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (New York NY: Columbia University Press, 1996), 14. 154 The Provençal version is found in the Cambridge University Library and the Latin version is found in a Benedictine library in Garsten, Austria. See Biller, Waldenses, 191. 155 Biller, Waldenses, 200-201.
the Waldensian movement during this time period. According to the text, a small group of men broke away from the Roman Church in order to lead the vita apostolica of poverty and preaching. One of these men was named Peter Valdes. This is the first instance that Valdes receives the apostolic name of Peter and the text makes the Valdes of the Middle Ages a fourth century apostle. According to the Liber Electorum it is from these men that the Waldensian movement originated and the movement continued until the present day (in the fourteenth century). As modern day scholars we might look at a document such as the Liber Electorum and reject any meaning it might have based on the false history it purports. However, we must put aside this notion of true or false history and ask a deeper question: what was the purpose of this history? According to Georges Morel in the 1530s, the Waldensians had two traditions of their history. First was what we would call the true history, putting the movement’s origins with Valdes in the twelfth century. The second was an oral tradition which projected the movement to the time of the apostles, a tradition perhaps based on the Liber Electorum. How much the people believed this second oral history to be truth can only be speculated on. It seems however that those barbes two hundred years after the text was written did not believe the Liber Electorum to represent an accurate history of the movement. If we speculate for a moment that the other Waldensians also believed the Liber Electorum to represent a fabled history, what reasons can we give for its perpetuation? Perhaps the best reason to create and perpetuate the historical narrative contained in the Liber Electorum is that it provides a legitimization of the Waldensian movement. The Waldensians had been persecuted by the Inquisition since the thirteenth century. The Waldensians needed a justification for the validity of their beliefs in the reality of this
persecution and its resulting need for secrecy. If their beliefs were true and right why were they persecuted and why should they continue to practice in secret? The history in the Liber Electorum gives the movement legitimacy by rooting its secret origins in the fourth century at the time of the Donation of Constantine. This projection also gives a reason for the break with the Roman Church by criticizing the wealth of the present Church via the Donation of Constantine. Finally the Liber Electorum preserves “the history of Valdes, of the memory of individual earlier Waldensians, especially martyrs, and of persecutions.”156 The Liber Electorum thus represents the preservation of a history and memory in the fourteenth century. The preservation of history and memory is reconstituted today in the forms of museums, pilgrimages, plays, and monuments. The Waldensians of Valdese began collecting their own history in 1947. A Historical Collection Committee was entrusted with the collection and preservation of material items brought by the early immigrants from their Piedmontese Valleys. These items were then put into a museum. This collection grew and a new building was built and opened for the celebration commemorating the Edict of Emancipation on February 17, 1974. In April of the next year “the North Carolina Presbyterian Historical Society recognized the achievements of the church in preserving the Waldensian heritage of the members” by honoring several of them at a banquet.157 The collection of items for the museum grew and an addition to the building was completed in 2006.158 The museum contains several items from the early settlers including clothing, pictures, and liturgical items used by the early church in North Carolina. The museum also displays a
Biller, Waldenses, 218. Waldensian Presbyterian Church Historical Committee, History and Heritage of the Waldensian Presbyterian Church, 122-127. 158 Waldensian Presbyterian Church, “Museum.” accessed February 17, 2015, http://www.waldensianpresbyterian.org/13-museum/. 157
historical timeline which traces the Waldensian history from Valdes in the twelfth century until the immigration of Waldensians to America in the nineteenth century. Finally the museum offers a collection of books about the Waldensians and several older Bibles donated by families of those first settlers to Valdese.159 This museum preserves the history of the Waldensians of Europe and Valdese for Waldensians and non-Waldensians alike in that it is open to the public year round. In addition to collecting their history in the form of objects the Waldensians of Valdese also created a historical narrative through the Trail of Faith. The Trail of Faith, hereafter Trail, was the dream of Jimmy R. Jacumin, an engineer and resident of Valdese. While in Italy touring the Waldensian Valleys in 1993 he visited many sites associated with the medieval and Early Modern Waldensians. He returned to Valdese with a vision of recreating these monuments in the town in order to “preserve their Waldensian heritage and be a strong witness to all who would experience it.”160 The project began shortly after his return to Valdese and has been added to over the years. Today the Trail comprises fifteen monuments and buildings built to real life scale which tell the story of the Waldensians of the Piedmont and Valdese NC. The first building is a recreation of the School of the Barbe which is in the Angrogna Valley in Italy. It reinforces the value of education for the Waldensians of the present with the past. The second re-creation is the Gheisa d’la Tana or Church of the Cave where Waldensians worshiped in secret and once were driven out by soldiers and killed according to the plaque posted before this site. This site is used today in the Easter Sunrise Service which will be discussed later.
There is also a Waldensian Museum in Torre Pelice which was established in 1889. For more information on it see the website http://www.fondazionevaldese.org/fondazionevaldese.php?codice=A300. 160 McCall, Milestones of Waldensian History, 38.
Figure 9: Ghiesa d’la Tana where the Waldensians worshiped. Notice the original entrance on the right through which worshipers would have crawled to enter. The entrance on the left was built into the structure for the purposes of the Trail and is not part of the original found in Italy.
The third reconstruction is the Monument of Chanforan. This monument, built in 1932, marks the traditional site of the meeting of the Synod of Chanforan in 1532 which began the unification of the Waldensians with the Reformation. The plaque on the monument reads: Here where four centuries ago the ancient Waldensian Church assembled at the Synod of Chanforan, consecrated their own solidarity with the Churches of the Reformation, and offered them as a regal gift the Bible translated by Olivetan— the Christian unions of Piedmont, in solemn memory of this act, raise and dedicate this Monument. September 12, 1532, September 12, 1932.161
Ibid, 9. The Olivetan Bible was a translation of the Bible into French which was financed by the Waldensian community and performed by Pierre Robert Olivetan and finished in 1535.
Figure 10: Monument of Chanforan. The open Bible says “The Bible” on the left and “Be Faithful” on the right with a reference to Revelation 2:10 which says, “do not fear what you are about to suffer. Beware, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison so that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have affliction. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” This monument marks an important event for the Waldensians in that their doctrinal beliefs underwent an evolution. The fourth building on the Trail is the Temple of Ciabas, one of the oldest churches in the Valleys built in 1555. The church was built for defense and inscribed above the door is “L’Eternal a Pitie de Sion” a reference to Isaiah 51:3 which says “the Lord will comfort Zion.” This site is also used in the Easter Sunrise Service. 54
Figure 11: Temple of Ciabas built in 1555. This replica features the barred windows and the simple interior of the original Temple and is used in the Easter Sunrise Service annually. The fifth monument marks the exile departure site from which the Waldensians left their Valleys and traveled to Switzerland. It is representative of the many years of persecution the Waldensians of the Piedmont faced because of their religious beliefs. The sixth monument is a replication of the monument of Sibaud. This monument built in 1889 marks the Glorious Return of the Waldensians from exile in 1689 and the Covenant of Sibaud which was between all those returning to promise to fight to the death for their cause. It represents the hope of the Early Modern Waldensians for religious freedom.
Figure 12: Monument of Sibaud. This monument commemorates the Glorious Return. This is a photo of the replica on the Trail. The misshapen stones represent places in the Waldensian Valleys. They are Torre Pellice, Pomereto, Agrogna, and Vellar. The seventh building is a reconstruction of one of the Beckwith Schools built by General Charles Beckwith in the early 1800s which were discussed previously. It again shows the value the Waldensians place upon education. The eighth site on the Trail is a monument marking the Edict of Emancipation of 1848. This Edict from King Charles Albert I granted civil rights to the Waldensians. The monument is a fountain which was a gift from King Charles and has a plaque which says, “The King Charles Albert to the people who received him with so much affection.”162 The Edict of Emancipation is the most celebrated event in the history of the Waldensians. Not only is the event marked by monuments but it is also celebrated with bonfires annually in Valdese.163
Ibid, 19. Gretchen Lane-Costner, curator of the Waldensian Heritage Museum, in discussion with the author, December 22, 2014. 163
Figure 13: The Edict of Emancipation. This replica on the Trail is the fountain which commemorates the Edict of Emancipation by Charles Albert I granting civil rights to the Waldensians in 1848. All of these monuments and buildings are reconstructions of sites which are found in the Waldensian Valleys in Italy. The monuments represent events and places which tie the Waldensians of Valdese to their European Waldensian ancestors. It is not surprising that sixty percent of the monument reconstructions represent the European past of the Waldensians as that part of their history is much longer and wrought with conflict compared to the American Waldensians. 57
The other forty percent of the monuments and buildings on the Trail memorialize the history of the Waldensians of Valdese in particular and show the heritage of the Waldensians of Valdese as well as their Americanization. The first of these and site nine on the Trail is the Tron House. This is the original house of Charles Albert Tron the first pastor of the Waldensians in North Carolina. It is not surprising that the house of the first pastor of the American Waldensians is featured on the Trail. As I have shown the Waldensians are committed to preaching and this shows how the community value their preachers.
Figure 14: Tron House. This is the original house of the first pastor of Valdese, Charles Albert Tron. The tenth site is the original saw mill of the town which was used by the original settlers and still works today. It commemorates the economic struggle faced by the first Waldensians of Valdese. The saw mill is used today in order to make wooden coasters which visitors to the Trail receive after walking through it. The coasters say “I walked the ‘Trail’” and are emblazoned with the symbol used by the Trail. These wooden coasters can be compared to the medieval 58
pilgrimage badges received by pilgrims in the Middle Ages. According to Dianna Web pilgrimage in the Middle Ages which concentrated on local sites grew “from two roots: the cultivation within early Christian communities of the memory of their honoured dead [and secondly] the already established custom…of recourse to particular hallowed places for curative and sometimes divinatory purposes.”164 Visiting the shrine and receiving a souvenir would be part of this first reason for local pilgrimage. The Trail in Valdese commemorates the memory of those Waldensians who came before and receiving the coaster helps to instill this memory in those who visit the Trail. The eleventh building on the Trail is the Refour house which is a replica of the house of one of the first families that settled in Valdese. This house is built in a similar fashion to the typical houses found in the Waldensian Valleys of the late nineteenth century. One member of the family, Anna Refour, brought many family mementos which are displayed inside the house on the Trail. This house then showcases the mixing of past and present. The architecture being typical of the Piedmont represents the ties of the American Waldensians to their European counterparts. The fact that it was built in Valdese represents the present and the strong ties to the past which the American Waldensians exhibit. The twelfth site is a reproduction of the community oven built in 1893. Recall from chapter one the women of Valdese put on their Waldensian costumes in order to raise money for this oven. In the Waldensian Valleys each town had a community oven used by all the families to bake bread. The Waldensians of Valdese, because they were unfamiliar with American ovens and wanted to bake bread in the fashion of their European counterparts undertook to build this oven. The oven showcases not only the ties
Dianna Web, Medieval European Pilgrimage, c. 700-c. 1500 (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), 4.
the Waldensians of Valdese made with the past but also the innovation of the women who took it upon themselves to raise the money for the oven. The thirteenth monument is a war memorial which lists the names of all those men and women who have served in the United States military and are related by blood to the original settlers. It demonstrates the willingness of the Waldensians of Valdese to embrace their new country, the United States of America, by serving in its military. The fourteenth site is a Boccia court. Boccia ball is a game played in Italy and by the original settlers who played twice a week. Today it is still played by residents of Valdese at the courts located near the church and the Amphitheatre where the play “From this Day Forward” is performed each year. Boccia ball is another cultural tie to the European Waldensians. The final monument on the Trail is a Pentagon September 11th Memorial. Eric Allen Cranford, a descendent of Waldensians, died in the terrorist attack on the Pentagon and the monument includes a piece of rubble from the Pentagon. This memorial, along with the war memorial, showcases the American-ness of the Waldensians of Valdese. Even though the American Waldensians actively commemorate their past heritage they also value their heritage as American citizens. The sites of the Trail demonstrate an effort to preserve the history of the Waldensians and to connect the communities of Piedmont with those of Valdese. Visitors to the Trail are varied. They include members of the community, school children, and those who have an interest in the history of the Waldensians or of Valdese. The Trail holds a couple of events which attract members of the community annually. First is an Easter Sunrise Service which begins in front of the Cave Church which is a perfect backdrop for the resurrection story and ends inside the Temple of Ciabas. The second event is the Christmas Lights which are displayed in the month of December in celebration of this holiday. The Trail
also provides learning materials for those school fieldtrips which are taken there and these materials include a brief history as well as fictional pages from a diary of a young girl in the first immigrant group.165 Another way in which the Waldensians of Valdese continue to preserve their history is through the play “From This Day Forward.” The efforts of the museum, the Trail, and this play are an attempt to preserve as closely as possible an authentic memory of the past. The play “From This Day Forward” was written by Fred Cranford and was first performed in 1967. It tells the story of the Waldensians from 1680 to the coming to America in 1893. It is performed Fridays and Saturdays during the months of July and August outdoors in the amphitheater. The play memorializes the experiences and events of the Waldensians of the past and allows visitors and present day Waldensians alike to interact with history and create lieux de memoire. Colleen McDannell has said that memory, “can be an imaginative reconstruction of pieces of the past. Through memory we try to recapture an authentic past. However, since the past has changed through remembering we cannot truly remember it.”166 The performance of the play and the construction of monuments of the past are imaginative reconstructions that attempt to preserve the past of the Waldensians of Italy and Valdese and help those in the present remember this history as authentically as possible. Finally, the Waldensians of Valdese preserve a historical narrative through pilgrimage to the Piedmont. In June 1980 a group of Waldensians from Valdese traveled to Torre Pellice to tour the Valleys. This trip has continued and groups from Valdese travel to the Piedmont every three years. The group not only visits the sites and monuments that are recreated in the Trail but
For more information on any of these see the Trail of Faith Website at www.waldensiantrailoffaith.org. Colleen McDannell, Material Christianity: Religion and Popular Culture in America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), 39.
also the villages from which many of the original colonists came. These include Torre Pellice, Prali, Bobbio Pellice, Rora, Mecello, and Roderetto. Many times travelers will be able to meet and visit relatives who still live in these villages and still practice the Waldensian faith.167
Figure 15: This map of the Waldensian Valleys show the towns where many of the American Waldensians still have relatives living. Map is from the Waldensian Presbyterian Church 167
Gretchen Lane-Costner, Curator of the Waldensian Heritage Museum, in conversation with the author, December 22, 2014.
Historical Committee, History of the Waldensian Presbyterian Church, front cover. Conclusion It is through a commitment to the preservation of a historical narrative through education that the modern day Waldensian community strengthens its connection with the European Waldensian community of the past. Memory and history intertwine to become a lieux de memoire in the community of the Waldensians of Valdese through museums, plays, and pilgrimages. This memory in turn creates the Waldensian identity and connects those of the present with those of the past.
Epilogue In the introduction I defined culture, using Clifford Geertz, as history, symbol, and actions which form and perpetuate communal identity. Edward Tylor further defined culture as “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.”168 I have used three cultural practices of the Waldensians -- commitment to the vita apostolica, medicinal practices, and the preservation of a historical narrative through education -- to demonstrate that the Waldensians of the present share these practices with the Waldensians of the past. In defining religion as culture I further expand this notion to state that the Waldensians share a religious culture. This shared religious culture creates a communal identity as Waldensian. Gabriel Audisio, a prominent Waldensian scholar disagrees with me. He states that after the Waldensians joined the Reformation the barbes, and I would infer the Waldensian community at large, gave “up their own religious sensibility, their original culture, and their ancestral past; in short, they had opted to lose their own identity.”169 I submit that the Waldensian religious and cultural identity evolved but did not disappear. There are several practices and religious doctrines that the Waldensians lost when they joined the Reformation in the 1530s. These include some practices that the Waldensians shared with their Catholic counterparts. The medieval Waldensians practiced confession to the barbes. The first confession was almost a rite of passage for the Waldensians of this time period.170 However, after joining the Reformation, this confession was no longer practiced as the Reformers did not believe in the efficacy of private, auricular confession for the salvation of the soul because the Reformers believed people could directly confess their sins to God. The barbes
Peter Burke, What is Cultural History? (Cambridge: Polity, 2008), 30 quotation from Tylor’s Primitive Culture. Audisio, Preachers by Night, 222. 170 See Cameron, The Reformation of the Heretics, 103. 169
themselves were replaced by the Reformed ministers who were educated in Geneva and did not practice celibacy as the barbes did. When they joined the Reformation the Waldensians also had to alter their belief in the role of works for salvation. Good works, although still optional, no longer played an important role in religious sensibility. Finally, the Waldensians also had to relinquish their belief in the literal reading of the Scriptures and accept interpretation as an acceptable path to understanding the Scriptures. Some of the beliefs and practices of the Waldensians, especially those that differed from the Catholics, continued after they united with the Reformation. One example is the denial of purgatory. The Waldensians believed that there were only two options in the afterlife, heaven or hell. The Roman Church espoused a third option, purgatory. The Reformers also rejected the idea of purgatory and thus this belief of the Waldensians did not change. Another example is the efficacy of the prayers of the Saints. Both the medieval Waldensians and the Reformers rejected the belief that prayers to the Saints made any difference in daily life or salvation of the soul and thus this belief was preserved with the unification of the Waldensians to the Reformation. Many of the beliefs and practices of the medieval Waldensians do not fall into these two categories of disappearance or continuance. Instead many practices evolved including the three that were discussed in the preceding chapters. This evolution is more the result of the conformance to modernity than religious sensibilities. According to Peter Berger, society is a human product that acts back upon human beings.171 He goes on to say that “religion serves to maintain the reality of that socially constructed world within which men [and women] exist in their everyday lives.”172 Religion and practices associated with religion are a product of social
Peter Berger, The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion (Garden City: Doubleday, 1967), 3. 172 Ibid, 42.
norms and serve to maintain these norms. As society evolves so too do religious and cultural practices. Practices that were normal in the past either disappear or are transformed in the face of modernity. It is thus no surprise that the cultural practices of the Waldensians evolved with the changing social and religious norms. This transformation has made some of the practices discussed earlier no longer unique to the Waldensian community. There are many religious and social communities that have similar practices to the Waldensians.173 If the Waldensian community is not unique in these practices does it follow that the community itself is not unique? When examined separately the cultural practices discussed may not make the modern Waldensian community unique. However, I believe that the practices of preaching, charity, medicine, and education when taken together with the preservation of a historical narrative create a unique ethnic, religious, cultural, and communal identity which is preserved today by the Waldensians of Valdese and the Waldensians of the Piedmont.
Religious groups that hold similar practice to the Waldensians include other American immigrant religious groups such as the Amana Colonies, the Bishop Hill Community, and the Mennonites. For information on the Amana Colonies see Don Shoup ed., The Amana Colonies, (Iowa City, IA: Penfield Press, 1986). For information on the Bishop Hill Community see Jyotsna Sreenivasan, Utopias in American History, (Santa Barbara CA: ABCCLIO, 2008). For more information on the Mennonites see Donald B. Kraybill and Carl F. Bowman, On the Backroad to Heaven: Old Hutterites, Mennonites, Amish, and Brethren, (Baltimore MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001). It is not my purpose here to compare the Waldensians with these other immigrant communities but instead to show the evolution and maintenance of a communal identity between the medieval and modern Waldensians.
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