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"Others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise" Heb 11:36-39 KJV
"These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended [skandalizo]. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them." Joh 16:1-4 KJV
"Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city" Mat 23:34 KJV
The History of
The Israel of the Alps; A Complete History of the Vaudois of Piedmont and their Colonies: prepared in great part from unpublished documents.
The Vaudois of Piedmont
Read Christian, Puritan, Reformed and Protestant exhortational works, Catholic and Protestant polemical & apologetical works, histories, and martyrologies, online: Hail & Fire Library
The History of
The Israel of the Alps; A Complete History of the Vaudois of Piedmont and their Colonies: prepared in great part from unpublished documents.
The Vaudois of Piedmont
Read Christian, Puritan, Reformed and Protestant exhortational works, Catholic and Protestant polemical & apologetical works, histories, and martyrologies, online: Hail & Fire Library
The History of
The Israel of the Alps; A Complete History of the Vaudois of Piedmont and their Colonies: prepared in great part from unpublished documents.
The Vaudois of Piedmont
Read Christian, Puritan, Reformed and Protestant exhortational works, Catholic and Protestant polemical & apologetical works, histories, and martyrologies, online: Hail & Fire Library
HOME > Library > Books > The Vaudois, an article (1870 Edition)
Original Publication date: 1870
HAIL & FIRE REPRINTS 2008
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Three valleys of singular interest open from the higher Alps into the rich plains of Piedmont below. Through each a rapid stream or mountain torrent, fed by perpetual snows and glaciers, rushes with a varying current, and mingles at length with the stately Po . Two of the vales, Lucerna and Perouse, widen as they descend
San Martino has formed for ages the citadel of the Vaudois, the last refuge of religious freedom. Often, when the papal troops had swept over its sister valleys, filling their fairer scenery with bloodshed and desolation, the brave people of the interior vale defied the invaders. The persecutors turned in alarm from the narrow pass where every crag concealed a marksman; where huge stones were rolled upon their heads from the heights above; where every cave and rock upon the mountain-side were tenanted by a fearless garrison. Here, within the borders of Italy itself, the popes have never been able, except for one unhappy interval, to enforce their authority. Here no mass has been said, no images adored, no papal rites administered by the native Vaudois. It was here that Henry Arnaud, the hero of the valleys, redeemed his country from the tyranny of the Jesuits and Rome; and here a Christian church, founded perhaps in the apostolic age, has survived the persecutions of a thousand years .
The territory of the Vaudois embraces scarcely sixteen square miles. The three valleys can never have contained a population of more than twenty thousand. In every age the manners of the people have been the same. They are tall, graceful, vigorous; a mountain race accustomed to labor or to hunt the chamois in his native crags. The women are fair and spotless; their rude but plaintive hymns are often heard resounding from the chestnut groves; their native refinement softens the apparent harshness of their frugal lives . Over the whole population of the Vaudois valleys has ever rested the charm of a spotless purity. Their fair and tranquil countenances speak only frankness and simplicity; their lives are passed in deeds of charity, in honest labors, and in unvarying self respect . The vices and the follies, the luxury and the crime that have swept over Europe never invaded the happy valleys, unless carried thither by the papal troops. No pride, no avarice, no fierce resentment disturbs the peaceful Vaudois; no profanity, no crime is heard of in this singular community. To wait upon the sick, to aid the stranger, are eagerly contended for as a privilege; compassion, even for their enemies, is the crowning excellence of the generous race. When their persecutor, Victor Amadeus II., was driven from Turin by the French, he took refuge in the valleys he had desolated, in the cottage of a Vaudois peasant. Here he lived in perfect security. The peasant might have filled his house with gold by betraying his guest; he refused; the duke escaped, and rewarded his preserver with characteristic parsimony. In the French wars of the last century, when Suwarrow was victorious among the Alps, three hundred wounded Frenchmen took shelter in the village of Bobbio. The Vaudois cared for their former persecutors as long as their scanty means allowed, and then, taking the wounded soldiers on their shoulders, carried them over the steep Alpine passes and brought them safely to their native France.
We may accept, for we can not refute, the narrative of their early history given by the Vaudois themselves . Soon after the dawn of Christianity, they assert, their ancestors embraced the faith of St. Paul, and practiced the simple rites and usages described by Justin or Tertullian. The Scriptures became their only guide; the same belief, the same sacraments they maintain today, they held in the age of Constantine and Sylvester. They relate that, as the Romish church grew in power and pride, their ancestors repelled its assumptions and refused to submit to its authority; that when, in the ninth century, the use of images was enforced by superstitions popes, they, at least, never consented to become idolaters; that they never worshiped the Virgin, nor bowed at an idolatrous mass. When in the eleventh century Rome asserted its supremacy over kings and princes, the Vaudois were its bitterest foes. The three valleys formed the theological school of Europe. The Vaudois missionaries traveled into Hungary and Bohemia, France, England, even Scotland, and aroused the people to a sense of the fearful corruption of the church . They pointed to Rome as the antichrist, the centre of every abomination. They taught, in the place of the Romish innovations, the pure faith of the apostolic age. Lollard, who led the way to the reforms of Wycliffe, was a preacher from the valleys; the Albigenses of Provence, in the twelfth century, were the fruits of the Vaudois missions; Germany and Bohemia were reformed by the teachers of Piedmont; Huss and Jerome did little more than proclaim the Vaudois faith; and Luther and Calvin were only the necessary offspring of the apostolic churches of the Alps.
The early pastors of the Vaudois were called 'barbes' (uncle); and in a deep recess among the mountains, hidden from the persecutor's eye, a cave is shown where in the Middle Ages a throng of scholars came from different parts of Europe to study the literature of the valleys . The barbes were well qualified to teach a purer faith than that of Rome: a Vaudois poem, written about 1100, called the "Noble Lesson," still exists, and inculcates a pure morality and an apostolic creed ; a catechism of the twelfth century has also been preserved; its doctrines are those of modern Protestantism. The Vaudois church had no bishop ; its head was an elder, majorales, who was only a presiding officer over the younger barbes. But in that idyllic church no ambition and no strife arose, and each pastor strove only to excel his fellows in humility and in charitable deeds.
The popes had succeeded in subjecting kings and emperors; they now employed them in crushing the people. Innocent III excited Philip of France to a fierce crusade against the Albigenses of the south; amidst a general massacre of men, women, and children the gentle sect sank, never to appear again. Dominic invented, or enlarged, the Inquisition; and soon in every land the spectacle of blazing heretics and tortured saints delighted the eyes of the Romish clergy . Over the rebellious kings the popes had held the menace of interdict, excommunication, deposition; to the people they offered only submission or death. The Inquisition was their remedy for the apostolic heresies of Germany, England, Spain - a simple cure for dissent or reform. It seemed effectual . The Albigenses were perfectly extirpated. In the cities of Italy the Waldenses ceased to be known. Lollardism concealed itself in England; the scriptural Christians of every land who refused to worship images or adore the Virgin disappeared from sight; the supremacy of Rome was assured over all Western Europe.
Yet one blot remained on the fair fame of the seemingly united Christendom. Within the limits of Italy itself a people existed to whom the mass was still a vain idolatry, the real presence a papal fable; who had resisted with vigor every innovation, and whose simple rites and ancient faith were older than the papacy itself. What waves of persecution may have surged over the Vaudois valleys in earlier ages we do not know; they seem soon to have become familiar with the cruelty of Rome; but in the fifteenth century the popes and the inquisitors turned their malignant eyes upon the simple Piedmontese, and prepared to exterminate with fire and sword the Alpine church.
And now began a war of four centuries, the most remarkable in the annals of Europe. On the one side stood the people of the valleys - poor, humble, few. Driven to resistance by their pitiless foes, they took up arms with reluctance; they fought only for safety; they wept over the fallen . Yet it soon appeared that every one of the simple mountaineers was a hero; that he could meet toil, famine, danger, death with a serene breast in defense of his loved ones and his faith; that his vigorous arm, his well-ordered frame, were more than a match for the mercenary Catholic, the dissolute Savoyard; that he joined to the courage of the soldier the Christian ardor of the martyr; that he was, in fact, invincible. For four centuries a crusade almost incessant went on against the secluded valleys. Often the papal legions, led by the inquisitors, swept over the gentle landscape of Lucerna, and drove the people from the blazing villages to hide in caves on the mountains, and almost browse with the chamois on the wild herbage of the wintry rocks. Often the dukes of Savoy sent well-trained armies of Spanish foot to blast and wither the last trace of Christian civilization in San Martin or Perouse. More than once the best soldiers and the best generals of Mazarin and Louis XIV
The popes, the leaders of the Inquisition, the dukes of Savoy, bigoted and cruel, often condescended to flatteries and caresses to win those they could not conquer; they offered large bribes to the poorest mountaineer who would consent to abandon the church of his fathers and betray the haunts of the heretic. Wealth honors, the favor of his king and of the Romish priests, awaited him who would recant; an easy path of preferment lay open to the young men of the valleys, accustomed only to toil and want; they were tempted as few other men have ever been. Yet the papal bribes were even less successful than the papal arms. A few imbeciles who had lost their moral purity alone yielded to the allurements of gain and pleasure; the great body of the Vaudois youth rejected the offers with disdain. The stately magnanimity of the Noble Lesson, the simple principles of their ancient catechism , taught them in their plain churches by some learned yet gentle barbe, raised them above those inferior impulses by which the corrupt world beneath them was controlled. No hereditary vices tarnished their fair organizations; no coarse disease impaired their mental and moral vigor. With a wisdom above philosophy they saw that it was better to live with a calm conscience a frugal life than to revel in ill-gotten gold. They clung to their mountains, their moral purity, and their faith. Generation after generation, fiercely tried, hardly tempted, never wavered in their resolve. The war of four centuries for liberty of conscience, for freedom to worship God, was accepted by the youthful Vaudois as their noblest inheritance; the contest went on with varying success but equal vigor, and ceased only, in its final consequences, when the triumphant voice of Garibaldi proclaimed Italy forever free.
Pope Innocent VIII, a man of rare benevolence, according to the Romish writers, and a devoted lover of Christian union, resolved (1487) to adorn his reign by a complete extinction of the Vaudois heresy. He issued a bull summoning all faithful kings, princes, rulers, to a crusade against the children of the valleys . No heretic was to be spared; his goods, his life, were declared forfeited unless he would consent to attend mass. The pope, or his inquisitor, enumerated in a pastoral letter the crimes of the Vaudois. He charged them with calling the Roman church a church of the evil one ; of denouncing the worship of the Virgin, the invocation of saints; of asserting, with unblushing boldness, that they alone possessed the pure doctrine of the apostles. To Albertus Capitaneus was committed the sacred trust of leading an army into the guilty region, and executing upon its people the sentence of Rome. The Catholics gathered together in great numbers at the appeal of the chief inquisitor; a tumultuous throng of soldiers, brigands, priests, entered the valleys and commenced a general pillage. But they were soon disturbed in their labors by the swift attacks of the Vaudois. The resolute and fearless mountaineers sallied from their caves and ravines and drove the robbers before them. One Christian, armed only with the vigor of innocence, seemed equal to a hundred papists. The crusaders fled, beaten and affrighted, from the valleys; the malevolent design of Innocent was never fulfilled; and the Romanists asserted and believed that every Vaudois was a magician, and was guarded by an invisible spell.
Yet still the perpetual persecution went on. The papal agents made their way into the lower portions of the valleys, seized the eminent barbes and faithful teachers, and burned them with cruel joy. The Vandois never knew any respite from real and imminent danger. Ever they must be ready to fly to their mountains and caves; ever their trembling wives and children were exposed to the cruelty and cunning of the envious priests .The sixteenth century opened. The Reformation came, and the chief reformers of France and Germany entered into a friendly correspondence with the barbes and churches of Piedmont. They admitted the purity of their faith, the antiquity of their rites. But the rise of the Reformation served only to deepen the rage of the papists against the children of the valleys. The darkest days of the Vaudois drew near, when their enemies could for a moment boast that the last refuge of Italian heresy had fallen before their arms.
In 1540 the society of Loyola began its universal war against advancing civilization. The Inquisition was renewed with unparalleled severity; the cities of Italy were hushed into a dreadful repose; the Protestants of Venice were thrown into the Adriatic; the Reformers of Rome died before the church of Santa Maria . Italy was reduced to a perfect obedience to the papal rule, and for the first time in the history of its career of innovations the Roman church was powerful and united at home. The iron energy of the Jesuits had crushed dissent. They next proceeded to declare and decide the doctrine of the usurping church. The Council of Trent assembled (1545), and Loyola and Lainez slowly enforced upon the hesitating fathers a rigid rule of priestly despotism . Liberty of conscience was denounced as the chief of heresies; the opinions and the manners of mankind were to be decided at Rome; the pope was to be obeyed before all earthly sovereigns, and his divine powers were everywhere to be established by a universal persecution. The Council of Trent at once threw all Europe into a fearful commotion. At the command of the pope, the Jesuits, and the fathers of Trent, Charles V began the first great religious war in Germany, and carried desolation and death to its fairest borders. In France the French court drove the Huguenots to revolt by an insane tyranny. In Holland the rage of the inquisitors had been stimulated by the lessons of Loyola.
Of all its opponents Rome most hated the Vaudois. To bind one of the primitive Christians to the stake seemed to give strange satisfaction to their modern persecutors. In September, 1560, Pope Pius IV and his holy college gathered at Rome to witness one of their favorite spectacles . A pile had been raised in the square of St. Angelo, near the bridge over the Tiber. The people assembled in a great throng. The condemned, a pale and feeble young man, was led forth; when suddenly he began to speak with such rare eloquence and force that the people listened; the pope grew angry and troubled, and the inquisitors ordered the Vaudois to be strangled, lest his voice might be heard above the flames. Pius IV then saw the martyrdom in peace, and directed the ashes of his foe to be thrown into the Tiber.
The martyr was John Louis Paschal, a young pastor of great eloquence, who had been called from Geneva to a congregation of Vaudois in Calabria. The post of danger had a singular charm for the brilliant preacher. He was betrothed to a young girl of Geneva. When be told her of his call to Calabria, "Alas," she cried, with tears, "so near to Rome, and so far from me!" Yet she did not oppose his generous resolve, and he went to his dangerous station. Here his eloquence soon drew a wide attention. He courted by his boldness the crown of martyrdom. He was shut up in a deep dungeon, was chained with a gang of galley-slaves, was brought to Rome where Paul had suffered, and was imprisoned in a long confinement . His persecutors strove to induce him to recant; but no bribes nor terrors could move him. He wrote a last fond exhortation to Camilla Guarina, his betrothed; his eloquence was heard for the last time as he was strangled before the stake .
Innumerable martyrdoms now filled the valleys with perpetual horror. It is impossible to describe, it is almost inhuman to remember, the atrocities of the papal persecutors. Neither sex nor age, innocence, beauty, youth, softened their impassive hearts. Mary Romaine was burned alive at Roche-Plate; Madeleine Fontane at St. John. Michel Gonet, a man nearly a hundred years old, was burned to death at Sarcena. One martyr was hacked to pieces with sabres, and his wounds filled with quick≠lime; another died covered with brimstone matches, that had been fastened to his lips, nostrils, and every part of his body. The mouth of one martyr was filled with gunpowder, the explosion tearing his head to pieces. The story of a poor Bible-seller from Geneva is less revolting than most of these dreadful scenes . Bartholomew Hector wandered among the peaks of the highest Alps selling the printed Scriptures to the poor shepherds, who in the brief summer, when the mountains break forth into a rich growth of leaves, grass, and flowers, lead their flocks to the higher cliffs. They bought the Bibles readily, and the colporteur climbed cheerfully from peak to peak. The police seized him and carried him to Pignerol. He was charged with having sold heretical books; he insisted that the Bible could not be called heretical; but the Holy Office condemned him, June 19, 1556, and he was sentenced to be burned alive; some alleviation of the penalty was afterward made, and the judges permitted the executioner to strangle him before the burning. He was offered his life and liberty if he would recant; he replied by preaching in his prison, with wonderful eloquence, the pure doctrines of the book he had loved to distribute. Amidst the brilliant palaces of Turin, in the public square, the happy martyr died, surrounded by a throng of people who wept over his fate. The priests were unable to suppress that proof of a lingering humanity.
Five Protestants from Geneva were traveling toward the Vaudois valleys. They were warned that the police were watching for them, yet they still pressed on, and were arrested in an unfrequented road where they had hoped to escape pursuit. Two of them, Vernoux and Laborie, were pastors of the valleys. They were all taken before the inquisitors at Chambery, and convicted as heretics. They were next brought before the civil court to be condemned. The judges, touched by their innocence, strove to prevail upon them to recant. "You need only give us a simple confession of your errors," said the court; " and this will not prevent you from resuming your faith in the future." They refused to consent to the deceit, and were sentenced to die. "Anne, my beloved sister and spouse,"  wrote Laborie to his young wife, "you know how well we have loved one another. I pray you, therefore, that you be always found such as you have been, and better, if possible, when I am no more." Calvin, hearing of their danger, wrote them an austere exhortation. In the stern spirit of that age of trial, he urged them to bear a testimony to the faith that should resound afar, where human voices had never reached. The five died full of hope. They were strangled, and their bodies burned . In this fatal period the public square of Turin was constantly made the scene of touching martyrdoms and holy trials; the Jesuits and the Franciscans every where urged on the zeal of the inquisitors; no village of the
Thus around the simple Christians of the valleys seemed to hang everywhere the omens of a dreadful doom. In the general tide of persecution they could scarcely hope to escape a final destruction. From the towers and cathedrals of Turin the Jesuits  looked with envious eyes upon the gentle race who neither plotted nor schemed; to whom cunning was unknown and deceit the ruin of the soul; who never planned a persecution, fomented religious wars, or guided the assassin's hand; who read the Scriptures daily, despite the anathemas of Rome, and who found there no trace of the papal supremacy or the legend of St. Peter . The Vaudois, indeed, had never concealed their opinions. For centuries they had said openly that the pope was antichrist ; they had condemned each one of the papal innovations as they arose; they denounced the Crusades as cruel and unchristian; they gave shelter in their valleys to the persecuted Albigenses; they smiled with gentle ridicule at the worship of saints and relics; they scoffed at the vicious monks and priests who strove to convert them to the faith of Rome. Yet now they consented to claim the clemency of their sovereign, the Duke of Savoy, and humbly begged for freedom of worship and belief . They were so innocent that they could not understand why one Christian should wish to rob or murder another.
But their prayers, their humility, and their innocence brought them no relief. The Council of Trent was about to reassemble, and the Jesuits had resolved that its last sittings should be graced by a total destruction of the ancient churches of the valleys . A new crusade was begun (1560) against the Vaudois. The pope, the Duke of Savoy, the kings of France and Spain, promoted the sacred expedition; a large army, led by the Count of Trinity, moved up the valleys; again the Jesuits offered to the people submission to the mass or death; again the brave mountaineers left their blazing homes, and fled to the caves and crannies of the upper Alps. The Count of Trinity was everywhere victorious. The barbes of St. Germain were burned in their own village, and the poor women of the parish were forced to bring fagots on their backs to build the funeral pile. The open country was desolated; the mass was celebrated with unusual fervor amidst the dreadful waste; and the Jesuits exulted with fierce joy over the ruin of the apostolic church. But once more, as the winter deepened, the cliffs grew icy, and huge avalanches of snow hung over the path of the invaders, the Vaudois fortified every ravine , barricaded the narrow passes, and from their fastnesses and caves made vigorous attacks upon the foe. The Count of Trinity found himself threatened on every side. In the valley of Angrogna a few peasants held a whole army in check. Fifty Vaudois, in one engagement, nearly destroyed a detachment of twelve hundred persecutors. The Vaudois leaped like chamois from crag to crag, and with swift sallies cut off the wandering brigands; they threw them over the cliffs, drowned them in the deep mountain torrents, or rolled huge stones upon their heads. The winter passed on full of disaster to the crusaders. Yet the condition of the Vaudois was even less tolerable. The snow and ice of the Alps blocked up the entrance to their hiding-places; men, women, and children shivered in rude huts of stone on the bleak mountain-side; food was scanty; their harvests had been gathered by the enemy; while far beneath them they saw their comfortable homes wasted by the Romish brigands, and their plain churches defiled by the pagan ceremonies of the mass.
In the spring, as the flowers bloomed once more in the declivities of the mountains, and the banks of the torrents glowed with a new vegetation, the final trial of their faith and their valor drew near. At the upper extremity of the valley of Angrogna is a circle of level ground, called Pra del Tor, surrounded on all sides by tall hills and mountain peaks, and entered only by a narrow pass . Behind it is altogether safe from attack; in front, in the ravines leading from below, the Vaudois had raised their simple barricades, and stationed their sentinels to watch the approach of the foe. Here, in this natural fortress, they had placed their wives and children, their old and infirm, had gathered their small store of food and arms, and celebrated their ancient worship in a temple not made with hands . The Count of Trinity meantime had resolved upon their complete destruction. With a large and well-trained army he marched swiftly up the valley. His forces consisted of nearly ten thousand men, and among them was a large body of Spanish infantry, the best soldiers of the age. The crusaders were inspired by the prospect of an easy success, by the superiority of their numbers, by the blessing of the pope, and by his prom≠ise of a boundless indulgence. A fierce fanaticism, a wild excitement, stirred by the exhortations of the Jesuits and the priests, ruled in the ranks of the invaders; the Vaudois, behind their rocks, prayed with their gentle barbes, and with firm hearts prepared to die for their country and their faith.
The battle of the Pra del Tor is the Marathon of Italian Christianity: it was invested with all the romantic traits of patriotic warfare. The army of the Count of Trinity, clad in rich armor and glittering with military pomp, marched in well-trained squadrons up the beautiful valley; the clamor of the trumpets startled the chamois on his crags, and drove the eagle from her nest; the waving plumes, the burnished arms, the consecrated banners, shone in the sunlight as they drew near the defenses of the moutaineers . Behind the Italian troops came the Spaniards, the bravest, the most bigoted of the crusaders. They, too, wore heavy armor, and were irresistible in the open field. In the rear of the invaders followed a throngof plunderers, brigands, priests, prepared to profit by a victory that seemed perfectly assured. To this well-trained army were opposed only a few hundred Vaudois. They were stalwart and agile, but meagre with toil and famine. Their dress was ragged; their arms broken and imperfect. To their brilliant assailants they seemed only an undisciplined throng; a single charge must drive them routed up the valley. The Count of Trinity gave orders to attack, and the Savoyard infantry marched against the heretics. They were hurled back like waves from a sea≠girt rock. The Vaudois filled the pass with a rampart of their bodies, and whenever the Romish squadrons approached they were met by a rain of bullets, every one of which seemed directed with unerring aim. The ground was soon covered with the dead, and the chant of thanksgiving resounded within the amphitheatre of the Alps.
For four days the papal forces kept up their vain assault. The Vaudois still maintained their invincible array. Within the fastness the wives and daughters, the aged and infirm, were employed in bringing food to their heroes, in supplying them with ammunition, and cheering them with words of faith. The Count of Trinity, enraged at his misfortune, at length ordered the Spanish infantry to charge. They came on in swift step to the clamor of martial music. But their ranks were soon decimated by the bullets of the patriots; the officers fell on all sides; and the well-trained troops refused any longer to approach the fatal pass. Four hundred dead lay upon the field. A wild panic seized upon the papal army, and it fled disordered and routed through the valley .
Then the Vaudois came out from their hiding-places, and chased the crusaders along the open country far down to the borders of Angrogna. No mercy was shown to the ruthless papists. They were flung over the rocks into the fathomless abyss, shot down by skillful marksmen as they strove to hide in the forest, and followed with pitiless vigor in their desultory flight. No trace remained of that powerful army that a few days before had moved with military pomp to the capture of Pra del Tor; its fine battalions had been broken by the valor of a few mountaineers; a rich booty of arms and provisions supplied the wants of the heroes of the valley.
From this time (1561) for nearly a century no new crusade was preached against the Vaudois. Their native sovereigns were satisfied with lesser persecutions. The barbes, as usual, were often burned; the valleys were oppressed with a cruel taxation; the earnings of the honest people were torn from them to maintain dissolute princes and indolent priests. In 1596 Charles Emanuel ordered all the Vaudois, under pain of death or exile, to attend the preaching of the Jesuits , and the valleys were filled with the disciples of Loyola, who strove to corrupt or terrify the youth of the early church. To every convert was offered an exemption from taxation, and various favors and emoluments were heaped upon him who would attend mass. Yet the restless Jesuits were altogether unsuccessful. Their preaching and their bribes were equally contemned by the happy mountaineers; the church still lived unspotted from the world . During this period of tolerable suffering the valleys once more glowed with the products of a careful industry; they were the homes of purity and thrift. Singular among their race, the inheritors of a long succession of elevated thought, the Vaudois have ever practiced an ideal virtue loftier than that of Plato. When feudalism taught that labor was dishonorable, the people of the valleys held every family disgraced that did not maintain itself by its own useful toil. When the learned Jesuits had proved that deceit was often lawful, the Vaudois declared that falsehood was the corruption of the soul. In the happy valleys no one desired to be rich, no one strove to rise in rank above his fellows. While in the gifted circles of the European capitals the purity of woman was scoffed at by philosophers and courtiers, in Luzerna and Perouse every maiden was a Lucretia. Crime had seldom been known in the peaceful valleys; it was only in barbarous lands where the Jesuits ruled that the assassin aimed his dagger or the robber plied his trade . To harm no one, to be at peace with all men, to forgive, to pity, were the natural impulses of every Vaudois; to heal the sick, to raise the low, to relieve the suffering stranger, formed the modest joys of the children of the valleys. In every age they remained the same; in every age they were Christians. The seventeenth century of their faith, perhaps of their existence, found them still an uncorrupted church, teaching to the world unlimited freedom of conscience. For this they were willing to peril their lives and fortunes; for this they had contended with popes and kings; and on every cliff and mountain peak of their native land was inscribed in immortal deeds the independence of the soul .
Meantime, while no change had taken place in the Alpine church, its doctrines and rites had been accepted by all Northern Europe. In the seventeenth century the papacy had lost its most powerful and warlike adherents. England in 1650, ruled by Cromwell, instructed by Milton, stood in the front rank of the progressive nations. Holland and Northern Germany maintained their free schools and their liberal press in defiance of the Jesuits and the pope. France had been forced to tolerate the Huguenots. It was only over Italy and Spain that the Inquisition of Loyola, founded in 1541, held its terrible sway. There the papal power had been erected upon a relentless despotism, and the unhappy people were rapidly sinking to a low rank among civilized nations. The rule of the Jesuits was followed by a total decay of morals, a general decline of the intellect. Once Italy had been the centre of classic elegance, of the reviving arts, of the splendors of a new civilization. It was now the home of gross superstitions, a degraded priesthood, a hopeless people. Spain and Portugal, once the leaders in discovery, the rulers of the seas, had fallen into a new barbarism. The Jesuits, the Inquisition, alone flourished in their fallen capitals and deserted ports; the manly vigor of the countrymen of the Cid had been corrupted by centuries of papal tyranny.
In the seventeenth century the Vaudois were the only progressive portion of the Italian race . Every inhabitant of the valleys was educated; the barbes were excellent teachers, their people eager to learn; the laborers instructed each other as they toiled side by side on their mountains; their industry was the parent of active minds. If they produced no eminent poet to sing of dreadful war, no astute philosopher, no vigorous critic, they could at least point to several native historians of considerable merit; to their "Noble Lesson," the finest of medieval poems; to their stirring hymns and versions of the Psalms ; to a long succession of intelligent barbes; to their missionaries of the Middle Ages; to their colleges and schools in Alpine caves. They might claim that the ideas of the valleys had promoted the civilization of Europe, and that their perpetual protest in favor of liberty of thought had been of more value to the world than Tasso's epic or Raphael's Madonnas.
A pestilence swept over the valleys in 1630; nearly all the pastors died, and the Vaudois were forced to send to Geneva for a new band of teachers. The Calvinistic system of government, in a milder form, was now adopted; the name of barbe was no longer used; the ruling elder was called a moderator; the pastors were usually educated at Geneva; and the ancient catechism of the twelfth century was exchanged for a modern compilation . Yet the Vaudois have never consented to be called Calvinists, Protestants, or Reformers; they insist that they are primitive Christians, who have never changed their doctrine or their ritual since the days of St. Paul ; who have beheld untainted all the corruption of the Eastern or the Western church; whose succession from the Apostles is proved by no vain tradition, no episcopal ordination, but by an uninterrupted descent of Christian virtues and an apostolic creed. They modestly assert that they have ever used the simple ritual employed by James, the brother of the Lord, at Jerusalem, or Paul at Antioch; and that they prefer to retain unchanged the name they bore before the popes wore the tiara of antichrist, and before Christians were oppressed by the corruptions and the crimes of a visible church.
So much liberality of doctrine, such purity of life and faith, could not fail to deserve the constant hostility of the Jesuits. That famous company was now in the maturity of its early vigor. Its flourishing colleges filled the Catholic capitals of Europe; its countless members, bound by their terrible oath of obedience, moved like a united army upon the defenses of the Reformed faith. They had subjected Italy, had desolated Spain; they once more turned the whole energy of the united order to the extirpation of the children of the valleys. In 1650 the Jesuits founded a propaganda at Turin in imitation of that at Rome . Its design was to spread the Roman faith, to extirpate heresy by all the most powerful instruments of force or fraud. A council was formed, composed of the most eminent citizens, who were to act as general inquisitors. Among them were the Marquis of Pianessa, the Grand Chancellor, the President of the Senate; its chief officer was the Archbishop of Turin. Connected with the propaganda was a council of distinguished and wealthy women, who proved even more zealous than the men. The noblest ladies of Turin joined in the new crusade; large sums of money were collected to aid the movement; the emissaries of the two councils united in visiting families suspected of heretical practices, and in striving to win over converts by intimidation or bribes. The poor serving-woman from the valleys was often assailed by a noble tempter; the heretics of a higher rank were won by flatteries and attentions. The languid atmosphere of the capital of Savoy was stirred by the new effort to propagate the creed of Rome.
From the higher peaks of their native Alps the Vaudois look down upon the palaces and cathedrals of Turin. Before them lies that magnificent scene with which Hannibal stimulated the avarice of his toil-worn army as he pointed out the path to Rome. But in the seventeenth century the rude village of the Taurini had grown into a powerful and splendid city; the landscape was rich with the product of centuries of toil; the plains of Piedmont were the gardens of the age. The Vaudois, ever loyal and forgiving, had never failed in their duty to their sovereigns. The dukes of Savoy, always their worst persecutors, seem yet to have obtained their lasting regard. They appealed to their clemency in moments of danger. They had usually been sternly told to
The first omen of danger was a new influx of Jesuits. The valleys were thronged with haggard and fanatical missionaries. They pressed into remote districts, and celebrated mass in scenes where it had never been heard before. A ceaseless plotting went on against the faithful Vaudois; every art was employed to bribe the young; to arouse the pastors to a dangerous resistance; to disturb the harmony of families and fill the valleys with domestic strife. In Turin the Inquisition sat constantly, and before its hated tribunal were summoned the most noted of the Vaudois. If they failed to appear, their goods were forfeited, their lives in peril; if they came, they probably disappeared forever from human sight. The dungeon, the rack, and the auto da fé awaited those who denied the infallibility of the pope.
But the Jesuits refused to be satisfied with these isolated persecutions ; they pressed the Duke of Savoy to complete the ruin of the Alpine church. The world has witnessed no sadder spectacle than that long reign of terrors that was now spread over the peaceful valleys. In January, 1655, was issued the famous order of Gastaldo, the opening of the dreadful struggle. By this decree, sanctioned by the court of Turin, every Vaudois in the towns at the lower extremity of the valleys was commanded either to attend mass or to abandon his home and fly to the upper villages. The whole heretic population were to be shut up within a narrow region around Bobbio and Angrogna. It was a winter of singular severity; the snow lay deep in the upper valleys; the torrents rolled down clad in ice; the fields were covered with inundations; the ravines were almost impassable. Yet the sad and long procession of faithful Christians was forced to leave their comfortable homes in Lucerna or St. Jean and bear the horrors of the wintry march. The aged, the sick, the once-smiling children, the feeble and the young, the gentle matron, the accomplished maid, set out in a pitiful throng on their dreadful journey . They waded hand in hand through the icy waters, broke the deep, untrodden snows, climbed the wintry hills, and sought refuge with their impoverished brethren of the Alpine villages. Yet no one recanted; no native Vaudois would consent to escape the pains of exile by attending an idolatrous mass. Whole cities and villages in the lower valleys were nearly depopulated; families were reduced from ease and comfort to extreme and painful want; a fruitful region was desolated; but the Jesuits were disappointed, for the indestructible church survived among the mountains.
Their next project was a war of extermination. A pretext was easily discovered: a priest had been found murdered in a Vaudois village; a convent of Capuchins, planted in one of the ruined towns, had been broken up by an impetuous pastor; the mass had been ridiculed; the exiled people sometimes stole back to their desecrated homes. Turin was filled with rage; the duke decreed the destruction of the Vaudois. Again a crusade began against the people of the valleys. The historian Leger, who was a Vaudois pastor, and saw the sufferings and the heroism of his countrymen, has described with startling minuteness the details of the persecution. The papal troops entered the valleys, roused by the priests and Jesuits to an unparalleled madness. Such cruelties, such crimes, have never before or since been perpetrated upon the earth; the French Revolution offers but a faint comparison; the tortures of Diocletian or Decius may approach their reality. The gentle, intelligent, and cultivated Vaudois fell into the power of a band of demons. Their chief rage was directed against women and children. The babe was torn from the mother's breast and cast into the blazing fire ; the mother was impaled, and left to die in unpitied agony. Often husband and wife were bound together and burned in the same pyre; often accomplished matrons, educated in refinement and ease, were hacked to pieces by papal soldiers, and their headless trunks left unburied in the snow. A general search was made for Vaudois. Every cave was entered, every crag visited, where there was no danger of resistance; every forest was carefully explored. When any were found, whether young or old, they were chased from their hiding-places over the snowy hills, and thrown from steep crags into the deep ravines below. No cliff but had its martyr; no hill on which had not blazed the persecutor's fire. In Leger's history, printed in 1669, are preserved rude but vigorous engravings of the malignant tortures inflicted by the papal soldiers upon his country≠men; there, in the Alpine solitudes, amidst the snow-clad summits of the wintry hills, are seen the dying matron; the tortured child; the persecutor chasing his victims over the icy fields; the virgin snows covered with the blood of fated innocence; the terrified people climbing higher and higher up the tallest Alps, glad to dwell with the eagle and the chamois above the rage of persecuting man .
The pope applauded, the Duke of Savoy rejoiced in the massacres of the valleys. The Jesuits chanted their thanksgiving in the ruined villages. The Capuchins restored their convent. The church of Rome ruled over the blood-stained waste. But when the news of the unexampled atrocities of the Alps came to the great Protestant powers of the North, when it was told in London or the Hague that the harmless people of the valleys, the successors of the Apostles, lad been slain in their villages and cut to pieces on their native cliffs, horror and amazement filled all men. The Reformers of every land had long looked with interest and affection upon the Alpine church; had admired its heroism, had imitated its simplicity; that it should perish amidst the savage cruelties of the Jesuits and the pope they could scarcely bear. A loud cry of disgust and indignation arose from all the Northern courts . But one mind, the greatest and the purest that had descended upon the earth since the apostolic age, gave utterance to the common indignation. Milton was now Cromwell's secretary, and although blind, watched over the affairs of Europe. His quick perception, his liberal opinions, his ready learning, his easy Latin style, have given to the foreign correspondence of the Protector an excellence never to be equaled in the annals of diplomacy. To the learned, the liberal, the progressive Milton the Alpine church must ever have been singularly dear. It reflected all his own cherished opinions; his own simplicity, naturalness, and love of truth; it was clothed with a halo of historic association that, to his poetic thought, covered it with immortal lustre.
In one great sonnet Milton has condensed the indignation of the age . He cried to Heaven to avenge its slaughtered saints; he paints with a mighty touch the cold Alps, the dying martyrs, the papal monsters, the persecuted church. No grander strain, no more powerful explication, has fallen from the pen of the lord of modern poetry. The stern enthusiast Cromwell shared Milton's indignation, and the poet and the soldier strove to preserve the Alpine church. Milton wrote, in the name of the Protector, a courtly but vigorous appeal to the murderous Duke of Savoy: Cromwell said that he was bound to the Vaudois by a common
Safe in the shelter of the Italian court and certain of the sympathy of that of France, the Jesuits and the pope heard with secret joy the grief and rage of the arch-heretic Cromwell and his allies of the North. They resolved to persist in their dreadful labors until no trace of heresy should be left upon Italian soil. It is probable that, had the Protector lived, the fleets of England might have avenged the Christians of the valleys; that the artillery of the Puritans might have startled the Italian potentates from their fancied security. But the great chieftain died; the greater poet sank into a happy obscurity, from whence was to shine forth the highest fruit of his genius; and all England was dissolved in fatal license under the dissolute reign of Charles. At his death the Jesuits rejoiced in the rule of James II., and confidently hoped to bring once more under the papal sway the land of Milton and Cromwell. It was a disastrous period for Protestantism. England no longer stretched forth its powerful arm to shield its weaker brethren. Holland seemed about to sink before the Catholic zeal of Louis XIV. Geneva trembled among its mountains. And at length the Jesuits prevailed upon the King of France to revoke the Edict of Nantes and commence a bitter persecution of the Huguenots. The best, the wisest, the most progressive of the French died in crowded prisons or by the arms of the papal butchers, or were glad to escape impoverished to foreign lands; a perfect religious despotism prevailed in France, from which it was only rescued by the convulsive horrors of its Revolution.
There was now no more hope for the Vaudois . Friendless, except in the arm of Him who guided the avalanche and checked the raging torrent in its course, the poor and humble people, cheered by their gallant pastors, bore with patient joy the burden of a fearful existence. From 1655 to 1685 they suffered all the ignominies and all the cruelties that could be inflicted by the malevolent priests. The valleys were filled with monks and Jesuits, and bands of papal soldiers, who ravished the last loaf from the humble homes of the industrious Christians. Often the Vaudois, roused to resistance by some dreadful atrocity, would fly to arms and perform miracles of valor amidst their native crags; war would rage again along the valleys; and great armies of papists would march from Turin or Pignerol and chase the people to the mountains. Then the old, the sick, women and children, would be carried by the strong arms of their sons and their brothers to some secluded cavern, known only to themselves, and there hide for months until the danger seemed past; in fact, the Vaudois learned, like the marmot, to make their homes in the living rock.
One of these singular natural retreats of safety has perhaps been discovered by a modern traveler. He had searched for many days for the famous cavern of Castelluzo. The memory of the place had been forgotten; it was only known that down some dizzy precipice, overhanging a dreadful abyss, a cave existed, opening into the solid rock, where three or four hundred Vaudois had once lived safe from the pope and the Jesuits. At length his guides assured the traveler that they had found the forgotten retreat. On a fair day of the Alpine autumn, when the golden fields were smiling with the gathered harvests, the stranger ventured to enter, with extreme hazard, the dangerous scene. He could scarcely conceive how old men, women, and children, amidst the snows of winter, could have descended into their only home. The entrance lay over a projecting crag. Far below opened a deep ravine, from which shot up a wall of rock. The cave was cut by Nature's hand in the side of the precipice. A rope-ladder was provided and swung over the projecting cliff. It was made to rest on a slight ledge about fifty feet below. The guides descended, the traveler followed, and with great risk reached the grotto. It proved to be an irregular sloping gallery, formed by the overhanging cliff's. On one side a projecting crag sheltered it from the weather; before it opened the unfathomed abyss. A spring of water seemed to exist in one corner, and a few shrubs and plants grew in the interstices of the rock . The cave was shallow, light, and almost safe from attack. Only a single person could enter it at a time, and a single stalwart Vaudois might here defy an army. Yet there were no traces of its having been inhabited; no smoke of Vaudois fires, nor remnants of arms or furniture; and the traveler left the place still in doubt whether he had really found the famous cave described by Leger, where nature had provided embrasures, windows for sentinels, an oven, and a secure retreat for three hundred of his countrymen . At last, in 1685, came that fatal period so long anticipated with triumph by the Jesuits of Turin, when the voice of Christian prayer and praise was no longer heard in the valleys. The wonderful people had survived for six centuries the enmity of the papacy; but now the Alpine church seemed forever blotted from existence. Louis XIV, the destroyer of the Huguenots and of France, pressed the Duke of Savoy to drive the heretics from his dominions. General Catinat, one of the best commanders of the time, led a well-appointed army into the valleys; the people took up arms, and, with their usual heroism, at first baffled and defeated the efforts of the French; then a lethargy seemed to pass over them, and they yielded to the foe. A dreadful punishment now fell upon them. The papal soldiers swept through the valleys, made prisoners of nearly the whole population, and carried them away to the dungeons of Turin. Fourteen thousand persons were shut up in a close confinement. The consequences were such as might have touched the hearts of Diocletian and Decius, but to the Jesuits and to Rome they were only a source of insane joy. The stalwart mountaineers, and their wives and children, shut out from their free Alpine air, starved and persecuted, pined in a horrible imprisonment. Diseases raged among them; a pestilence came; and of the fourteen thousand saints, the followers of Christ, only three thousand came, emaciated and pale, from their noisome dungeons. Eleven thousand had died to satisfy the malice of Rome.
There was now peace in the silent valleys; villages without inhabitants, homes without a family, churches no longer filled with the eloquence of supplication. A few Romanists alone occupied the silent scene. At length a colony of papists, gathered from the neighboring country, was sent in to take possession of the fields and dwellings of the Vaudois; the churches of the ancient faith were torn down or converted into Romish chapels; the Jesuits wandered freely from St. Jean to Pra del Tor. For the first time since the dawn of Christianity the Virgin was worshiped beneath the crags of San Martino, and the idolatry of the mass desecrated the scene so long consecrated by an apostolic faith. For three years the rule of the papists remained undisturbed. The sad remnant of the Vaudois meantime had wandered to foreign lands. Several thousand climbed the Alps, and came, emaciated and wayworn, to the Swiss. Here they were received with sincere kindness, and found a momentary rest. Several of the pastors found a home in Holland; at Leyden Leger composed his history of his country. A colony of exiled Vaudois came afterward to America, and settled near Philadelphia; others went to Germany or England. Some, perhaps, remained in the valleys, concealing their faith under a conformity with the Romish rule. And thus, in 1689, seemed forever dissipated that hallowed race, that assembly of the faithful, over whose career in history had ever hung a spotless halo of ideal purity.
In the fearful winter of 1686-87, when the Rhone was frozen to its bed and the Alps were encrusted with ice, the papists drove the surviving remnant of the prisoners over the precipitous passes of Mont Cenis. The aged, the sick, women, children, the wounded, and the faint, climbed with unsteady steps the chill waste of snows, and toiled onward toward Protestant Geneva. Many had scarcely clothes to cover them; all were feeble with starvation. The road was marked by the bodies of those that died by the way; the survivors staggered down the Swiss side of the mountains pallid with hunger and cold; some perished as they
An aged man appeared among the throng who came out to meet them; it was Joshua Janavel, the exiled hero of the Vaudois. For many years Janavel had lived a fugitive at Geneva. Yet the fame of his wonderful exploits had once filled all Europe, and he still kept watch over the destiny of his native land. Had Janavel's advice been followed, the Vaudois believed that their country might yet have been free; had his strong arm not been palsied by age, there would yet remain a hope of its deliverance. In the wild wars that followed the massacre of 1655, when the Marquis of Pianessa was ravaging the valleys, Janavel became the leader of a band of heroes. Born on the mountains, he crept through their passes and sprang from cliff to cliff at the head of his pious company, and waged a holy but relentless warfare with the murderous assailants . With only six soldiers he surprised in a narrow pass a squadron of five hundred, and drove them from the hills. The next day, with seventeen men, he hid among rocks; the enemy approached in force, and pressed into the ambuscade; the crags were rolled upon them; musket-balls rained from every cliff; and as they fled astonished to the valley, the mountaineers, leaping from rock to rock and hiding behind the woodlands, pursued them with fatal aim. The Marquis of Pianessa, the chief of the propaganda at Turin, sent a still larger army against Janavel; he was shut up against the front of a tall cliff, and the Vaudois, with their backs to the rock, met the advancing foe. The popish army melted away like snow before them; the Christians charged upon them with a cry of faith; and again the enemy were broken with dreadful loss.
Ten thousand men were next marched against the patriots. Meantime their commander, the Marquis of Pianessa, an excellent example of chivalry and feudalism, a bright ornament of his church and court, wrote as follows to the Christian leader: "To Captain Janavel - Your wife and daughter are in my power. If you do not submit they shall be burned alive." Janavel replied: "You can destroy their bodies; you can not harm their beloved souls ." The wild war raged all along the mountains. Janavel, and his famous associate, Jahier, beat back the great army of Pianessa, and avenged its terrible atrocities. Among those of the invaders most guilty of indescribable enormities was a band of eight hundred Irish Catholics. They had rejoiced to crush the heads of Protestant infants against the rocks, to hack in pieces gentle matrons and aged men, to fill blazing ovens with unresisting saints. Janavel now came upon them with a dreadful retribution. He surprised them in their barracks, and put them all to death. Bat Janavel was at last shot through the body; he recovered, and went, in 1680, an exile to Geneva; and here he lived to aid in that remarkable expedition by which the Vaudois were once more restored to their valleys and their homes.
While all Protestant Europe was lamenting the ruin of its oldest church, suddenly there passed before the eyes of men a wonderful achievement - a spectacle of heroism and daring scarcely rivaled at Marathon or Leuctra . It was named by the exulting Vaudois "The Glorious Return." The exiles at Geneva, tempted by various friendly invitations to emigrate to Protestant lands, still fondly lingered in the neighborhood of their native mountains. No promises of ease and opulence, no prospect of a foreign home, could allure them from the distant view of Mont Cenis and the snow-clad Alps. At length the enthusiastic people, inspired by the brave spirit of the aged Janavel, and their priest and warrior Henry Arnaud, began to entertain the design of invading once more their ancient valleys - of reviving their apostolic church. Yet never was a project apparently more hopeless. The Duke of Savoy, suspecting their design, had extended a chain of garrisons around all the mountain passes. The valleys were held by large armies of French and Savoyards, and a hostile population filled all the towns and hamlets in Perouse, Lucerna, and San Martino. If the exiles attempted to cross the Alps, they must cut their way through a succession of foes. When they reached the Germanasca and the Felice they would encounter the united forces of Italy and France.
But Janavel inspired them with his own boundless resolution. An expedition was prepared of nearly one thousand men; and on the night of the 16th of August, 1689, a fleet of boats bore the adventurers over the peaceful waters of Lake Leman to the borders of Savoy. As they assembled in the forest of Nyon the aged warrior directed them all to kneel in fervent prayer. He could not go with them; he bade them choose, under the guidance of Heaven, a younger leader. It seems that a Captain Turrel was elected their commander . The whole army was divided into nineteen companies; and the Vaudois began their swift march for the passes of the Alps. They evaded or dissipated the hostile garrisons, and swept rapidly up that memorable road by which Hannibal had crossed the unknown mountains. But the Vaudois were no strangers to the icy scene. They chose the most difficult paths to avoid the hostile soldiers, clambered from glacier to glacier, crept along the brink of the fearful precipice, dispersed the enemy by sudden attacks, and reached at length the pass of Mont Cenis. Here they captured the baggage of a Roman cardinal who was on his way to Rome . Slowly and with unexampled endurance they climbed Mont Cenis, and, as they reached the top, sank, incapable of motion, on the frozen snow. Their path now lay among the wildest and most inaccessible portions of the Alps. With scanty food, but frequent prayers, they pressed over the snows toward their native valleys. Soon their clarions sounded clearly from the summit of Tourliers, as they prepared to descend into the well-known scene and encounter the first shock of battle.
Eight hundred now remained - vigorous, agile, fearless - many of them natives of Lucerna, San Martino, or Angrogna. They descended the snowy hills in a narrow line, wading through deep ravines. Their food was only a few chestnuts and half-frozen water; their dress was torn and comfortless. They slept on wintry crags, but they held fast to their arms and their scanty powder; and their pastor and chief, Henry Arnaud, led them in fervent prayer, every morning and evening, as they clambered down the Alps. At length they approached their beloved valleys; but between lay the ravine of the Dora, crossed by a single bridge. Around was stationed a force of two thousand French, guarding the pass of Salbertrans. The eight hundred saw that they must fight their way across . It was a dim and misty night, and as they pressed on the Catholic settlers mocked them with evil tidings. When they asked them for provisions, they replied: "Go on, you will soon have no need of food." They knelt for a few moments, and then began the attack. Some one cried out, "The bridge is won!" The Vaudois rushed upon their enemy; the French, terrified by their energy, abandoned their station in sudden panic; and the eight hundred pressed over the bridge and cut down the enemy as they
Worn with battle and victory, the exiles still pressed on the same night, often falling down in sleep, and then rousing themselves to climb over rocks and mountains, until, as the sun rose on the Sabbath morning, and the white peaks of the Alps were tinted with a bright rose-color, and the wide, wavy landscape gleamed before them, they saw the fair pinnacles of their own hills and the well-known valley of Pragela. They chanted a poetic prayer of thanksgiving on the mountain-tops, and descended to their home. The priests fled hastily from the valley; the patriots tore the images and the shrines from their ancient churches, and celebrated their simple worship in its accustomed seats. For a time all was victory. They drove the enemy from the Balsille and its impregnable rocks, expelled the new inhabitants of Bobi, burned hostile Le Perrier, and supplied themselves with arms at the cost of the foe. For food they found a resource in the plunder of French convoys, and in secret stores of corn and nuts which they had hidden in the earth before their expulsion. But the enemy was now chiefly engaged in an attempt to starve them on the mountains. The Duke of Savoy ordered the country to be desolated; the flocks and cattle were driven away from the open valleys, the fruit trees cut down, the harvests burned upon the fields, and the magnificent groves of chestnuts and walnuts despoiled of their autumnal product. The poor Vandois, clinging to the cliffs and wandering upon the mountain-tops, still baffled the arms of the enemy; but often they had only a few roots to eat, and their manly vigor must slowly melt away in famine and fatigue. Prayer was still their chief support, and among their native crags they constantly lifted their voices to Heaven. For two months they had resisted the attack of twenty thousand men led by the skillful Catinat; but by October 16 it seemed that the enterprise must wholly fail. Their numbers were diminished by desertions and death; many French refugees left them; even Turrel, the commander, despairing of success, fled from them secretly. Clothed in rags, feeding upon roots and herbs, the feeble Vaudois saw before them the approaching winter and the swiftly increasing foe; their prayerful hearts were oppressed with an unaccustomed dread. Liberty of conscience seemed ahout to depart forever from the valleys; the Alpine church was never again to rise from its desolation. But Henry Arnaud, pastor and chief, rose, in this moment of danger, to heroic greatness. He, at least, would never abandon his suffering country and the falling cause of freedom. He prayed, exhorted, celebrated the sacred feast in groves of chestnut, fought in the front of his followers, and was ready to die for their preservation . In the midst of his calamities he remembered the counsels of the aged Janavel, who had advised the adventurers, in a moment of extreme need, to take refuge upon the rock of Balsille, and there prolong the contest until help should come from above.
In a wild portion of the valley of San Martino a pile of rock projects over an Alpine torrent, surrounded by huge mountains, accessible only from the bed of the stream below, and rising on three terraces against the sides of its lofty peak behind. It is called the Balsille. Swelled by the winter snows, a branch of the Germanasca sweeps around the singular promontory. A few shrubs cover its top; a little earth produces a scanty vegetation. The Balsille stands like an isolated column, yet on either hand it is commanded by the tall and almost inaccessible peaks of Le Pis and Guinevert. But in that wild and lofty region the climate is severe, the ravines and mountains almost perpetually covered with snow, the paths impassable except to the agile and daring Vaudois. Secluded amidst the wildest scenery of the valleys, the Balsille forms an almost impregnable fortress: the history of its siege and its defense is the crowning wonder of the Glorious Return.
The exiles were now, October 22, 1689, at Rodoret, surrounded by the enemy; to reach the Balsille they must pass through the midst of their foes, over a path that led along the brink of frightful precipices, but which they could only traverse by night. They prayed long and fervently, and then set out in utter darkness. No moon nor stars guided them as they crept on their hands and knees along the edge of the deep abyss. To distinguish their guides they marked them with strips of white cloth or pieces of phosphoric wood . Yet they passed safely, and in the morning trembled with affright as they saw over what a fearful path they had come. When they reached the Balsille they found only a bare and comfortless rock; they were forced to build at once a fortress and a dwelling; feeble and faint, they labored with incredible toil. They cut down trees, gathered huge stones, and formed seventeen entrenchments, rising one above the other, on the precipitous rock. They dug deep ditches, covered ways, and casemates to secure their lives. On the top of the Balsille they built a strong fort or castle, the centre of their defenses, surrounded by three high walls; and, to provide their homes in that wintry climate, they dug in the earth and rock of the terraces eighty caves or chambers, where they slept in innocence more calmly, perhaps, than pope or priest.
When they reached the rock they had no food for the next day, and lived upon a few vegetables they gathered in the neighborhood. At length they repaired a dismantled mill, and were enabled to bake bread. With joy and thankful hearts they discovered that the harvests of the last year lay buried beneath the snow in the valley of Pral, and reaped them through the winter by digging in the icy covering. But they were not suffered to remain undisturbed. On the 29th of, October they saw the French troops approaching them on all sides; some climbed the precipitous peaks of Guinevert and Col du Pis; others approached the base of the fortified rock; a vigorous attack was made on the entrenchments; the sharp fire of the Vaudois marksmen scattered the enemy with great loss. The Alpine winter now came on; the French troops were driven from the mountains, with frozen limbs and fearful suffering, by the rigorous season; the deep snows of the valleys prevented all military operations, and the enemy withdrew, promising to return in the spring .
Winter passed on in peace with the garrison of Balsille. Alone in the midst of a thousand dangers, shielded only by the icy snows, the Alpine church lived on its lonely rock. In his singular castle and temple Henry Arnaud still maintained the ancient ritual of the valleys; twice on each Sabbath he preached to an attentive assembly; morning and evening the voice of prayer and praise ascended to the peaks of Guinevert. The garrison was reduced to about four hundred, all native Vaudois, and their chief solace in their painful life was to join in the hymns and prayers they had learned from their mothers in their childhood . Yet they would not consent to remain unemployed. Frequent expeditions were sent out to levy contributions on the popish villagers, to climb from crag to crag along the secure mountains and descend in sudden forays into the well-known valleys. They penetrated far down the banks of the Germanasca, and disturbed the repose of Lucerna and Angrogna. Meantime no help came from abroad; the expeditions formed in Switzerland for their relief were intercepted by the enemy; and as the spring drew on, Arnaud and his pious company prepared to engage once more the united armies of France and Savoy.
In April the Marquis De Pareilles sent them offers of liberal terms if they would surrender. A council was held on the rocks, and a unanimous refusal was decided upon. Arnaud wrote to the marquis a defense of his countrymen; he said they had been seated from time immemorial in their valleys; that they had paid every
Arnaud defends with vigor the severe policy he had adopted. He killed the prisoners, he says, because it was impossible to hold them; he spared every non-combatant, and never retaliated the cruelties endured by his country≠men. Once more, May 10, the French army, under De Feuquiéres, gathered around the Balsille. They numbered about thirteen thousand men. A battery of cannon had been placed, with great labor, on the side of Guinevert; the hills around were filled with troops, and the rock itself was surrounded on every side by the hostile forces. The French commander made a last effort to persuade the Vaudois to submit . He offered each man five hundred louis and a free passage from the country; but his great bribes were rejected, and the garrison determined to persist in a vain resistance. With prayers and holy songs they prepared for the final contest. In a first attack the French were repulsed with signal loss. But at length the batteries began to play on the works of the Vaudois, and their feeble fortifications crumbled to the earth. The enemy slowly made their way up the height; the Vaudois were even driven from the castle, and fled to a higher part of the rock; night fell, and the French commander ceased his assault, resolved to capture the whole garrison in the morning.
Clustered like hunted chamois on the pinnacles of the rock, the Vaudois now sought eagerly for some method of escape . But as yet there seemed no prospect of deliverance. The enemy lay encamped on every side of the Balsille; his watch-fires dispelled the darkness of the night, and sentinels, posted thickly around, closed up every avenue of flight. Arnaud and his brave companions were guarded by a circle of foes who had resolved that no Vaudois should be left alive upon the mountains. But as the night advanced a friendly mist, sent in answer to their prayers, slowly rose from the deep glens and covered the whole valley with a humid veil. The agile mountaineers, led by a skillful guide, crept down the slippery rocks, climbed in single file over the deep chasms of the Germanasca, and reached the base of Guinevert. Here they cut steps in the hardened snow, and, with terrible suffering, dragged themselves on their hands and knees up the steep declivities, until at length they stood on a wide glacier, far above the reach of the enemy. A clamor of thanksgiving arose from the little company as they felt once more that they were free. The morning broke; the French sprang up the hill to seize their certain prey; they found only the bare rock, the empty castle, and hastened, in their rage, to follow the Vaudois along their mountain-path .
Here, however, they were easily eluded by their active foe. The Vaudois kept upon the loftiest of the mountains, feeding on the foliage of the fir-trees and drinking the half-melted snow. Sometimes they leaped down in fierce forays upon the fertile valleys; often they shot down the invaders from some lofty crag, or swept away the flocks of the Savoyard settlers. Still they hovered fondly over their native scenes, and lingered, with scarcely a hope in the future, above the torrents and the crags they had loved in youth. To their simple and tender hearts these last arduous days must have seemed the saddest and most cheerless of all. From their post on the mountains of Angrogna they might look down into the fairest of the Italian vales; they saw the softly-swelling hills encircle the fertile fields; the laughing torrent; the budding groves of mulberry and chestnut; the grateful gardens around their early homes; the silent churches; and the blossom-covered lawns. But all these they were to enjoy no more. An active foe pursued them from peak to peak, and they must soon fly to their most secret caves .
But in a moment all was changed, and the Glorious Return was accomplished by a sudden revolution. On the 21st of May, 1690, as Arnaud and his heroes lingered around Angrogna, they learned that the Duke of Savoy had joined the alliance of England and Holland against France. The duke now needed the aid of all his subjects, and the heroic valor of the Vaudois showed that he had none so worthy as they. He sent a messenger to Arnaud, inviting him to join his service, with his followers, and granting permission to the Vaudois to return to their native valleys . Arnaud obeyed his sovereign; and his soldiers were as active and courageous in the war against the French as they had ever been in defense of their native vales. Soon the exiled Vaudois heard of the happy change, and came in glad troops over the Alps to occupy the homes of their fathers. No hope of gain or prospect of advantage could detain the gentle race in foreign lands. They left their thriving plantations in Brandenburg, their farms in Germany, or their factories in England, and with psalms of triumph hastened to revive their apostolic church in its ancient seat. Lucema, San Martino, and Perouse were again filled with a rejoicing people; and the lovely landscapes of the sacred vales shone in new beauty, the temples of an untarnished faith.
Such was the Glorious Return. But for the valor of the eight hundred the wisdom and piety of Henry Arnaud, and the counsels of the aged Janavel, the Vaudois might still have wandered in foreign lands, and their lovely vales have remained in the possession of strangers. But they were now firmly seated in their ancienf home, never to be driven from it again. The Jesuits and the popes still plotted their ruin; and when the war was over Victor Amadeus, with his usual bad faith, revived the persecution in the valleys. In 1698 a Jesuit and a number of monks visited all the vales, and made their report to the pope . In consequence the duke issued a decree expelling all the French Protestants from the country, and forbidding the Vaudois from having any intercourse, on matters of religion, with the subjects of Louis XIV. Three thousand persons were driven from the valleys by this cruel edict. The various disabilities now imposed upon the Vaudois served to render their lives painful, and expose them to the penalties of the hostile courts. They were forbidden to exercise certain professions, to purchase property beyond certain limits, to settle out of their valleys even for trade, to oppose the conversion of their children to Romanism, or to make proselytes themselves. They were held in a kind of bondage, and treated as an inferior race. It was a common practice with the priests of Turin to carry off the children of the Vaudois and educate them in the Romish faith. In 1730 severe instructions were issued against the people of the valleys; and throughout the eighteenth century the church of Eome labored by every art to extirpate its rival church upon the Alps. The Jesuits renewed their activity; the Vaudois were often imprisoned, and their pastors ill-treated. The jealous popes looked with superstitious dread upon the gentle moderators of the blooming valleys.
Nor was this without reason; for as the age advanced in liberality the Alpine church became to Italy an example and a teacher. From Pra del Tor had descended, in the Middle Ages, a throng of Vaudois missionaries; in the eighteenth century it was still the centre of advancing thought. Within the circle of the Alps the church flourished with singular vigor. Persecution failed to check its growth; the churches multiplied; the schools increased; the people of the valleys were better educated than those of Turin or Rome. Poor, feeble, an isolated and hated race, shut out from the common privileges of their fellow-subjects, from
Yet the only period of real freedom the Vaudois had ever known since the papal usurpations sprang from the conquests of the first Napoleon . The impulsive hero was touched by their history, listened to their complaints, and granted them all they required. For the first time, perhaps, since the days of Hildebrand, a perfect religious freedom prevailed in the valleys, and the iron tyranny of Rome and the Jesuits was crushed by the.offspring of revolutionary France. A century before, Louis XIV had nearly secured the destruction of the Alpine church; in 1800 it sprang up into new vigor under the shelter of the French arms. The pastors of the valleys returned Napoleon's favors with sincere gratitude, and lamented his final defeat as that of a friend. It is probable that the unsparing conqueror had no more truthful admirers than the pure and lofty spirits whom he had set free upon their mountains.
With the restoration of 1814-1815, Victor Emanuel IV came to the throne of Sardinia, and the Vaudois once more sank to the condition of a subjugated race, alien and oppressed. They were known to be advocates of freedom and advance; the pope and the Jesuits again ruled at Turin; the church and state again united to destroy the church of the mountains . From 1814 to 1848 the Vaudois suffered indignities and deprivations scarcely surpassed in the earlier persecutions. All the ancient oppressive laws were revived. They were forbidden to hold any civil office, to pursue their labors on Catholic festivals, to hold land beyond a certain limit, to make proselytes, or build new churches except in the least favorable locations, to marry into papist families, or to give, sell, or lend their Bibles to Catholics. Romish missions were established in their midst, and a convent and a church were built at La Tour to complete the conversion of the people. When Dr. Gilly visited the valleys in 1822 he was struck by the beauty of their landscape, the simplicity and purity of the people; he was touched and grieved to find that they still labored under a rule of persecution, and that liberty of conscience, for which they had ever sighed, was still denied them by unforgiving Rome.
But the church of the Alps was now to rise from its desolation, and to shine out with new lustre in the eyes of all Europe. The free principles it had always inculcated, the liberty of conscience it had ever defended, were become the ruling ideas of every cultivated Italian. Turin and Sardinia had learned to look with wonder, admiration, and remorse upon the lovely valleys they had so often desolated, and the innocent people they had so constantly tortured and oppressed. The Sardinian king, Charles Albert, stood at the head of the Italian reformers. He was resolved to give freedom to the Vaudois; to atone, if possible, for the crimes of his ancestors; to make some faint return to the people of the valleys for their long lesson of patience, resignation, and truth. Amidst the acclamations of his subjects, he prepared (1847) to extend freedom of conscience to the churches of the Alps. A patriotic excitement arose in their favor. A petition was drawn up at Turin urging the king to enfranchise the Vaudois and the Jews. Its first signer was the poet, artist, and statesman, the Marquis D'Azeglio; and his name was followed by a long list of professors, lawyers, physicians, and even liberal ecclesiastics and priests. Cheers were given for the Vaudois at public dinners in Pignerol and Turin, and all Piedmont wept over their history and rejoiced in their approaching triumph. On the 17th of February, 1848, the royal decree was issued giving freedom to the valleys .
It was received by the simple and generous Vaudois with a limitless gratitude. A thrill of joy ran over the beautiful vales, and Lucerna, San Martino, and Perouse resounded with hymns of thanksgiving upon the return of that stable freedom which had been ravished from them eight centuries ago. In every village there were processions of the young, with banners and patriotic songs; the blue colors of renewed Italy shone on every breast; the gentle race forgot all their injuries and their woes, to mingle freely with their Romish brethren, and to celebrate their victory in unbounded love. At night the wonderful scenery of the valleys was set off' by a general illumination. Pignerol glittered with light; St. John and La Tour shone at the opening of the defiles; far up, ascending toward the Alps, every crag and cliff had its bonfire, and the gleam of a thousand lights startled the wild mountains, and flashed in caves and ravines where Janavel and Henry Arnaud had once hid in perpetual gloom. The snow-clad peaks and the icy torrents glowed in the illumination of freedom. But a still more remarkable spectacle was witnessed at Turin. There for three centuries the Jesuits had labored and waited for the extermination of the Vaudois. In the public square, amidst its splendid palaces, had died a long succession of martyrs, the victims of its priests and kings. In its dreadful dungeons, noisome with disease, thousands of the people of the valleys had pined and wasted away. What unuttered woes had been borne in its prisons for freedom's sake no tongue could tell, no fancy picture. Its convents had been filled with the stolen children of the Vaudois; its stony walls had heard the vain complaints of parents and brothers without relenting. From its gates had issued forth those dreadful crusades, whose throngs of brigands, soldiers, priests, inquisitors were so often let loose upon the valleys to do the work of fiends; from Turin had come the impalers of women, the murderers of children, the Spaniards who flung old men over beetling crags; the Irish who surpassed even the enormities of the Italians; the Jesuits and Franciscans who urged forward the labor of destruction; the nobles and princes, the pillars of chivalry, who looked on and applauded crimes for which Dante could have found no fitting punishment amidst the deepest horrors of his pit.
And now all Turin, repentant and humble, resolved to do honor to the Alpine church. A day of rejoicing had been appointed for liberated Piedmont, and a deputation from the Vaudois was sent to the capital. As they issued from the valleys they were saluted every where with loud vivas for "our Vaudois Brothers," for "Liberty of Conscience" . The citizens of Turin received them with unbounded hospitality, and the gentle Vaudois took part in the grand procession; they were preceded by a group of young girls clothed in white, adorned with blue girdles, and each bearing a little banner. Six hundred persons composed the Vaudois deputation, the most noted in the stately pageant. To them, as a mark of honorable retribution, was assigned the first place at the head of the procession as it moved through the streets of Turin. The persecuted of a thousand years walked the leaders of Italian freemen. The city rang with cheers for the Vaudois; flowers were showered upon them from the balconies; men rushed from the throng to salute, to embrace the patient mountaineers; even liberal priests cheered them as they went by; the women of Turin smiled upon the daughters of the valleys. Yet, as the Vaudois moved through the squares hallowed by the torments of their early martyrs, beside the prisons where their ancestors had died by thousands, the palaces where Jesuits and princes had often planned their total extirpation, they were amazed at the startling contrast, and listened with grateful hearts to the glad congratulations of the people of Turin . They breathed out a silent thanksgiving, and prayed that the blessing of Heaven might ever rest upon their pleasant native land.
Their modest prayers have been fulfilled. The festival of their liberation was followed by a wave of revolution that swept over all Europe. The Jesuits and the propaganda were banished from Turin; France became suddenly a republic; the pope was exiled from Rome, to be restored only by the French armies to his ancient tyranny; and Italy was for a moment free. If for a time the cloud of war rested over the valleys, yet the victories of Napoleon and the swift triumph of Garibaldi have given freedom to the peninsula, and safety to the Alpine church. Today Lucerna, Perouse, and San Martino shine forth in perpetual beauty. The torrents gleam through the sweet vales of Angrogna , and roar against the cliffs of Balsille. In Pra del Tor the citadel of the Vaudois has become a cultured field, and the chestnut groves where Henry Arnaud and his pious soldiers celebrated their holy rites are still rich with abundant fruit; the landscapes of Lucerna glow with the soft products of the Italian clime; in the wilder valleys the avalanche leaps from the snowclad mountains, the chamois feeds on his icy pastures, the eagle screams around the peaks of Guinevert. Today the primitive Christians assemble in peace in churches that were founded when Nero began his persecutions, or when Constantine gave rest to the tormented world. The Vaudois moderator gathers around him his humble pastors in their sacred synods, as the elders of the Middle Ages assembled at Pra del Tor. The schools of the Vaudois, from which the Bible has never been excluded since the dawn of Christianity, flourish with new vigor; their colleges no longer hide in the caverns of Angrogna. The long struggle of centuries has ended, and the gentle people of the valleys have found freedom to worship God.
Thus the moderator of the Alps has triumphed over the persecuting pope of Rome, and liberty of conscience reigns from the valleys to the Sicilian Straits. Yet one dark scene of tyranny still remains - one blot on the fair renown of Italy. In the city of Rome the Jesuits and the pope still rule. Still they point with menacing gestures to the people of the valleys; still they would snatch the Bible from their schools, and crush their consciences with medieval tyranny. In Rome alone persecution for religion's sake still continues; Rome alone, of all European cities, cherishes a shadow of the Inquisition , and still asserts its right to govern the minds of men by brutal force; enthroned by foreign bayonets over a murmuring people, the vindictive pope proclaims his undying hostility against the wise and the good of every land. But should the Holy Father and the society of Loyola turn their eyes to a Vaudois Alps, they may read their doom graven on each heaven-piercing peak. There may be seen a spectral company of the hallowed dead writing with shadowy fingers a legend on the rocks; the tiny babe crushed beneath the soldier's heel; the fair mother hewn to pieces on the snow; the old man of ninety burned to ashes on the fatal pyre. They write: "Whoever shall harm one of these little, it were better for him that a millstone had been hanged about his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea!"
[NOTE: The reader of the above article will be interested to know that the nine illustrations of persecution of the Vaudois have been copied from the engravings in Leger's "History," printed in 1669, and are therefore nearly contemporary with the events they depict.]
6 The moral vigor of the Vaudois is well attested for four or flve centuries. See J. Bresse, Hist. Vaudois. Authentic Details of the Waldenses. 5 Muston, Hist. Vaud. And see Israel of the Alps.
8 Peyran, Nouvelles Lettres sur les Vaudois. Lett., La religion des Vaudois s'est etendue presque dans tous les endroits de Europe; nou seulement parmi les Italiens.
26 The story of Pascal may be found at length in Muston, Gillies, etc.
27 Muston. He entered Home by the Ostian gate, by the path of the ancient martyrs.
33 Peyran, Nouv. Lett. The Waldenses always denied that Peter was ever at Rome.
38 Muston describes Pra del Tor as a deep recess among the mountains.
43 Peyran, Nouv. Lett., We may well accept the traditions of so truthful a race.
44 Muston. Etat moral et religieux des vallees.
46 Muston, Hist. Vaud. Nos temples ne sent decores ni de croix ni d'images, etc.
49 The fine Middle Age Protestant hymn, "Lo Payre Eternal," "The Eternal Father," expresses the noble feeling of the mountain church. I add a few lines. The poet calls on God to pity and forgive, and then asks to reign with Him in a celestial kingdom:
53 Leger. Les petits enfans, impitoy ablement arrachés des mamelles de leurs tendres meres estoient empoignés par les pieds, etc. The narrative is that of eye-witnesses, and from depositions made soon after. Men of eighty and ninety years were burned.
59 Muston began his valuable labors, ed. 1834, by asserting: La gloire des Vaudois est dans leur malheur. He had not yet looked forward to their present triumph.
65 Glorious Recovery, trans. from Henry Arnaud's account of his expedition. Gilly, Excur. Muston. The journals of the period also notice the return.
67 Glorious Recovery. Muston.
68 Muston is fuller than Arnaud, and has used various unpublished letters, etc.
70 Glorious Recovery. Muston has the narrative of a Vandois officer - it adds something.
78 Muston abounds in details of the incidents of the expedition, but adds little to the account of Arnaud.
85 Muston. "Who would have said," wrote a Vaudois, "that we would have seen all this?"
87 See a decree of the Inquisition (1841) directed against heresy in the Papal States with all its ancient severity. Italy in Transition, Appendix, with other documents. The Syllabus and the Canons still defend the use of force in producing religious unity.
Article: The Vaudois (1870)
"And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth." Heb 11:36-38 KJV
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