Foxe’s Book of Martyrsdedicates less than a page to the Waldensians of the Cottian Alps west of Turin, Italy. Yet, their real-life story of valor and enduring faith in the midst of persecution in Europe throughout the second millennium AD touched and encouraged my heart so much that I wanted to bring their story to life in a contemporary suspense novel that would give wings to courage and enduring faith in our time.
Theological historians dispute the exact date and origins of the Waldensians. Some have suggested that they hail from the first century church fathers and settled in the Italian Alps during a time of great persecution in the second century. Whether this is so, certainly by 1170 A.D. these men and women of faith banded together with Peter Waldo, a rich merchant of Lyon, France who had converted to Christianity and took a vow of poverty.
The Waldensians, also called the Poor Men of Lyon under Waldo, never wanted to secede from the Church of Rome. Rather, they hoped to peacefully sway the papacy to cease practices they deemed contrary to true biblical principles and return to what they believed were the pure teachings of Christ. Thus the Waldensians appealed to Rome for a Bible in the vernacular and asked the Church to forego indulgences for the forgiveness of sins. They also sought various reforms, such as allowing clergy to marry.
Unfortunately, the Roman Church of the Middle Ages saw the Waldensians as a threat to their power and wealth and called them heretics. Thus began centuries of persecution and martyrdom that helped set the stage for the Reformation in the sixteenth century and continued to hound the Waldensian faithful until their civil freedoms were granted on February 17, 1848.
Today Waldensian assemblies worldwide have aligned with Methodist and Presbyterian synods. Yet most local assemblies across the world and Italy still light bonfires in celebration of their civil freedoms on the night of February 16th each year. The largest group of Waldensians outside Italy resides in Valdese, North Carolina, USA. and conducts a festival of their heritage every summer.
The Waldensian story lives on today in local assemblies worldwide, a testimony of a people whose valor and enduring faith withstood the test of time. This ought to encourage and strengthen Christians everywhere as we hear and read stories about those who are persecuted and martyred around the world in this century.
More About the History of the Waldensians:
- The History of the Waldenses by J.A Wylie
- You are My Witnesses: The Waldensians Across 800 Years by Giogio Tourn
- The Glorious Recovery by The Vaudois of their Valleys by Henri Arnaud
- Waldensian Cultural Centre, Torre Pellice, Italy www.fondazionebaldese.org
More About Donna Wichelman and her novel Light Out of Darkness:
- Visit her website at www.donnawichelman.com.
- To buy the book, go to http://www.amazon.com/Light-Out-Darkness-Waldensian-1/dp/0996187103/ref=la_B00VIUJ1GK
- To read her blog, visit http://donnawichelman.blogspot.com