As a Christian and a Catholic, I feel compelled to tell what happened in Piedmont (my native region) and i confess that i am ashamed a lot for what my religion fellow have done four centuries ago. I thought it was only right to tell you the story of the Waldenses, it is an epic story with terrible and heroic implications (sorry for my poor narrative qualities I'm just a vet not a historian). Today Waldensians and Catholics live in peace in their Alpine valleys, just as they did before the King of France (Louis XIV), for mere political convenience (accommodate the Church of Rome), with the complicity of the Duke of Savoy, Victor Amadeus II (convinced more by the fear of powerful religious fervor that the Sun King), decided to exterminate them literally and make them disappear from the face of the earth.
It was a civil war with religious motivation (the worst), an endless sequence of barbarism with no holds barred; in the Piedmont there is a saying that sums up the situation perfectly: " Pietà l'è morta" (piety is dead).
The number of victims (women,elderly, children, Waldensians soldiers) has never been quantified exactly, we talk about a few thousand. But in a small duchy, how Savoy was in the seventeenth century, a religious war, with the deportation, the imprisonment and massacre of an entire group, is a historical fact of enormous importance.
On the Western Alps spread especially in Val Queiras, Argentiera Freissinière (in France) and Valle Pellice, Perosa, Pragelato (Italy).
In 1598, the king of France Henry IV of Borbone, put an end to the bloody religious conflict between Calvinists-Huguenots and Catholic party. With the Edict of Nantes, promoted the peaceful coexistence between the majority Catholicand the minority reformer, ensuring the Huguenots-Calvinists freedom of worship.
78 years after King Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes Fointanbleau, launching a fierce persecution against the Protestants. This is to please the Church of Rome. Over half a million Huguenots fled from France, took refuge in England, Switzerland, Germany, Poland and the United Provinces of Holland, European countries where they could freely practice their faith.
The persecution extended beyond the Dauphiné, involving the valleys of Piedmont, where the Waldensian cult was practiced.
The powerful King Sun imposed to the young Duke of Savoy, Amadeus II, to joinhis forces to the French army, to defeat the Waldensians in their valleys.
In 1686 were carried out joint military action to persecute relentlessly the Waldensians in the valleys: Angrogna, Pellice, Germanasca and San Martin, where they lived always in peace with the Catholics. The Waldensians who refused to abandon their valleys into exile, under the leadership of Pastor Colonel Henry Arnaud fought an uneven fight strenuously. But in the end 12,000 Waldensians survivors (men, women, children and elderly) were imprisoned in the terrible prisons and fortresses of Savoy, where most died of starvation, disease and malnutrition. Many children were torn from their mothers and entrusted to Piedmont families, to be educated in the Catholic religion.
In 1687, under pressure from the Protestant states of Europe (especially the Swiss cantons), Amedeo II granted to the Waldenses survivors of the massacres and imprisonment exile in Geneva (city bastion of Calvinist religion). About 3300 Waldensians in the middle of winter, crossed the Alpine hills to reach Geneva. is evident that during the ltragitto many of them perished (a veritable death march).
On August 26, 1689 a thousand Protestant exiles leave Switzerland to return to their lands from which they were driven out three years earlier.
The expedition, organized by Pastor Henri Arnaud and controlled by the notary Antoine Turel (13 companies Waldenses, Huguenot 6), was supported at the political and financial support from King William III of England and the Netherlands. The company is well placed in the context of the struggle of European powers allied against French absolutism of Louis XIV.
This is the report of the march of 250 miles, lasting 14 days, from Lake Geneva to the Waldensian valleys. A veritable Odyssey of the Alps, made ??particularly difficult by the mountain road, inclement weather and the strength of the Franco- Savoy troops.
The Glorious Return ( August, 26, 1689)
They were all heavily equipped: "A half armor of steel (Gorgeret), cartridge belts, accoutrements, flasks of gunpowder. They were armed with muskets, rifles, muzzle-loading guns, swords, halberds, and especially the dreaded" Beidane "(a kind of machete used to chop wood, was equally functional on the head of an enemy). Each of them was equipped with a supply of food (corned beef, bacon, cheese, salt, flour and wine).
The total weight carried by each of them was close to 50 kilograms.
Hidden among the oaks of the forest Prangins recited together the propitiatory prayer, so they embarked on the beach Promenthoux in a flotilla of 15 boats. They reached the shore of Lake Geneva in the Savoyard region of Chablais, to avoid being intercepted by the fleet of ships guarding the lake.
Upon arriving in Savoy, Arnaud divided men into 20 companies, "Waldenses of Piedmont (13), the French Huguenots of Dauphine and Languedoc (5), one of the exiles Chisone Valley and one of the volunteers of other nationalities.
Was adopted as the usual running order of any army, the column, with a strong edge and a powerful rear. When the column passed through a village, any supply should be properly paid, the advance guard, to prevent hostile acts, had to capture some hostages among the local notables.
The first step was to cross the Hill of Saxel (944 m) between the regions of Chablais and Faucigny, the passage was blocked by 200 militiamen recruited among local farmers. As soon as they saw the huge column of Waldensians advancing safe, they fled. They had no intention to make the acquaintance of Beidane that the Waldenses kept in plain sight.
The first day they came after 50 miles.
The second stage was characterized by crossing the fortified city of Cluses, whose doors were barred. The hostages in the head of the column and the payment of five sounding gold Louis for provisions, convinced the villagers to let pass the Waldensians. Was also purchased a barrel of wine from which not everyone could draw, then half of the column had been rejoiced by the wine, but not the rest of.
To the chorus of drunken which added a series grunts and growls of dissatisfaction.
The march of August 29, all took place in the rain and fog, alternate with sleet. It was painstakingly achieved and exceeded the Col de la Fenetre (2263 m). The night was spent in the open, everyone around the large bonfire to acsiugare clothing and shoes soaked with water.
The fourth day it was passing in the fog the challenging hills of Bonhomme and Croix de Bonhomme (2439 m), covered with snow and in the vicinity of Mont Blanc. Fortunately, the Savoy fortifications guarding the hills were dismantled. Then they went down in the Valley of Glaciers and bypassing Bour St. Maurice reached Séez and the foot of the Little St. Bernard.
Between the fifth and sixth day's march, the column went up the Val d'Isere, reaching and crossing the Col de l'Iseran (2764 m). It was the highest step of the whole course, communication between the Taranteise and the Maurienne. I walked the Waldensian valleys in the direction of Mont Cenis.
On the seventh day, caught up and went over the Col du Mont Cenis, without encountering the dreaded picket lines Savoy. The behavior of the troops of Amadeus II, had been hitherto very ambiguous, evidently the Piedmont pretended to facilitate the designs of Louis XIV. In fact, the Piedmontese were deployed in the valley of Novalesa, at the foot of Mont Cenis, to defend the city of Susa.
The Waldenses came into Piedmont and beaten by the storm passed through the valley of Savine, reaching Colle Clapier (2472 m). More or less the same path which is assumed to have followed Hannibal 18 centuries earlier.
The eighth day of March, September 3, was more dramatic for the Waldenses. A column leading down to Giaglione of Susa, was attacked and decimated by dragons ducal. At the four teeth Chiomonte met a barrage of Exilles militia, but let them go. Descended into the valley of Susa, at the bridge of Chenebière (Salbertrand), one step on the Dora swollen by the rains, they found a large French camp. There were 2500 soldiers under the command of the Marquis de Larrey (governor of the Dauphiné), sent to guard the bridge and to bar the way.
The vanguard Waldensian was attacked and was forced to retreat (five deaths), suddenly the militia of Exilles, who had followed them, attacked the rear guard. Were rejected, but the situation was serious and required to act quickly, they were surrounded.
It was decided to perform a night attack at the bridge, the men were exhausted and hungry, but there was no solution barks. Recited a short prayer rushed to the assault of the barriers of the bridge, were rejected twice (with heavy losses), but at the third attempt, broke through the defenses and swept the camp. The bulk of French troops slept in tents safely, including the commander Marquis de Larrey, they were sure that the Waldesians would not have broken through. When they swept into the camp brandishing their Beidane, was panic, was given: "Every man for himself" and was a general stampede, the French had 600 deaths. In less than two hours the French were routed and the Waldensians gathered a rich haul of weapons and provisions. Henry Arnaud reorganized the army and marched uphill on the right side of the valley, there was always the danger they came reinforcements from Exilles.
Crossed and climbed the Great Forest of Salbertrand reaching the hill of Costapiana(2312 m) on the ridge of Assietta, overlooking the Chisone Valley and finally, met again their beloved mountains.
The column was little more than six hundred men. Descended from Pragelato and then climbed into Joussard in the Troncea Valley.
The next day under a terrible flood reached the Col du Pis (2613 m), went on the slopes of Mount Fea Nera and reached the Valley of the Lauson. Here made prisoners some soldiers of Savoy, after a ritual process were executed. Descended into the valley of Massello and stopped to Balziglia.
Once concluded the repatriation, the Vaudois undertook daily movements to regain all their valleys and mountains. Reached Prali, where Arnaud preached in the temple of Ghigo. Crossed in the rain and fog the hill Giulian(2451 m) and went down to Pellice Valley (where he was soon dislodged the garrison Ducale). In the forest of Sibaud (Bobbio Pellice) all the survivors of the company lent a solemn oath
"In order for the union, which is the soul of our company, always remains firm, the officers swear allegiance to the soldiers and officers to the soldiers."
As a result, the fight continued more bitter against the Savoy commanded by the Marquis Parella, which made life very difficult for the Waldensians and vice versa. The compactness of the Waldensians began to deteriorate and more and more frequent were the desertions and escapes in the Dauphiné (especially the French Huguenot component).
With winter approaching, the situation became more and more final, desperate, especially aggravated the fall of the entrenched camp of the Great Spire (above Bobbio Pellice) in the hands of Franco-Savoy.
Arnaud decided to concentrate all his forces to Barziglia, natural bulwark to resist to the bitter end.
He began the terrible siege of Barziglia ..... but that's another story.
ConclusionIn 1690, Duke Amedeo II, tired of submitting to the will and whims of Louis XIV signed a treaty of alliance with the League of Augsburg (anti-French). Immediately sent ambassadors of the Waldenses to offer the peace. On June 4, 1960 (Edict of the Duke of Savoy), he recognized the freedom of worship to all Protestants, and the right to all the exiles to return to their valleys and in possession of their property. From that moment on developed a collaboration between Savoy and Waldensians with function anti-French; it was ultimately a opportunistically move to secure the help of the fabulous mountain Waldensian fighters.
The integration process ended February 17, 1848, when King Charles Albert of Savoy, issued Letters Patent that permanently recognized civil and religious rights of the Waldensian Community, equalizing with all effects to other citizens of the Kingdom.