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Baptist History Notebook
By Berlin Hisel

Chapter 17

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     Having received the history and doctrine of the ancient Waldenses, it remains now to study their persecution. Holding to the truth of God's Word is sure to bring persecution. No people, as a group, suffered more than the Waldenses. The Mother of Harlots made herself drunk with the blood of this noble people. Hunted and killed by the old Whore of Revelation, the ancient Waldenses gained a martyr's crown. Great will be their reward in heaven.

Milton's Poem

     To pay tribute to the slain Waldenses, the blind Baptist poet, John Milton wrote the following poem:

"Avenge, O Lord, Thy slaughtered saints, whose bones
Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold;
E'en them, who kept Thy truth so pure of old,
When all our fathers worshipped stocks and stones,
Forget not: in Thy book record their groans,
Who were Thy sheep, and in their ancient fold
Slain by the bloody Piedmontese, that roll'd
Mother with infant down the rocks. Their moans
The values redoubled to the hills, and they
To heaven. Their martyred blood and ashes sow
O'er all the Italian fields, where still doth sway
The triple tyrant; that from these may grow
An hundred-fold, who, having learnt Thy way,
Early may fly the Babylonian woe!"
     How well did this ancestor describe our fore-fathers and their suffering at the hands of the Roman Catholic Church during those dark days. For many of you, reading this Notebook, it will be hard to believe what Satan, through his church, has done to the Baptists of old. It will be even harder for you to believe that they would do the same again should Providence allow it!
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Loss of Houses and Goods

     Thieleman J. van Braght has the following to say about the Catholics and their destroying the homes of the Waldenses and the confiscating of their goods. "Of the demolition of the houses of the Waldenses - the fifth chapter of the Council of Toulouse contains the following brief ecclesiastical ordinance respecting the demolition of the houses of the heretics, namely, of the Waldenses and Albigenses: 'We ordain that the houses in which a heretic is discovered, shall be razed to the ground, and the land or farm upon which a heretic is found, shall be confiscated.' Of the forfeiture of all their goods - In the 35th chapter of the Council of Beziers we read: 'Also the houses in which any heretic shall be found, living or dead, accused or condemned, being there with the knowledge or consent of the proprietors of said houses, provided such proprietors have attained their legal age, you shall cause to be demolished, and shall confiscate all the goods of those who live in them, unless they can legally prove or show their innocence or ignorance.'"1

     For the Waldenses to legally prove anything was extremely difficult or impossible seeing the legal system was the tool of the Apostate Church of Satan.

Everywhere Persecuted

     At this point I would like to give a few headlines from Martyrs Mirror by van Braght. These are found in the book on pages 330-333. Under each headline the writer describes what he has headlined. Every student of Baptist History should purchase this book and read it. "Many Persons Called Waldenses Martyred At Steyer, In Austria, And Great Numbers Of Them Burnt For Their Faith, At Zuidenity, In Poland, A. D. 1315." "Four Persons Called Brethren Of The Poor Life, Or Waldenses, Burnt For The Faith, At Marseilles, In France, A. D. 1317." "Persecution Of The Believers Called Waldenses, By Pope John XXII, A. D. 1319." "Persecution Unto Death Against The Believing Waldenses, In Bohemia And Poland; In Which Also One Echard Was Burnt For The Same Faith, A. D. 1330." "Persecution Of The Waldensian

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Brethren, In France, By Pope Urban VI, A. D. 1365." "Severe Persecution In Flanders, Artois, And Hainault, In Which Peronne Of Aubeton, A Pious Woman, Is Publicly Burnt For The Faith, About A. D. 1373." "Thirty-six Persons Called Waldenses, Burnt For The Faith, At Bingen, A. D. 1390." "Great Persecution Of The Believing Waldenses On The Baltic Sea; Four Hundred And Forty-three Of Them Severely Tortured And Put To Death, In The Mark And Pomerania, About A. D. 1390."

     Many, many other such notations are found in the book, Martyrs Mirror. These are listed to show how severe and wide spread the persecutions were.

Persecution By Crusades

     There are so many sources of information and descriptions of the persecutions that it is difficult to know what to include in our study. Rather than many quotes from different authors I wish to list a lengthy one from one book, Bright Lights in Dark Times.

     "There were, however, during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, some detached instances of persecution, and one notably of a more general character, which happened at the close of the year 1400. We may notice this, as it will form a link between the great Albigensian crusade, and the first general Papal invasion of the valleys, of which we shall give a more particular account. "The scene of this catastrophe was the Valley of the Pragelas. It was the Christmas of 1400, and the inhabitants dreaded no attack, believing themselves sufficiently protected by the snows which then lay deep on their mountains. They were destined to experience that bitter fact that the rigors of the season had not quenched the fire of their persecutors' malice. An inquisitor named Borelli, at the head of an armed troop, broke suddenly into Pragelas, meditating the entire extinction of its population. The miserable inhabitants fled in haste to the mountains, carrying on their shoulders their old men, their sick and their infants, knowing what fate awaited them should they leave them behind. In their flight a great many were overtaken and slain. Nightfall brought them deliverance from the pursuit, but no

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deliverance from horrors not less dreadful. Without shelter, without food, the frozen snow around them, the winter's sky overhead, their sufferings were inexpressibly great. When morning broke, what a heart-rending spectacle did day disclose! Of the miserable group the hands and feet of many were frozen; while others were stretched on the snow, stiffened corpses. Fifty young children, some say eighty, were found dead with cold, some lying on the bare ice, others locked in the frozen arms of their mothers, who had perished on that dreadful night along with their babes. In the Valley of Pragelas, to this day, sire recites to son the tale of that Christmas tragedy."

     We now pass on to the year 1487, the date of the first general crusade against the Waldenses. At length that lamp, which had burned uninterruptedly since primitive times, was to be extinguished. The mailed hand of the enemy was now about to fall and scatter, for a time at least, the testimony in the mountains. Since the sudden and barbarous attack related above the process of extermination had rather languished, and in consequence the Waldensian opinions were both taking deeper root, and at the same time spreading far and wide beyond the limits of the valleys. Alarmed at these rapid advances, Pope Innocent VIII…, who then filled the Papal chair, determined by a combined and decisive effort, once and for ever, to root out the heretics and the vigor of his great namesake, Innocent III, and remembering no doubt how effectually that famous pontiff had swept away the heretics, from the plains of Dauphine and Provence, he resolved upon the same course.

     Once more a crusade was to be preached; once more was Europe to witness the sad and humiliating spectacle of a host of ruffians let loose upon their fellow creatures, to pillage and ravage, and torture and slaughter at their will, and this, too, at the dictate of him who presumed to be Christ's vicar upon earth! The same infamous tactics were resorted to, the same horrible inducements again held out that had characterized the former crusade. Plenary pardon for all their sins, and unrestrained license upon the persons and promised to those who faithfully performed their part in this holy war. Once more thousands flocked to the banner of the Pope's

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legate, rejoiced to avail themselves of heaven on such easy means. What "dark times," indeed, were these, when men were induced to believe that their crimes could be expiated by the commission of more, and still darker ones!

     And now all Europe rang with the din of preparation; bands of men from every country, in obedience to the Papal bull, marched towards the centre from which operations were to commence: "the only people," it is said, "left ignorant of the commotion it had excited, and the bustle of the preparation it had called forth, were those poor men on whom the terrible tempest was about to fall."

     The joint army numbered about 18,000 regular soldiers, besides the thousands of ruffians already mentioned. This host was divided into two divisions, the one directing an attack from the French, the other on the Italian, side of the Alps; and so advancing, the one from the south-east, and the other from the north-west, to meet in the Valley of Angrogna, the centre of the territory, and there strike the final blow. We will follow first the progress of the French division of this host, that which advanced against the Alps of Dauphine.

     "This portion of the crusade," it is related, "was led by a daring and cruel man, skilled in such adventures, the Lord of La Palu. He ascended the mountains with his fanatics, and entered the Vale of Loyse, a deep gorge overhung by towering mountains. The inhabitants, seeing an armed force twenty times their number enter their valley, despaired of being able to resist them, and prepared for flight. They placed their old people and children in rustic carts, together with their domestic utensils, and such store of victuals as the urgency of the occasion permitted them to collect, and driving their herds before them, they began to climb the rugged sloped of Mount Pelvoux, which raises some six thousand feet over the level of the valley. They sang canticles as they climbed the steeps, which served at once to smooth their rugged path, and to dispel their terrors.

     "About half-way up there is an immense cavern called Aigue-Froid, from the cold springs that rush out from its rocky walls. In front of the cavern is a platform of rock, where the spectator sees beneath him, only fearful precipices, which must be clambered over before one can reach the

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entrance of the grotto. Into this grotto, as into an impregnable castle, the Vaudois enter. Their women, infants, and old men they placed in the inner hall; their cattle and sheep they distributed along the internal cavities of the grotto. The able-bodied men posted themselves at the entrance. Having barricaded with huge stones both the doorway of the cave and the path that led to it, they deemed themselves secure. But a device of their pursuer rendered all these precautions vain. La Palu ascended the mountain on the other side, and approaching the cave from above, let down his soldiers by ropes from the precipice that overhangs the grotto. The platform in front then was secured by his soldiers. The Vaudois might have cut their ropes and defeated their foes as they were being lowered one by one, but the boldness of this maneuver would seem to have paralyzed them. They retreated into the cavern to find it their grave. La Palu saw the danger of permitting his men to follow them into the depths of their hiding place. He adopted the easier and safer method of piling up at the entrance all the wood he could collect, and setting fire to it. A huge volume of black smoke began to roll into the cave, leaving to the unhappy inmates the miserable alternative of rushing out and falling by the sword that waited for them, or of remaining in the interior to be stifled by the murky vapor. Some rushed out, and were massacred; but the greater part remained till death slowly approached them by suffocation. 'When the cave was afterwards examined,' says Muston, 'there were found in it 400 infants, suffocated in their cradles, or in the arms of their dead mothers. Altogether there perished in this cavern more than 3,000 Vaudois, including the entire population of Val Loyse.'"

     Having distributed the property of these poor sufferers amongst the bands of ruffians and assassins that accompanied him, La Palu next advanced upon the neighboring valleys of Argentiere and Fraissiniere. But the inhabitants, learning the fate of their brethren, determined upon resistance, as therein only lay their chance of safety. Accordingly they barricaded the passes of the valleys, and showed such a front to the foe when he advanced that he relinquished the attempt there, and left them in peace.

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     But this wonderful deliverance was not vouchsafed to the dwellers in the Valley of Pragelas, the scene of the terrible tragedy of Christmas 1400. "Again," says the historian, "terror, mourning, and death were carried into it. The peaceful inhabitants, who were expecting no such invasion, were busy reaping their harvests, when this horde of assassins burst upon them. In the first panic they abandoned their dwellings and fled. Many were overtaken and slain; hamlets and whole villages were given to the flames; the caves in which multitudes sought refuge could not afford them any protection. The horrible barbarity of the Val Loyse was repeated in the Valley of Pragelas. Combustible materials were piled up, and fires kindled at the mouths of their hiding-places, and when extinguished all was silent within. Folding together in one motionless heap lay mother and babe, patriarch and stripling; while the fatal smoke, which had cast them into that deep sleep, was eddying along the roof, and slowly making its exit into the clear sunlit summer sky."2

Notes on Chapter 17

1 Martyrs Mirror, page 316.
2 Bright Lights in Dark Times, pages 49-56.

Chapter 18
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