Arvura – Angrogna

Today I’m back in Angrogna (Pellice Valley) and, to be more precise, I am in Arvura; I’m going to tell you something that happened here and that is halfway between history and legend.
We have to make a leap into the past and to go back in 1686, a dark period for these Valleys because that was the period of persecutions against Waldensian people.

Valdesina comes to the Arvura village from the path of Rocciaglie
Valdesina comes to the Arvura village from the path of Rocciaglie

At that time, the already hard life of people from the mountain was made even more painful by the decisions taken by the Savoy Family, the royal family that ruled at the time all in Piedmont: since they were allies of France (a Catholic nation as well), Kings of Piedmont actually would not tolerate the presence of Protestant subjects, and after years of violence and mistreatments they succeeded in forcing Waldensian people from the Valleys to choose between conversion or exile.
People had then to choose whether to leave their homes and go away or to believe in a faith that they did not feel their own. People were not free to say openly that they were Waldensian, and even their Catholic neighbors could not be their friends.
All of the people were forced to live in fear and uncertainty, as Waldensian families who refused to leave and to convert would be captured and killed, while Catholics had to attend these horrific scenes powerless to do anything.

Homes in Arvura viewed from the hamlet Buonanotte
Homes in Arvura viewed from the hamlet Buonanotte

In 1686 the entire population of this village was killed. Only two children who were hidden in the woods survived, and they swore that they would’ve never been taken by the soldiers who had exterminated their family, named Rivoira. They found refuge through the rocks and they lived there, hiding and feeding on herbs and wild berries, managing to survive that way for a few time.
Meanwhile, the areas that had been left without inhabitants were populated by Catholic families who had received as a gift from the king all of the lands belonging to Waldenses.
One day, the mother of a family originally coming from Mondovì but settled in the little hamlet known as “Buonanotte”, saw the two orphans wandering in the woods, dirty, scared and skinny.
It was immediately clear to her that those children were Waldenses survived of the violence, and she did not hesitate to call them in order to give them food and clean clothes. The children were initially frightened, but then hunger was stronger than fear, and they followed the woman into the house.

Cottage in Arvura
Cottage in Arvura

The two children were housed by the family, that fed and cleaned them, and let them sleep in a warm bed… But the two parents of the family were worried that somebody could know about the little Waldenses living in their house, and after long consultation, they took their decision.
The next day they convinced the two survivors that the only way to save their life was to move in the plains and to be raised by a Catholic family.
The two orphans did not forget their Valleys, and as soon as Waldenses turned back in the mountains from the exile after the Glorious Return and got the edict of tolerance, the two children left the adoptive family and they returned to their fathers’ homes in order not to leave any more.
“Arvura” is the Patois for Rivoira, which is the name of the hamlet, of the two orphans and of all their descendants.
How to get here
from the provincial road 161, between the villages of Torre Pellice and Luserna San Giovanni, at the roundabout take the road towards Angrogna, follow the main road to the square of the capital city and go beyond it by taking the road to Serre township. When you arrive here take the road that goes to the right immediately after the Waldensian church, in the direction of the township “Buonanotte”. Continue until the road becomes a dirt road and you will arrive in Arvura.

Do you want to read the tale in Italian ?

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