Valdesina goes on holiday! Lyon

Valdesina goes on holiday! Lyon

Welcome back, my friends, nice to see you again!
This is our last piece of 2014 and, for the occasion, I really would like to tell you about an extraordinary adventure: today we will move to France, in order to tell the story of famous Valdo, whom the Waldensian movement comes from… are you ready? Follow me, ‘cause today we are in Lyon!

From the hill of Vieux Lyon you see a breath-taking view of the entire city.
From the hill of Vieux Lyon you see a breath-taking view of the entire city.

We are in the second half of 1100, in the French city of Lyon… Here a rich merchant, whom we know almost nothing about (it is said that he had a wife and two daughters), used to live probably involved in the political affairs of the church, with not too noble interests, and probably exploiting and subjecting people to wear, as it was habit at the time for those who exercised that kind of “job”.
His name (in vernacular) was Valdès, handed down to us as Valdo or Valdesio.

A nice walk through the streets of St. Jean in Old Lyon.
A nice walk through the streets of St. Jean in Old Lyon.

In 1173-1176 Valdo experienced a deep personal crisis (which we do not know the reasons of), that led him to reconsider his thought as a believer. Since the priest of his parish church was unable to answer all of his questions, Valdo asked somebody to translate for him the Gospel in his language, and he then decided to follow the example of the Apostles and to live in poverty; that’s why he decided to give up his activities, and distributed all of his assets to poor people, and then began to live on charity.

Brrr, what a cold! On the Pont Bonaparte (which crosses the Saône) there is such a breeze...
Brrr, what a cold! On the Pont Bonaparte (which crosses the Saône) there is such a breeze…

Very soon many friends and even strangers from all social classes (artisans, merchants, and also few priests) began to follow Valdo, affected by his choice of life and eager to imitate him; he called them, quoting Jesus’ words, “poor in spirit”. People who saw them preaching the Gospel in squares and streets began to call them “the Poor of Lyons”.
The Catholic Clergy at first, even if with a certain concern, accepted the presence of the Poor of Lyons, since they were laical and did not aspire to become a recognized church (unlike other similar medieval movements).

From the steep stairs of Montée des Chazeaux there’s a very beautiful view of the whole city.
From the steep stairs of Montée des Chazeaux there’s a very beautiful view of the whole city.

In that same period, however, in southern France (just where Lyon is), there were some movements that the Catholic Church branded as heretics (which means that they were not in line with its ideology and that they had to persecuted, even by force). The Catholic Clergy became suspicious of everyone, including Valdo and his disciples… Specifically, the Clergy did not accept that they preached the Gospel: according to the Clergy, that role was entirely up to the Catholic Church. That’s the reason why Valdo and his followers (despite their good intentions) were excommunicated.

Here is Place Bellecour; well, today I’m on vacation... but I have so many interesting things to tell you!
Here is Place Bellecour; well, today I’m on vacation… but I have so many interesting things to tell you!

When the positions of the other spiritual movements of southern France became more critical in respect to the Church (some of this positions were also shared by the Poor of Lyons, who had also got in touch with their heretics “neighbors”), the real persecution for Valdo and his fellow began.
Nevertheless, through the South of France, the ideals of the Poor of Lyons arrived in Northern Italy; the first Italian Waldenses settled in Milan, and then throughout the whole Europe.

Here is the street where Valdo used to live! This street is nowadays known as Rue de la Poulaillerie, but at the time of Valdo it was called Rue Vandran; after his banishment it was called for a long time Rue Maudicte.
Here is the street where Valdo used to live! This street is nowadays known as Rue de la Poulaillerie, but at the time of Valdo it was called Rue Vandran; after his banishment it was called for a long time Rue Maudicte.

Repression, however, kept on also in Lombardy, so the Poor of Lyons (meanwhile renamed “Waldenses”) had to continue their search for a place to live and profess their faith in peace… In early 1200 they settled in the Piedmont valleys of Pellice, Chisone and Germanasca , particular areas subjected both to the dominion of the King of France, and of the Dukes of Savoy and of some local nobles: since these were very barren places with very small populations, the newcomers were well accepted, as they would make those mountains in some way “fertile”.
From the Middle Ages onwards, in fact, the Waldenses have no longer left those Valleys.

As I’m surrounded by the beautiful lights of the Fête des Lumières in Lyon, I wish you a very Merry Christmas!
As I’m surrounded by the beautiful lights of the Fête des Lumières in Lyon, I wish you a very Merry Christmas!

Waldensian presence is so important in Piedmontese Valleys that those valleys are commonly known as “Waldensian Valleys” (most of my stories take place there, d’you remember?!): when, in 1822, W. Stephen Gilly (to whom we owe the construction of the College in the Waldensian Quarter of Torre Pellice) arrived in Lyon from England looking for Waldensian people, he was addressed directly towards the valleys of Piedmont!

…well, that’s it for this year… See you in 2015, guys!

Do you want to read the tale in Italian ?