Hello kids, how are you?
Today is August 26th, a very important date in Waldensian history, since today (327 years ago!) a group of brave people from the valleys moved from Switzerland, where they had been exiled, to try to turn back to their places and homelands that they had been forced to leave for their faith… today is the anniversary of the beginning of the Glorious Return!
I already told you about this great adventure when we visited the Sibaud of Bobbio and the temple of Prali, but today I want to take you to a very symbolic place for that historical event, which is called “Balziglia”, in the municipality of Massello (Turin).
In winter of 1689-90, Waldensians who had survived the march through the mountains camped, led by the clever pastor Henri Arnaud, in these woods, surrounded by the French and Savoy army…
Merci, Mademoiselle, for considering me clever, but we chose this place to resist the enemy because the great Captain Gianavello had suggested it!
…but …is it really you? You are pastor Arnaud, aren’t you?! Are you here to tell my little friends how things went?
You see, we found refuge here, as old Gianavello,(who was exiled in Switzerland, but gave us a great help in organizing our challenge) had recommended us. In fact it was a great place, opponents tried several times in the fall to imprison us, but they never succeeded. …on the other side, imagine how hard it was living up here for a whole winter, without food or home, with clothes and shoes destroyed by the march through the mountains …
…and how did you survive?
Well, I might tell you that faith kept us alive, as it undoubtedly was. Unfortunately we were forced, in some cases, to steal something to the local inhabitants … But one day, thank God, we discovered that no one had harvested the wheat during the previous summer, and that it was still under the snow: so we picked it up and with that we were able to survive until spring!
In the spring the Savoy-French army started again to besiege Waldensians, by using cannons and destroying all of the fortifications that had been built during the winter.
Waldensians were no more than 300, and on May 24th, 1690 they found themselves surrounded by 4000 opponent soldiers… After the first violent clashes, on the Sugar Loaf (in Italian “Pan di Zucchero”, the so called peak that stands above the Balziglia) a thick fog that forced everyone to stop the battle dropped.
Exactement, my dear! And while we were discussing about that desperate situation the night fell …
All around us there were enemy campfires, we were trapped. But then one of ours, Captain Philip Tron Poulat, who was born at the Balziglia and that, as a child, had always carried grazing animals around here, suggested to take a dangerous path that could pull us to safety.
So, in the middle of the night, all of the survived Waldensian walked in line, holding hands or clothes in the dark, and passed through the enemy camp without being caught.
When in the morning the Savoy-French soldiers got ready to reach the top of the Sugar Loaf and capture the enemies, they could only see the fugitives on the high mountain ridge, too far to be reached …
Oui, mademoiselle Valdesina, you are right … who can say if the wheat under the snow or the thick and sudden fog of that day were just lucky chances or the signs that we were destined to return to our valleys?
How to get here:
reach the town of Massello along the Provincial Road 169, then continue on Provincial Road 170 till you can: the street ends exactly at the Balziglia hamlet.