Today’s walk might seem a bit macabre, but you should not think so, because we are in a very important place for Waldenses’ history and identity: we are at the Jallà’s Cemetery, in Luserna San Giovanni (To).
You are probably wondering why I decided to take you in a cemetery … Here, among bushes and gravestones, we’ll learn together a bit of history.
You have to know that in the past, with the edicts of 1618 and 1620 issued by King Charles Emmanuel 1st, it was determined that Waldenses could not bury their dead people in cemeteries that already used to house the graves of Catholic people, but that they should do it in some isolated places, away from the roads and not delimited by hedges or walls.
In San Giovanni, the Waldensian community was forced to buy a field in order to celebrate their funerals.
The place we are in today was chosen because it seems, although there are no reliable sources, that already in the 16th century some Waldensians were buried here.
Consider that, since the edicts did not allow to build fences around Waldensian cemeteries, it could somewhen happen, in the countryside, that cattle would graze through the graves!
After persecutions of 1686 the number of dead people had increased quite a lot, and after that the Glorious Return repopulated the Valley with new Waldenses… The church of San Giovanni needed to enlarge the cemetery, in order to house all of the tombs, but this caused discontent among the inhabitants of the Jallà township (the name of the hamlet gives its name to the cemetery); people round there, as well, had already complained that the cemetery should be moved somewhere else. At the base of their complaints there were actually quite serious reasons: since that area was very rich in aquifers and fountains, there was a real risk of having water contaminated by corpses.
Finally in 1836 the Waldensian Church of San Giovanni got (after several inspections to safeguard the quality of groundwater) approval by the royal authorities to reorganize and extend the cemetery; since then the cemetery underwent a series of transformations, and inside it some porches and niches (especially for the most important families) were built.
In 1912 in Luserna San Giovanni the current municipal cemetery was built, and since then all dead are buried there; still today , however, the graves of Waldenses and Catholics are separated (Catholics on the left side, Waldenses on the right side).
Nowadays at the Jallà’s Cemetery, few people (such as those who have a family grave there) can still be buried.
How to get here:
from the central roundabout of the town of Luserna San Giovanni (To), take Gianavello st.and, after a little more than 250m, turn right into Marconi st. Go along into Beckwith st. and after 350 meters turn left onto Jallà road. Go down along this road until you get exactly in front of the small cemetery, after about 650m.