The New Student's Reference Work/Waldenses
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Waldenses (wŏl-dĕn'sēz) or Vaudois, a Christian denomination in Italy, founded about 1170 by Peter Waldo, a rich merchant of Lyons, who sold his goods and gave them to the poor, and then went forth preaching voluntary poverty. His followers were called the Poor of Lyons. They did not intend to secede from the church; but, thinking it utterly corrupt, they sought to bring it back to its primitive purity. When the archbishop of Lyons commanded them to be silent, they appealed to Pope Alexander III, but he also forbade their meetings. Waldo, however, continued to preach, and with his followers was excommunicated. His doctrines spread in Italy, France and Bohemia, and especially in the valleys of Piedmont, where the Waldenses were greatly persecuted during the i6th and 17th centuries. In 1680 they suffered at the hands of an Italian and French army, 3,000 being killed, 10,000 imprisoned, and 3,000 of their children being placed in different Catholic towns and villages. They had permission to emigrate the next year, and about 5,000 went from Piedmont to Switzerland, Holland, Brandenburg, Hesse and Wurttemberg. There are now ten congregations in Wurttemberg, with over 16,000 members. When all Italy was opened to them in 1858, they chose Florence as their center, removing there their theological seminary and printing press. They formed an Italian evangelical publication society in 1861, and have been especially active in printing religious books. They accept the Bible as their only rule of faith, but hold their Confession of Faith, published in 1655, as the most correct interpretation of it.