top of page

 They lived and died for their faith

Known as "people of the Book," scripture is what embodied the faith of the Waldensians — they lived by it and died for it. They were tortured, exiled and martyred, and still the faith that drove them from the Alpine Valleys of Italy to the foothills of North Carolina survived. The Trail of Faith is their story — each exhibit bearing witness to the journey that led them, from the time of the apostles, one continent to another in search of religious freedom and a future for their families.


The Waldenses believed the Bible was open to interpretation by everyone and they took seriously the commission to share the message into all the world. For centuries, they sought to serve God, sharing his love and spreading his Word. A peaceful people, they often found themselves at war as they sought to be true to their faith. They worshiped in secrecy for fear of being captured and killed, memorizing Scripture in preparation of their Bibles being burned. More than once, rulers thought them eradicated, but time after time, there arose a remnant to carry on.



c 58 - 59 A.D.

Apostles of Christ plant seeds of Christianity in the Waldensian Valleys as they travel across the Cottian Alps into Gaul (France) and other parts of Europe.


839 A.D.

Claudius, Bishop of Turin, is burned at the stake for passionate protests against the Medieval church. In 1805, when Napoleon asks the Moderator of the Waldensian Church, “How long is it since you became an independent church?” — his reply is: “Since the time of Claudius, Bishop of Turin.”



An ancient Confession of Faith of the Waldensians predates Calvin, Luther, and Peter Waldo.



Waldensians escape persecutions in France by fleeing to the Valleys of the Piedmont, and find there like-minded brethren, with whom they enjoy a mutual edification of faith.



Peter Waldo, wealthy merchant of Lyon (France), experiences a spiritual epiphany, divests himself of his wealth — using some to have a few passages of scripture translated from Latin to French. He then takes up the cause of evangelism. He and his followers call themselves “the Poor in Spirit,” but soon become known as “the Poor of Lyon.”



When Waldo and his followers ignore repeated warnings by the Archbishop of Lyon to stop preaching, their punishment is excommunication and exile. Waldo finds sanctuary among like-minded believers in the Waldensian Valleys of Italy, who buy into his zeal for evangelism and accept him as their leader.



The Poor of Lyon and the Poor Lombards of Northern Italy join forces at Bergamo, gaining greater solidarity for the Waldensian Movement and a stronger organizational framework evangelizing. Ultimately, the School of the Barbas is established to better serve that apostolic mission.



Cataneo’s War against the Waldensians, ignited by Pope Innocent VII’s declaration that “whoever kills a Waldensian will have pardon for his sins and the right to keep any property taken from his victim.”


1487 - 1689

The Waldenses fight 33 wars to defend their faith.



Waldenses join the Reformation at Chanforan and commission Olivetan to translate the Bible into French as their gift to the Reformation.


June 3, 1535

Olivetan’s French Bible is printed at Neuchatel, Switzerland.



Waldensians obtain permission to build their first churches.



The first Waldensian Synod (General Assembly) is held.



The Treaty of Cavour grants Waldensians tolerance of their faith. Though often broken, this treaty signifies that, for the first time, a religious group has earned the right to have a religion different from their ruler.



Charles Emmanuel II, Duke of Savoy, orders removal of the Waldensians from the Piedmont and “reduction of their numbers” to fit the confines of their ancient territorial boundaries in the Valleys.


April 17, 1655

“The Piedmontese Easter.” Italian and French armies, under command of the treacherous Marquis of Pianezza, unleash a massacre of such brutality and barbarism that all of Protestant Europe rises up in protest against the Duke of Savoy and King Louis XIV of France.


Aug. 6, 1663

All Waldensians are declared rebels and condemned to death, but they mount a stalwart defense. Swiss mediators persuade the Duke of Savoy to issue the Patente de Turin (February 24, 1664), once again allowing Waldensians freedom of worship within their Valleys.



Louis XIV demands that his cousin Victor Amadeus II, Duke of Savoy, destroy the Waldensian Church for harboring French Protestants in the Waldensian Valleys.


Jan. 31, 1686

Catinat’s War. Under command of Catinat, Italian and French armies pour into the Valleys, bent on slaughter and rampant destruction. In spite of brave resistance, 9,000 Waldensians are slain and 8,000 men, women, and children are imprisoned (where thousands die). Through Swiss intervention, 2,700 survivors are allowed to march across the frozen Alps into exile in Switzerland.


Aug. 16, 1689

Pastor Henri Arnaud leads a band of 900 Waldensian fighters in a daring plot to retake their homeland in Italy.


Sept. 1, 1689

“The Oath of Sibaud.” Waldensians pledge loyalty to one another to fight to the death until all their Valleys are reclaimed.


May 23, 1694

Victor Amadeus II issues an edict officially re-establishing the Waldensians in their Valleys and recognizing their religious liberty.


1698 - 1804

Though the wars have ceased, full civil and religious liberty remain elusive for Waldensians, who continue to endure severe restrictions, depending upon which rulers are in control.



General Charles Beckwith visits the Valleys and stays to build schools and personally fund tuition for Waldensian students to attend college in Switzerland.



King Charles Albert is warmly received by the Waldensians on a visit to the Valleys and has a fountain erected in Torre Pellice in their honor.


Feb. 17, 1848

“The Edict of Emancipation,” signed by King Charles Albert grants Waldensians their civil liberties.


1848 - 1893

Finally the Waldensians enjoy some measure of freedom, without constant fear of marauding soldiers and death. But their lives remain largely restricted to the ghetto of their Valleys.



Italy’s city states are consolidated into one unified country. The Waldensians establish a seminary in Florence, which in 1922 will move to Rome, where it remains today.



Overpopulation and starvation force many Waldenses to leave their beloved Valleys to other countries.


May 29, 1893

The first group of 29 Waldensians arrive in Burke County, founding Valdese, NC.


June 20, 1893

The colonists celebrate the first loaf of bread baked in their new community oven. Funds for the oven were raised by the women visiting nearby churches wearing their traditional Waldensian costume and singing French hymns.


May 8, 1901

Industry comes to Valdese (Waldensian Hosiery Mill), thus ushering in a new age of production and prosperity for both the town and the county.

bottom of page