Read: The History of the Waldensians by J.A. Wylie

Reading The History of the Waldensians was a great experience for me. As a child, my favorite book was a book about the Valdese. While other boys were fighting Indians and dragons in their backyard, I was loosing the arrow that slew the Black Mondovi, defending Rora with Gianavello, and marching with Arnaud in the Glorious Return.

When I found Wylie’s The History of the Waldensians in the Kindle store, I immediately downloaded it and began reading. Wylie gives a far more exhaustive history than I had ever previously read, and draws heavily on primary sources in languages that I cannot read. The story of a people who took such a firm stand for truth in the face of persecution for so many centuries inspires like nothing else. The testimony of Barthelemy Hector prior to his martyrdom is just one of the countless examples of the boldness of these simple mountain farmers in the face of the persecutions of the dragon.

“You have been caught in the act,” said his judge, “of selling books that contain heresy. What say you?” “If the Bible is heresy to you, it is truth to me,” replied the prisoner. “But you use the Bible to deter men from going to mass,” urged the judge. “If the Bible deters men from going to mass,” responded Barthelemy, “it is a proof that God disapproves of it, and that mass is idolatry.” The judge, deeming it expedient to make short shrift with such a heretic, exclaimed, “Retract.” “I have spoken only truth,” said the bookseller, “can I change truth as I would a garment?”

Sant'Ignazio_Church_2013-09-16
Church of Ignatius Loyola (chapel of Papal semenary until replaced by newer, larger church), Rome

Reading this history brought back memories of Italy, and the dramatic differences I noticed between the ornate and opulent churches and statuary in Rome and the simple churches of the Waldensian valleys. While the idol of Peter has a worn toe from all the people worshiping it, the churches in the valleys were devoid of not just of idols but also of frivolous ornamentation. Climbing to the cupola of St. Peter’s was fun, but climbing Mount Castelluzzo to the precipice where so many gave their lives for their faith in Christ was truly inspiring experience.

College of the Barbes (Vaudois semenary), Pra del Tor
College of the Barbes (Vaudois semenary), Pra del Tor

Despite my joy in discovering and reading this book, I did have some frustration with the Kindle edition I read. It appears that the transcription of the original was not adequately proofread, as there are more doubled words and misspellings that I have ever seen in a print book. This is in addition to the expected archaic spellings. The prevalence of these typos was not so high as to impact the readability of the book, but was high enough to be annoying.

In short, I highly recommend this book. Both the church history and military history of this small group that maintained such unswerving faith in the face of centuries of organized persecution and military assault are amazing testaments to the power of God to preserve both His Truth and His people.