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THE AMERICAN 

JOURNAL OF THEOLOGY 

Volume IV JULY, 1900 Number 3 



ORIGIN AND EARLY TEACHINGS OF THE WAL- 
DENSES, ACCORDING TO ROMAN CATHOLIC 
WRITERS OF THE THIRTEENTH CENTURY. 

By Henry C. Vedder, 
Chester, Pa. 

There is a large literature of the sect known as the Wal- 
denses, much of it in English, still more in French and German, 
but it has one defect that is at once curious and inexplicable. 
Few of those who have written on the subject show any 
acquaintance with our earliest sources of knowledge regarding 
the origin and primitive teachings of this interesting people. 
And even from books that contain some reference to these 
sources little is to be learned of their actual content. Cer- 
tainly, in no work accessible to English readers is there an 
■adequate account of the early Waldensians, based upon this 
material. It will not be a work of supererogation, therefore, to 
set forth somewhat in detail the considerable body of testimony 
regarding the beginnings of this sect — material which, though 
long known to a few scholars, has been so generally disregarded 
by those who have produced the bulk of the literature of the 
subject. 

Properly to estimate the value of testimony, we must know 
something regarding the intelligence, industry, and honesty of 

465 



466 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF THEOLOGY 

the witnesses. None of our testimony comes directly from the 
Waldenses. Our witnesses are all Roman Catholics, men of 
learning and ability, but as deeply prejudiced against a heretic 
as men could possibly be. This establishes at the outset a pre- 
sumption against the trustworthiness of their testimony, and is 
a warning to us that we must weigh it most carefully, and scruti- 
nize every detail before receiving it. But, on the other hand, 
our witnesses were men who had extraordinary opportunities for 
discovering the facts ; some were inquisitors for years, and give 
us the results of interrogating a large number of persons. One 
at least was in his early life a member of the Waldensian sect, 
and obtained his knowledge from within. And it should also 
seem that our witnesses had no motive to misstate facts, but 
rather the contrary. Our documents, with a single exception, 
are not polemic, not intended for the general public, but com- 
posed for the information and direction of fellow-inquisitors and 
administrators. Evidently, the writers did not knowingly set 
down that which would mislead those whom they were trying 
to assist. They may have misunderstood, they did not deliber- 
ately lie — such is the inevitable conclusion from a careful study 
of the writings. And when we come to combine and compare 
the statements, the agreement is so remarkable on all matters 
of importance as to compel the conviction that the testimony is 
substantially correct. Where there is error in the accounts it is 
comparatively easy to detect and correct it. And of one thing 
we may be certain : any evidence that is to the credit of the sect 
may be accepted as worthy of implicit faith. 

The documents from which quotations will be made, with few 
exceptions, are believed by the most competent scholars to have 
been composed by the year 1250 A. D., several of them before 
the year 1225. As the beginning of the events related by them 
cannot be placed earlier than the year 1 170, it is evident that we 
have in this case as nearly contemporary accounts as could well 
be expected. 

Probably the earliest mention of the Waldenses is that which 
occurs in a decree of Pope Lucius III., issued in 1181, in which 
he says : 



THE WALDENSES 467 

We decree to put under a perpetual anathema the Cathari and Patarini 
and those who falsely call themselves Humiliati or Poor of Lyons, the Pas- 
saging Josephini, Arnaldistae. 1 

There seems to be no room for doubt that the name "Poor 
of Lyons" [pauperes de Lugduno) is intended in this decree 
to describe those heretics known to us as Waldenses, since 
this was one of the earliest and most common names of the 
sect. This decree is chiefly valuable as affording us a date 
(approximate) for the origin of the sect ; it cannot, of course, 
be placed later than this ; apparently it need not be placed many 
years earlier. From this time onward mention of these heretics, 
under a great variety of names, becomes more and more frequent 
in the official documents of the church, 2 but from these sources 
we obtain few facts regarding their origin and teachings. We 
must go to private writings for fuller information. 

The first witness to be called is a writer named Alanus. The 
name was not an uncommon one, and the treatise Contra Haereti- 
cos has been assigned by scholars to different men bearing that 
name. The general opinion is, however, that its author was a 
highly esteemed monk of the Cistercian order, a voluminous 
writer, whose learning and abilities gained for him the surname 
of Universalis. He died in 1202. 3 His treatise is supposed to 

"Mansi, Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio, Vol. XXII, p. 476. This decree 
was confirmed by the council of Verona ; ibid., p. 488. 

2 For example, the synodal statutes of Odo, bishop of Toul, 1 192 : "Concerning 
heretics who are called VVadoys, we order all the faithful, both clerics and laymen, 
for the remission of their sins, that whosoever shall find them shall keep them bound 
with chains and bring them to the see of Toul to be punished." Alphonso, king of 
Aragon, in 1 194 issued this perpetual decree : "We command that the Waldenses or 
Insabati, who call themselves by another name, Poor of Lyons, and all other heretics, 
of whom there is no number, anathematized by the holy church, to depart and flee 
from our entire kingdom and domain, as enemies of the cross of Christ, violators of 
the Christian religion, public enemies of ourselves and of the kingdom. If anyone 
therefore, from this day forth, shall presume to receive into his house the aforesaid 
Waldenses and other heretics, of whatever profession they may be, or to listen to their 
deadly preaching in any place, or to give them food, or any other aid, let him know 
that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and ours ; and his goods shall be confis- 
cated without remedy of appeal, and he shall be punished just as for the crime of 
treason." For these and other like documents see D'Argentre, Collectio Judiciarum 
de novis erroribus, Paris, 1728, Vol. I, pp. 83 f. 

3 This we know from the " Chronica Albrici Monachi Trium Fontium," in Pertz, 
Monumenta Germ. Hist., Vol. XXIII, p. 881 : "Anno 1202. Apud Cistertium mortuus 
est hoc anno magister Alanus de Insulis, doctor Me famosus" etc. It is explained by 
some that he received his surname, de Insulis, because of his birth at Lille, Flanders. 



468 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF THEOLOGY 

have been written not long before his death, and thus belongs to 
the opening of the thirteenth century. In the second book of 
this writing, devoted especially to the Waldenses, he says : 

There are certain heretics who feign themselves righteous when they are 
wolves in sheep's clothing, concerning whom the Lord speaks in the gospel, 
" Beware of false prophets," etc., Matt. 7:15. These are called Waldenses, 
from their heresiarch, who was called Waldus ; who, led by his own spirit, 
not sent by God, invented a new sect, that is, without the authority of a 
prelate, without divine inspiration, without knowledge, without learning, he 
presumed to preach. Without reason a philosopher, without vision a prophet, 
without being sent an apostle, without instructor a teacher ; whose disciples, 
rather mousetraps, 4 in various parts of the world, seduce the simple, turn 
them away from the truth, do not turn them to the truth ; who to satisfy the 
belly rather than the mind presume to preach. 5 

Our next witness is Bernard, in his treatise Adversus Walden- 
sium Sectam, written about 1209, it is supposed. This is neither 
the famous Bernard of Clairvaux nor the less famous Bernard 
of Clugny, but a comparatively unknown man, chiefly dis- 
tinguished as the abbot of a monastery of the Premonstrants or 
White Canons, known as Fons Callidus or Hot Spring, in the 
diocese of Narbonne. He says : 

Under Lucius [III.], of renowned memory, the presiding lord of the Holy 
Roman church, suddenly new heretics raised their heads, who, by a certain 
presage of things to be, received a name and were called Waldenses, that is, 
from a dark valley (a valle densa),* because they are involved in the profound 
and dense darkness of errors. These, though condemned by the aforesaid 
pope, by bold daring spewed out far and wide over the world the poison of 
their falsehood.' 

Our next witness is one Peter, described as Monachus vallium 
Carnaii, or Vaux Sernai, in the diocese of Paris, who wrote a 

4 The pun in Latin, discifuli — muscipuli, is feeble, even for a mediaeval monk, 
and fortunately cannot be imitated in English. 

5 Migne, Patrol. Lat., Vol. CCX, pp. 306 f. 

6 The names and doctrines of the heretical sects afforded Roman writers endless 
opportunities for the making of vile puns. I have met with one even worse than the 
above : " But certain ones are called Waldenses, because they remain in the valley of 
tears." This is the handiwork of Ebrard Bethunensis, of Flanders, in his Liber anti- 
hcuresis, cap. 25; Bib. Max., PP. Vol. XXIV, pp. 1525 f. 

» Migne, Patrol. Lat., Vol. CCIV, p. 793 ; also Gallandi, Vet. Pat. Bib., Vol. 
XIV, pp. 520 f. 



THE WALDENSES 469 

Historia Albigensium covering the years 1206-17, supposed to 
have been completed not later than 12 18. He refers briefly, but 

quite significantly, to this sect : 

There were besides other heretics who were called Waldenses, from a 
certain Lyonese, Waldius by name. These indeed were wicked, but in com- 
parison with other heretics were far less perverse. For in many things they 
agreed with us, but in many things they differed. 8 

One of the most valuable accounts among all those available 
is that of Stephen de Bourbon, also known as Stephen de bella 
villa. He was a member of the Dominican order, spent much 
of his life in the very region where the Waldenses had their 
origin, personally knew many of the chief actors, and died at 
Lyons in 1261. Part of his materials were thus gathered at first 
hand; the rest he obtained as an inquisitor — "as I know and 
have found out by many inquisitions and confessions of theirs 
under trial," he tells us, "as well of the perfect as of the believ- 
ers, written down from their mouths and received from many 
witnesses against them." This use by Stephen of the terms 
perfecti and credentes, as applied to Waldenses, affords ground 
for suspicion that he, as well as other writers of the period, 
did not clearly discriminate between Waldenses and Albigenses. 
Stephen's chief work, De Septent Donis Spiritus Sancti, composed 
about 1225, has never been published in full, and still exists only 
in a MS. in the library of the Sorbonne ; but the part relating to 
the Waldenses has been printed. The author says : 

Fourthly, we must speak of the heretics of our time, namely, the Wal- 
denses and Albigenses .... The Waldenses are named from the first author 
of that heresy, who was named Waldensis. They are also called the Poor of 
Lyons, because there they began with the profession of poverty. But they 
call themselves the poor in spirit, because the Lord says, Matt. 5:3," Blessed 
are the poor in spirit." And truly they are poor in spirit, in spiritual goods 
and in the Holy Spirit. However, this sect began after this manner, as I 
have heard from many who seemed to be chief among them, and from that 
priest who was greatly honored and rich in the city of Lyons (and a friend of 
our Brothers) who was called Bernard Ydros. Who, when he was a youth 
and a scribe, wrote for the aforesaid Waldensis for money the first books that 
they had in Romance (a certain Stephen de Ansa translating and dictating to 
him) ; who, after he had received a benefice in the greater church at Lyons, 

"D'Argentre, Vol. I, p. 02 ; Migne, Vol. CCXIII, p. 548. 



47° THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF THEOLOGY 

was promoted to the priesthood, and, falling from the balcony of a house he 
built, ended his life by a sudden death — whom I have often seen. 

A certain rich man in the aforesaid city, called Waldensis, hearing the 
gospels, as he was not very literate, and being curious to understand what 
they said, made a bargain with the aforesaid priests — with one that he would 
translate them for him into the vernacular (in vulgart), with the other that 
he should write what the former would dictate, which they did. They also 
wrote many books of the Bible, and many extracts (auctoritates) from the 
saints, arranged by title, which they called sentences. When the aforesaid 
citizen had often read these and learned them by heart, he purposed to keep 
evangelical perfection as the apostles kept it. Having sold all his goods, and 
in contempt of the world cast his money in the mire to the poor, he usurped 
the office of the apostles, and presumed by preaching through the streets and 
squares the gospels and those things that he retained in his heart. And call- 
ing many men and women to him to do the same, confirming the gospels in 
them, he also sent them through the surrounding towns to preach in the 
meanest possible manner. These, men and women equally, entering houses 
and preaching in the streets and even in the churches, incited others to do 
the same. 

But, since they through boldness and ignorance spread abroad many 
errors and scandals, they were cited by the archbishop of Lyons, whose name 
was John, who prohibited them from expounding the Scriptures or preaching. 
But they took refuge in the response of the apostles, Acts 5 : 29. Their 
leader usurping the office of Peter, as he replied to the chief priest, said, 
"' One must obey God rather than man;' God commanded the apostles in 
the last of Mark, ' Preach the gospel to every creature.' " As if God said 
this to them that he said to the apostles ; who nevertheless would not have 
presumed to preach, had they not been endued with power from on high, 
had they not been most perfectly and fully illumined with knowledge and 
received the gift of all tongues. 

They therefore, that is, Waldensis and his people, in consequence of pre- 
sumption and usurpation of the apostolic office, at first fell into disobedience, 
then into contumacy, but last under sentence of excommunication. After- 
ward, driven from that land, being cited to the council held at Rome before 
the Lateran, 9 and proving persistent, they were afterward adjudged schis- 
matics. Later, in the land of Provence and Lombardy, mingling with other 
heretics and imbibing their errors, and sowing them, they were adjudged 
the most pestilent heretics, the most corrupt (infectissimi, most deeply dyed) 
and dangerous, running everywhere and feigning a likeness of holiness and 

'"The Lateran council," without further qualification, would mean to every 
reader at the time these words were written the great council of 121 5, under Innocent 
III. The one before that would, of course, be the third Lateran, of 1 1 79. This agrees 
perfectly with the statements of other authorities quoted or to be quoted. 



THE WALDENSES 47 I 

faith, but not having the reality — the most dangerous because hidden, chang- 
ing their appearance by various dresses and trades. 

Sometimes a great one among them was taken who bore about with him 
the tokens {indicia) of many trades, by which like Proteus he was accustomed 
to change his appearance (se transfigurabai). If he was sought for undei 
one disguise, and he became aware of it, he chose another. Sometimes he 
bore the dress and signs of a pilgrim ; sometimes the staff and iron imple- 
ments (ferramenta) of a penitent. Sometimes he pretended to be a shoe- 
maker, a barber, a reaper, etc. Others do the like. 

This sect began about the year 1 1 70 from the incarnation of the Lord, 
under John, called Bolesmanis, archbishop of Lyons. 10 

Another witness of almost equal value has until recently been 
identified with Reinerus Sachonus Placentius, a learned writer 
who was in youth a member of the Cathari or Waldenses," but 
afterward became a Catholic. He entered the Dominican order 
and became one of the most zealous persecutors of his former 
associates, being for some years an inquisitor in Lombardy. 
His Summa de Catharis et Leonistis is not a polemic, but a treatise 
for the information of other inquisitors. What he writes is 
therefore not only founded on knowledge of the most accurate 
kind, but is evidently honest in intent, and from it we gain valu- 
able information regarding the Waldensian teachings. It was 
until lately supposed that, having written this treatise in the 
year 1230, Reinerus added to it certain other things about the 
Waldenses about 1250. Gieseler was the first to point out" 
that this second part was by another writer altogether, whom he 
called pseudo-Reinerus. Dr. Preger 13 has since made it clear 

10 D'Argentre, Vol. I, pp. 87-9. The surname Bolesmanis, given by Stephen to 
Archbishop John of Lyons, is a corruption of his true title, de bellis manibus. 

11 Our only information is a sentence in the Summa : " Ego autem frater Ranerius 
olim haeresirarcha." He is speaking at the time of the Cathari, but it is by no means 
plain to me that he intended to distinguish clearly between them and the Poor of 
Lyons. 

" De Rainerii Summa Commentatio critica, Gottingen, 1834. 

"3 Beitrdge zur Geschichte der Waldesier im Mittelalter, Abhandlungen der 
konigl, bayer. Akademie der Wissenschaften, III. Classe, XIII. Bd., I. Abth. ; also 
separately, Munchen, 1875. The pseudo-Reinerus or Passau anonymous document in 
its original form is the third in his collection. But I have called by the same name, in 
default of a better, the extracts made by Gretser and copied by D'Argentre', though 
some are from other sources. 



47 2 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF THEOLOGY 

that the original document was compiled by an ecclesiastic, evi- 
dently an inquisitor, in the diocese of Passau, whom he named 
the Passau anonymous ; and by that title the author is likely 
henceforth to be known, unless his true name transpires. On 
the origin of the sect he writes as follows : 

Observe that the sect of the Poor of Lyons, who are also called Leonistae, 
arose after this manner. "When some of the chief citizens were together in 
Lyons, it happened that one of them died suddenly before them. On which 
account one of them was so greatly terrified that he immediately spent a 
great treasure on the poor, and on account of this a very great multitude of 
the poor flocked to him. These he taught to maintain voluntary poverty, 
and to be imitators of Christ and the apostles. But since he had little knowl- 
edge of letters, he taught them the text of the New Testament in the ver- 
nacular {vulgariter). When he was reproved for this temerity, he despised 
[reproof] and began to insist upon his doctrine, saying to his disciples that 
the clergy, since they were of evil life, hated their holy life and doctrine. But 
when the pope pronounced sentence of excommunication upon them, he per- 
sistently despised it. And so to this day in all those lands their doctrine and 
rancor increases. 

Our next witness is a chronicle of the period that ends 
abruptly with the year 1 2 19, and gives every indication in its 
contents that its compilation was finished at about that time. 
Nothing is known of its author, except that he was a citizen of 
Lodi, but the chronicle gives internal evidence of his diligence 
and usual accuracy. What he says about the Waldenses has at 
least this significance : it gives the account that was current in 
his day of the origin of the sect ; beyond this he may or may 
not have had access to first-hand sources of information : 

In the same year (1 173) of our Lord's incarnation there was at Lyons, 
in Gaul, a certain citizen, Valdesius by name, who through the wickedness 
of usury had accumulated great wealth. He on a certain Sunday, when 
he was turning away from a crowd that he saw gathered about a jester 
(joculatorem), was pricked by his words, and, bringing him to his house, was 
solicitous to hear him carefully. For there was a passage in his story in 
which the blessed Alexis rested at his happy end in the house of his father. 
When it was morning, the citizen hastened to the celebrated schools of 
theology, to seek counsel for his soul ; and, being taught about many ways of 
going to God, inquired of the master which of all the ways is surer and more 
perfect. To whom the master returned our Lord's saying : " If thou wouldst 
be perfect, go and sell all thou hast," etc. And coming to his wife, he gave 



THE WALDENSES 473 

her the option whether from all his property — on land and sea, groves, 
meadows, houses, revenues, vineyards, as well as millhouses, and bakeries — 
she would choose to keep the real or personal estate. She, although very sad 
that it was needful to do this, kept the real estate. He indeed from the per- 
sonal property made restitution to those he had wronged, but a great part of 
his money he gave to his two little girls, whom he transferred without their 
mother's knowledge to the Abbey of Fontevrault (Fons-Evrardus) ; but a 
great part he expended for the use of the poor. For a mighty famine was 
then moving through all Gaul and Germany. But the celebrated citizen 
Valdesius gave bountifully, from Pentecost to the [feast of the] chains of St. 
Peter, 14 to all who came to him, bread and a portion of flesh. On the 
Assumption of the blessed Virgin he distributed a certain sum of money 
through the streets among the poor, and called aloud, saying : " No one can 
serve two masters, God and mammon." Then the citizens, running together, 
thought he had lost his reason. And ascending into a higher place, he says : 
" O citizens and friends of mine ! I am not insane, as you think, but I am 
avenged upon these my enemies, who have made me their slave, since always 
I have been more anxious about money than about God, and have served the 
creature rather than the creator. I know that most blame me because I have 
done this openly. But I have done it for my own sake and for you : for 
myself, in order that they who may see me hereafter possess money may say 
that I am mad ; but also for your sake in part have I done this, that you may 
learn to put your trust in God and not trust in riches." 

But on the following day, returning from church, he begged a certain 
citizen, a former associate of his, for the sake of God to give him something 
to eat. The latter brought him to his guest-chamber, and said : "As long 
as I live, I grant you the necessaries " [of life]. When this affair came to 
the notice of his wife, she was not a little grieved, but as one distracted she 
ran to the archbishop of the city and lamented that her husband should beg 
bread from another than her. Which thing moved to tears all who were 
present, with the prelate himself. Then, in accordance with the command of 
the prelate, the burgher brought his guest with him to the presence of the 
prelate. But the woman, seizing her husband by the coat, says : " Man, is 
it not better that I should atone for my sins by charity to thee, than a 
stranger ? " And from then it was not permitted him, by command of the 
archbishop in that city, to take food with others than his wife. 15 

14 A feast celebrated at Rome August I, and in the West generally. The eastern 
church has a different date, owing to the use of the Julian calendar. The Assumption 
is celebrated August 15. For the origin of these feasts and the ideas connected with 
them see Addis and Wright's Catholic Dictionary. 

'5 Ex Chronico universali anonymi Laudcnsis, in Pertz, Mon. Germ. Hist., Vol. 
XXVI, pp. 447 f. 



474 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF THEOLOGY 

The last witness we shall call 16 is the author of the Tractatus de 
inquisitioTie Haereticorum. This was formerly supposed to be the 
work of a Dominican friar and inquisitor, named Yvonetus, of 
whom little else was known. Of the three MSS. of the writing 
known to exist, one in Stuttgart ascribes the tract to David of 
Augsburg, a Franciscan. Drs. Pfeiffer and Preger have now 
established the authorship of David beyond reasonable doubt, 
and the latter scholar has published a critical text of the tract. 17 
In the text as hitherto printed there is a paragraph prefixed, 
which internal evidence shows clearly enough to be no part of 
the document itself ; and it is so nearly verbally identical with 
the account by Stephen of Bourbon as to be almost certainly 
derived from that source. 18 The genuine account of David 
begins thus : 

The rise of this sect, which is called Pover de Leun, or Pauperes de 
Lugduno (as I have heard from several sources, also from some of them who 
seem to have returned to the faith, for I was present at their examinations), is 
said to have been on this wise : At Lyons there were certain simple laymen 
who, inflamed by a certain spirit and setting themselves above others, boasted 
that they wished to live altogether according to gospel doctrine and to keep 
it to the very letter. They demanded from the lord pope, Innocent [III.], that 
this mode of life should be confirmed to them and their followers by his 
authority, until this time acknowledging that the primacy of apostolic power 
resided with him. Afterward they began of themselves — that they might 
show themselves more fully as disciples of Christ and successors of the 

16 This is not, however, for lack of further material. D'Argentre' gives a number 
of similar accounts by other writers, mostly later than 1250. For example : Guido 
de Perpiniano, a Carmelite, who wrote about 1342; Eymericus, in his Dirtctorio 
[nquisitorum, about 1376; Robertas Gaguinus in his Historia Francorum. As many 
more names might be added. None of these writers can be said to contribute any- 
thing to what is already recorded ; the few additional particulars in their accounts are 
probably false ; some are certainly so, as when Guido charges promiscuous immorality 
against the Waldenses. On the testimony of Moneta see note 20, below. 

"7 Der Tractat des David von Augsburg iiber die Waldesier, von Dr. W. Preger, 
in the Abhandlungen der k. bayer. Akadcmie der fViss., III. CI., XIV. Bd., 2. Abth., 
pp. 183-235. Also separately, Miinchen, 1878. 

* 8 It will be found in Martene and Durand's Thesaurus novus Anecdoiorum, 
Vol. V, pp. 1777 f., printed as an inseparable part of the document attributed by the 
editors to Yvonetus. On grounds of internal evidence alone one would be inclined 
to agree with Dr. Preger that this is an error; but when this paragraph is missing 
from the three extant MSS. of the tractate, there is no case left to be argued. 



THE WALDENSES 47$ 

apostles — boastfully to take to themselves even the office of preaching, say- 
ing that Christ commanded his disciples to preach the gospel. And because 
they set themselves up to interpret the words of the gospel in the proper 
signification, seeing no others keeping the gospel according to the letter, as 
they boasted they wished to do, they said that they alone were true imitators 
of Christ. When the church saw them usurp the office of preaching, which 
had not been committed to them, since they were uneducated and laymen, 
she prohibited them, as was fitting, and excommunicated them when unwilling 
to obey. But they despised in this the keys of the church, saying that the 
clergy did this through envy, because they saw them (Waldenses) to be better 
than themselves, and to teach better, and in consequence of this to have 
greater favor with the people. For a good and perfect work, such as teach- 
ing the faith and doctrine of Christ, no one should or can be excommunicated, 
and against the doctrine of Christ no one ought by any means to obey anyone 
prohibiting such a good work. That excommunication they thought to be an 
eternal benediction for them, and gloried that they were successors of the 
apostles ; that as they (the apostles) were put out of the synagogue by scribes 
and Pharisees for the teaching of the gospel, and were under their curse and 
persecution, so they also suffered similar things from the clergy. Thus 
haughty presumption in the garb and pretext of sanctity brought in the blind- 
ness of peculiar heretical wickedness. For evangelical perfection would 
rather teach to obey humbly the teachers and rulers of the church than to 
separate from Catholic unity through the pride of singularity. 

From these accounts we gather certain facts that may be 
regarded as certainly established. The sect known as Wal- 
denses, or Poor of Lyons, originated about the year 1170, in 
consequence of the teachings of a citizen of Lyons, whose name 
was probably Waldo. 19 The traditions of an earlier origin, 
stretching back even to the days of the apostles, are mere fables. 20 

•'It is noteworthy that the name Peter is not given by any of the earlier authori- 
ties. It is not found, in fact, until the beginning of the fifteenth century. But it is 
traditional among the Waldenses as the real name of their founder, and the tradition 
may be accepted without much question. 

*° This conclusion from the documents already examined is strongly confirmed by 
the polemics of Moneta of Cremona, a Dominican inquisitor, in a treatise Contra Catharos 
et Valdenses, Romae, 1743, pp. 402 f. He says: "That the aggregate of the Poor of 
Lyons is not the church of God will be plain if its origin is considered. For it was 
not long ago that they began, since, as it appears, they take their rise from Valdesius, 
a citizen of Lyons, who began this way. They have been in existence not more than 
eighty years (if so many, rathei less than more). Therefore they are not the 
successors of the primitive church ; therefore they are not the church of God. But if 
they say that their way existed before Valdensis, let them show it by some proof, 
which they are not in the least able to do In the fourth place, the same appears 



476 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF THEOLOGY 

Not only are they utterly at variance with the unanimous testi- 
mony of the writers above quoted, but the one Waldensian 
document that can fairly claim an equal antiquity with these 
sources is equally clear in ascribing the origin of the sect to 
Waldo. 21 There is more than a possibility that some of the 
groups into which the sect was divided have an origin prior to 

from ecclesiastical orders, which they admit to be at least threefold, to wit, bishops, 
presbyters, and deacons. Without these threefold orders the church of God cannot 
and should not exist, as they themselves witness. Let us then say to them : If there 
is no church of God without these orders, your origin is certainly without them ; 
therefore you are not the church of God. But if one says, Our origin had those 
orders, I ask from whom it had them, for who is your bishop ? If they say, such a 
man, tell us who ordained him. If they say, a certain man, I ask also who ordained 
that other one, and so ascending they are compelled to come to Valdesius. Then let 
it be asked whence he had his orders. If they say, from himself, it is evident 
that if this is so it is opposed to the apostle, Heb. 5 : 4. But if Valdesius has his 
order from himself, he has called himself to be high priest. He was, therefore, Anti- 
christ, that is, opposed to Christ and his church. If they say that he had his order 
directly from God, they are able to offer no proof from Scripture ; for by the same 
reasoning anybody pretending to be a good man might say the same, and so lead a sect 

of perdition But it should be known that some say that Valdesius had his 

orders from the whole of his brethren. But of those who have said this the chief 
was a certain heresiarch of the Lombard Poor, a perverted doctor named Thomas. 
He attempted to prove it thus : Anyone of that congregation could give Valdesius his 
right, to wit, to rule himself ; and so the whole congregation could confer and did 
confer on Valdesius the rule of all, and so they created him high priest and prelate 
of all. But if that heresiarch had understood how foolish that is, he would never 
have let it come from his mouth. For every pontificate is a rule, but not every rule is 
a pontificate ; whence then it follows they were able to give him the rule of them- 
selves, but a pontificate — ? Does it follow because I can give you one thing I can 

give you another ? Not at all Fifthly, it appears that they are not the church 

of God, through the lack of preaching. For just as it was proved that they lack orders, 
so also it can be proved that they lack the office of preaching. By the word of 
the apostle, Rom. 10:15, 'How shall they preach unless they are sent ? ' But they 
cannot show that they were sent by anyone having authority to send. At the last we 
come again to Valdesius who was the first of them. Concerning whom it is not known 
by whom he was sent, unless by the pope. They are not, therefore, the church of God, 
which has orders and the office of preaching, while they have neither." Moneta, who 
wrote about 1250, is perhaps of less value as an original authority than the other 
writers cited ; we know little of his means of informing himself accurately, and his 
work is of a different character from those cited above. But his challenge indicates 
that the Waldenses themselves had little confidence in the validity of their claims 
of antiquity. 

" The Rescriplum Heresiarcharum Lombardic ad Pauperis de Lugduno, qui sunt 
in AUmania, first published in the Beitriige of Preger. We owe the preservation of 
this document to the zeal of the Passau anonymous against the Waldenses. 



THE WALDENSES 477 

Waldo. For myself, I regard it as satisfactorily established that 
the Poor of Lombardy, commonly identified with the Waldenses, 
had an independent origin, and were descended from that more 
or less evangelical party in Italy which, under the various titles 
of Humiliati, Arnoldistse, Paterini, Pauliciani, existed several 
centuries prior to the time of Waldo. In southern France itself 
it is demonstrable that the Petrobrusians, who preceded the 
Waldensians by a half century, were even more evangelical than 
the followers of Waldo. My own conclusion from all the facts 
thus far established is that the Waldenses absorbed and gave 
their name to preexisting sects of evangelical believers, like the 
Petrobrusians, and that thus, and thus only, can we satisfactorily 
account for the rapid growth and wide diffusion of the Waldenses 
and their teachings in the thirteenth century. Many bits of 
scattered evidence confirm this view, but there is no space for 
further discussion in this article. 22 

It is plain also that in the beginning of his work, at least, 
Waldo had no idea that he was a heretic, and no intention of 
causing a schism. He was not guilty of any offense in having 
the Scriptures translated or in repeating and explaining them to 
others. It was not until the synod of Toulouse, in 1229, that 
the Roman church, taught by its experience with the Waldenses 
the danger of letting the common people have the Scriptures in 
the vernacular, forbade laymen to have either the Old or the 
New Testament, save such portions as might be contained in the 
ordinary books of devotion.^ The synod of Tarragon, 1234, 
followed up this prohibition by forbidding even priests to have 
the Scriptures in the vernacular and commanding all who owned 

"For example, see the letter of Evervinus Steinfeldensis to Bernard of Clairvaux 
in D'Argentre, Vol. I, p. 33, and note how the errors of these "new heretics" therein 
described conform to those of the Waldenses. Compare also their examination (as 
related in D'Argentre, Vol. I, pp. 65 f.) held at Narbonne in 1165 (especially at the 
top of p. 66). 

33 Concilium Tolosanum, Anno 1229, Cap. XIV: " Prohibemus etiam,ne libros 
veteris teslamenti aut novi, laid permittantur habere: nisi forte psalterium, vel breva- 
rium pro Divinis officiis, aut horas beatae Mariae aliquis ex devotione habere velit. Sed 
ne praemissos libros habeant in vulgari translates, arctissime inhibemus." (Mansi, Vol. 
XXII, p. 196.) 



478 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF THEOLOGY 

copies to bring them to their bishop to be burned.' 4 But no 
such ex post facto law of the church can be conceived to apply to 
Waldo. None of the accounts charge Waldo with teaching any 
false doctrine at first. The whole gravamen of the charges 
against him is that, being an ignorant layman, he presumed to 
preach. Everything points to the conclusion, as already hinted, 
that this preaching consisted in little or nothing more than the 
repetition of the words of Scripture to those who would hear. 
The story of the Lodi chronicler already related throws light in 
this matter. Waldo was first awakened, he tells us, by hearing a 
traveling "jester" (query, does not the joculator of the chronicler 
simply mean the jongleur, who in mediaeval times combined 
minstrelsy with juggling?) recite the story of Saint Alexis — a 
story that is extant in the French of that period. It was easy 
for one who could recite such tales to gather a crowd about 
him, and Waldo found it equally easy, no doubt, to induce men 
to stop in the streets and hear the stories about Jesus that he had 
learned by heart from the gospels. This the jealous clergy con- 
strued as "preaching," and they hastened to put a stop to this 
trespassing upon their prerogative. 

It was at this point that John de bellis manibus, archbishop of 
Lyons, interfered with the work of Waldo and his followers. 
There was then no other ground whatever for interference, as all 
the narratives agree. For the other features of the Waldensian 
manners were quite regular, and such as the church then and 
always approved. The vow of poverty, the going forth two by 
two, the black garb, the discarding of shoes in favor of sandals 
— these were then, had long been, and long continued to be, the 
common features of religious orders established under church 
patronage and receiving the highest approval of prelates of every 
rank. The Waldenses were treated as offenders only because 
they threatened collision with the priesthood and its prerogatives. 
Here was something that the church hated as much as any heresy. 

'* Conventus Tarraconensis, Anno 1234, Canon ii: "Item, statuitur, ne aliquis 
libros veleris vel novi testamenti in Romanico habeat, infra octo dies post publicationem 
hujusmodi constitutions a tempore sententiae, tradat eos loci episcopo comburendos, quod 
nisi fecerit, sive clericus fuerit, sive laicus, tamquam suspectus de haeresi, quousque se 
purgaverit, habeatur." (Mansi, Vol. XXIII, p. 329.) 



THE WALDENSES 479 

It was built on a theory of salvation through certain sacraments, 
dispensed through a sacred priesthood, upon whom power to do 
this was conferred by "orders" sacramentally transmitted from 
the apostles. Permit a mere layman, to whom no sacred chrism 
had given this mysterious power of administering the sacraments, 
to engage in the almost sacramental work of preaching ! It was 
not for a moment to be considered possible. 

It is not fanciful to trace an exact parallel, to this point, 
between Waldo and Francis of Assisi. Francis was arrested in 
the midst of a frivolous career by the grace of God, and made a 
new creature. He like Waldo began to tell to others in a simple 
way, mostly in private conversation, what had been wrought in 
him by the power of God — taking the vow of poverty, clad in a 
simple robe girt with a rope, wearing sandals or going with bare 
feet. Francis had also gathered about him a few friends — 
twelve in all there are said to have been — and in his case also 
the jealousy of priests and prelates was aroused, and his work 
was in imminent danger of being laid under the ban of the church. 
The parallel is perfect, deed for deed, and that without any 
straining of the facts. 

Waldo determined to appeal from Archbishop John to the 
pope. At this point the accounts that have thus far been cited fail 
us, whether from lack of knowledge on the part of the writers, or 
unwillingness to tell the facts, can only be conjectured. But we 
have from a very different source a full account of what occurred. 
Walter Mapes, or Map, an English delegate to the Lateran 
council of 1 1 79, has described the appearance of the Waldenses 
in this body : 

I saw in the Roman Council under the renowned pope, Alexander III., 25 
Waldenses, ignorant and unlettered, named from their chief, Valdis, who was a 
citizen of Lyons on the Rhone. They presented to the lord pope a book 
written in the Gallic tongue, in which was contained the Psalter and most of 

35 DlECKHOFF {Die Waldenser im Mittelalter, Gottingen, 1851, pp. 343 f.) argues 
that for Alexander III. in the above we must read Innocent III., and that the year of 
the council was 1210. This is an arbitrary change, for which no good reason is 
assigned, and makes necessary a chronology of early Waldensian history that is, to put 
it mildly, extremely improbable. Such handling of historical documents, though pro- 
posed in the name of critical scholarship, is a defiance of all genuinely critical treat- 
ment of sources. 



480 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF THEOLOGY 

the books of both laws, and a glossary. These people were asking with much 
insistence that their right to preach should be confirmed, because they con- 
sidered themselves worthy, though they were mere dunces {vix scioli). I, 
the least of the many thousands summoned, was laughing at them, because 
any consideration or delay was given to their petition ; and being called by a 
certain great prelate to whom the pope committed the care of confessions, I 
took my seat prepared for the contest. And many who were learned in the 
canon law and wise being associated [with me], there were brought before me 
two Waldenses who seemed to be chiefs in their sect, to dispute with me con- 
cerning the faith, not for love of seeking truth, but that being refuted my 
mouth might be closed as hostile to the truth. I acknowledge I took my seat 
with perturbation, lest for my sins the grace of speech should be denied me 
in so grand a council. But the pontiff directed me to question them, which 
I was ready to do. I commenced with the easiest questions, of which nobody 
should be ignorant, knowing that when an ass is eating oats he does not dis- 
dain lettuce. *' Do you believe in God the Father ? " They answered : " We 
believe." "And in the Son?" They answered :" We believe." "And in 
the Holy Ghost ? " They answered : " We believe." " And in the mother of 
Christ ?" And they again : "We believe." At this the whole assembly burst 
out laughing. 26 Our friends retired in confusion, and properly ; because they 
are ruled by no one and long to be rulers, resembling Phaeton, who did not 
even know the names of his horses. These people have no fixed abodes ; 
they go about two by two, barefooted with a woolen tunic, possessing nothing, 
having all things in common like the apostles ; poor themselves, they follow 
a Christ who is poor. They begin now in a most humble way, because they 
hardly know how to lift the foot ; if we admit them, we shall be turned out. 27 

This account does not mention Waldo by name ; indeed, it 
rather implies that he was not present. Another informant, the 
chronicler of Lodi from whom we have already quoted, tells us 
that Waldo went to Rome in person, and gives this account of the 
matter : 

In the year of grace 1 1 78. The Lateran council was summoned by pope 

Alexander, the third of that name This council condemned heresy and 

all promoters of heresy as well as defenders. Waldesius was embraced by 

26 The exquisiteness of this joke depends on the fact that the Waldenses should 
have replied: "No, we believe on the mother of Christ." Credere in is properly 
applied only to the three persons of the Trinity. That these Waldenses should be 
ignorant of a distinction by no means always observed even by trained Roman theo- 
logians is not surprising. 

2 'Mapes, De nugis curialium, edited by Wright, "Camden Society Publica- 
tions," 1850. Also quoted, as to the above passage, by Usshkr, De Christianum 
Ecclesiarum Successione et Statu, Works, Dublin ed., Vol. II, pp. 244, 245. 



THE WALDENSES 48 1 

the pope, who approved the vow of poverty he had voluntarily made, but com- 
manded him that neither he himself nor his associates should assume the 
office of preaching, except at the request of the priests. Which precept they 
observed for a short time ; but afterward becoming disobedient it resulted in 
scandal to many and to him in a threat [of excommunication ?]. 

This does not claim to be the testimony of an eyewitness, 
but, as it does not positively contradict anything said by Mapes, 
it may be true, though it must be received with some dubiety. 

So much for the testimony of contemporary (or nearly con- 
temporary) documents to the facts regarding the origin of the 
Waldenses. The agreement of the sources is not less striking 
and instructive when we come to inquire of them what were the 
distinctive teachings of the sect in its early years. There are, 
to be sure, variations, but these mostly concern unimportant 
details, and are no greater than we should expect from inde- 
pendent witnesses. The variations are, in fact, such as to estab- 
lish the good faith, independence, and general trustworthiness 
of the testimony. The documents are too long, and contain too 
many unimportant particulars, to render it advisable to print them 
here in full ; but the more significant statements of the writers 
already quoted, and a few others, regarding the Waldensian 
teachings are summarized under a few heads. I have taken 
great pains fairly to represent, not only the general agreement, 
but the variations, in the testimony : 

The Scriptures. — Everything preached that is not proved by the text of 
the Bible they hold to be fable They know by heart the New Testa- 
ment and most of the Old Testament in the vulgar tongue They 

assert that the doctrine of Christ and the apostles, without the decrees of the 

church, suffices for salvation They oppose the mystical sense in the 

Scriptures. (Passau anonymous.) 

They do not receive the Old Testament for believing, but teach only a 
few things from that source, in order that they may attack us and defend 
themselves ; saying that when the gospel came all old things passed away. 
So also they select the words of the saints, Augustine, Jerome, Gregory, 
Ambrose, John Chrysostom, Isidore, and mutilated extracts (auctoritates) 
from their books, that by these they may fortify their inventions and with- 
stand us, or more easily lead astray the simple, coloring sacrilegious teaching 
with the beautiful sentences of the saints. But those opinions of the saints 
that they see to be contrary to them, by which their error is destroyed, they 

pass by in silence They have also made some verses {rithmos) which 

they call the thirty steps of St. Augustine, in which they teach how virtue 
should be followed and vice detested, and cleverly insert their rites and here- 
sies, so that they may be the better drawn to saying them, and fix them the 



482 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF THEOLOGY 

more strongly in the memory — just as we give to the laity the creed and the 
Lord's prayer — and they have for this purpose compiled other beautiful 
hymns (carmind). (David of Augsburg.) 

Salvation, purgatory. — God alone can absolve from sin ; God alone can 

excommunicate It suffices for salvation to confess to God alone and 

not to men ; and external penances are not necessary to salvation ; but when- 
ever any sinner repents, however great and many the sins he has committed, 

if he dies he immediately rises (statim evolat, i. e., to heaven) They 

assert that there is no purgatorial punishment save in the present, nor do the 
prayers of the church profit the dead, nor does anything done for them. 
(Stephen of Bourbon.) 

They say there is no purgatory, but all, when they die, immediately go 
either to heaven or to hell. Wherefore prayers offered by the church for the 
dead, they assert, do not avail ; since those in heaven do not need them, and 
those in hell are not at all assisted. They say also that the saints in heaven 
do not hear the prayers of the faithful, nor the praises by which we honor 
them. They argue that since the bodies of the saints lie here dead, and their 
spirits are so far removed from us in heaven, they can by no means hear our 
prayers ; because, absorbed in heavenly joy, they cannot take heed of us, or 
care for anything else. (David of Augsburg.) 

They blaspheme those that dwell in heaven when they say that apostles, 

martyrs, and the citizens of heaven cannot aid those who pray There 

are, indeed, some heretics that say souls separated from the body at once 

ascend to heaven or descend into the punishment of hell There are, 

on the other hand, those that say souls cannot enter either heaven or hell 
before judgment. But the souls of the just are kept in pleasant refuges 
ireceptacula), while the spirits of the wicked are in places of punishment. 
The refuges of the pious are called paradise, while the places of punishment 
of the evil are called hell. But after the judgment the elect will possess 
heavenly mansions, and the wicked will be tormented with the tortures of 
hell. (Bernard.) 28 

Prayers and alms cannot profit the dead, to remission of sins ; nor do 
indulgences given by our lord the pope, or by other prelates, profit anyone. 
(Be Modo Rrocedendi.)** 

They deny purgatory, saying there are only two ways, namely, one of the 
elect to heaven, the other of the damned to hell. (Passau anonymous.) 

The church. — They say that the Roman church is not the church of 
Jesus Christ, but is a church of wicked men (malignantiuni), and the true 
church ceased to exist under Sylvester, when the poison of temporal things 
was infused into the church. And they say that they themselves are the 
church of Christ, because in word and act they observe the teaching of 

Christ, the gospels and apostles All approved customs of the church 

that they do not read in the gospel they despise, as the feast of candles, of 

28 The treatise of Bernard is founded on an older document, a report of a disputa- 
tion between Catholics and Waldenses at Narbonne, about 1 190, under the presidency 
of the priest Raymond de Daventer. The original may be found in the Max. Bib., 
PP. Vol. XXIV, and a quite full translation of it is given in Comba, History of the 
Waldenses of Italy (London, 1889), pp. 47 f. 

^Dieckhoff puts the date of this document in the time of Gregory X. (127 1-6), 
but without assigning any satisfactory reason. It is quite as likely to be older. 
Dieckhoff is much inclined to adopt the latest possible date for a Waldensian docu- 
ment as the only tenable one. 



THE WALDENSES 483 

paims, the reconciliation of penitents, adoration of the cross, 30 the feast of 
Easter; and they spurn the feasts of the saints on account of the multiplica- 
tion of saints. And they say that one day is just like another, therefore they 
secretly work on feast days. (Passau anonymous.) 

Error 33. That no one is saved except in their sect. (Reinerus.) 

Especially they argue concerning disobedience : since they do not obey 
the Roman church, which has the fulness of power to bind and loose, and the 

authority to direct other churches Besides, they submit neither to 

bishops nor to priests Obedience should not be rendered to bishops, 

priests, nor, horrible to tell, to the Holy Roman church. (Bernard.) 

They affirmed that they alone are the church of Christ and the disciples 
of Christ. They say that they are the successors of the apostles, and have 

apostolic authority, and the keys of binding and loosing The Roman 

church is the harlot of Babylon, and all who obey it are damned All 

laws of the church since the ascension of Christ they say are not to be obeyed, 
nor are they of any value whatever. Feasts, fast days, orders, benedictions, 

offices of the church, and similar things they altogether reject On 

feast days, where they can do it secretly, they work, arguing that, since it is 
a good thing to work, it cannot be bad to work on a good day. In Lent and 
on other fast days of the church they do not fast, but eat flesh where they 
dare, saying that God is not pleased by the afflictions of his friends, but is 

able to save them without these things In consequence of the same 

dissimulation they frequent with us the churches, they are present at divine 
service, they offer at the altar, they receive the sacraments, they confess to 
the priests, they keep the fasts of the church and observe the feasts, and 
bending their heads receive the benedictions of the priests, when nevertheless 
they laugh at these and all other similar institutions of the church, and pro- 
nounce them profane and condemnable — just as sometimes a wolf covers 
himself with a sheepskin, that the wolf may not be known from the sheep. 
(David of Augsburg.) 

The mass. — The body and blood of Christ they do not believe to be 
really such, but only bread blessed, which by a certain figure is said to be 
the body of Christ; as it is said, "But the rock was Christ," and the like. 
But this [blessing] some say can only be performed by the good, but others 
[say] by all who know the words of consecration. They observe this in their 
conventicles, reciting those words of the gospels at their table, and partici- 
pating together as in the supper of Christ. (David of Augsburg.) 

Concerning the sacrament of the eucharist they say that priests in mortal 

sin cannot make [the body of Christ] They say that transubstantialion 

does not take place in the hands of the unworthy maker, but in the mouth of 

the worthy receiver, and can be made at a common table They say 

that transubstantiation takes place by words in the vernacular They 

^"Neither the body of Christ, nor any other creature, such as images and 
crosses, is to be adored and worshiped with any sort of adoration, without idolatry." 
(Disputatio inter Catholicum et Paterinum Haereticum, Martene and Durand, Vol. V, 
pp. 1727 f.) This is repeated, word for word, by Reinerus. His treatise appears to 
be, in fact, wholly founded on this report of the disputation, which is said to have 
occurred under Archbishop Bernard of Narbonne, known to have held the office 
from 1 181 to 1 191. This brings the testimony of Reinerus very close to the origin of 
the sect. Compare with the above teaching the third error attributed by Peter the 
Venerable to the Petrobrusians. Migne, Vol. CLXXXIX, p. 762. 



484 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF THEOLOGY 

say that the church singing is infernal clamor They say that the obla- 
tion made by the priest in the mass is of no value, and does not profit 

They say that the Holy Scripture has the same effect in the vulgar tongue as 
in the Latin, 31 whence they make in the vernacular and give the sacraments. 
(Passau anonymous.) 

They say that in the sacrament of the altar the bread and wine after con- 
secration are not made the body and blood of Christ, if the priest is a sinner ; 
and they hold everybody to be a sinner unless he is of their sect. Again, 
that the consecration of the body and blood of Christ can be accomplished by 
any good man, even a layman, provided he be of their sect, although he has 
not been ordained presbyter by a Catholic bishop. (De Modo Procedendt.) 

Besides, they asserted that when there was necessity, any one of them, if 
only he wore sandals, without accepting ordination from the bishop, could 
make the body of Christ. (Peter of Vaux Sernai.) 

They believe firmly and confess that this is the body and blood of our 
Lord Jesus Christ, and if anything remains of the sacrifice they keep it till 
Easter and then consume it all The aforesaid Poor of Lyons conse- 
crate only once a year, that is to say, in the supper of the Lord, and then 
almost by night. He who is chief among them, if he is a priest, calls all of 
his family of both sexes, and causes a bench or single stool to be placed 
before them, and puts upon it a clean cloth, and afterward one good goblet 
of good and pure wine, and one unleavened loaf (fugaziam azymam). And 
after a while he who presides says to those standing by, Let us ask our Lord 
that he will forgive us our sins and offenses, because of his mercy, and those 
things that we ask worthily he should fulfil because of his mercy. And let us 
say seven times Our Father, to the honor of God and the sacred Trinity, as 
he himself does this. And then on bended knees all say seven times Our 
Father. Afterward they rise, and then he who consecrates shows the bread 
and cup, and having broken the bread gives his portion to each ofthose 
standing by, and after that gives to all to drink from the cup ; and stands all 
the time on his feet, and so finishes the sacrifice. (Reinerus.) 

Baptism. — They say that a man is then truly for the first time baptized, 
when he is brought into their heresy. But some say that baptism does not 
profit little children because they are not yet able to believe. (David of 
Augsburg.) 

One statement of their error is, because they say that baptism does not 
profit little children to salvation, who have neither the motive nor the act of 
faith, because as it is said in the latter part of Mark, "He that will not believe 
will be condemned." .... The heretic asserts that without the baptism of 
fire there is no salvation, Luke 3, " He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit 
and with fire." Wherefore they place the believers by themselves in some 
secret place, with lighted candles on every side of them, and some prayers, 
rather execrations, are spoken by the heresiarch, the other believers standing 
by. (Stephen). 32 

31 Compare Reinerus, Error 19: "That prayers in Latin profit nothing, because 
they are not understood." 

32 This account is so fantastic that one is at first inclined to disbelieve it alto- 
gether ; but, on the other hand, it is not likely to have been invented by Stephen. It 
was, perhaps, some ceremony in which the enlightenment of the believer by the Holy 
Spirit was symbolically represented. But compare the more simple and probable 
account by Peter of Vaux Sernai. 



THE WALDENSES 485 

Concerning baptism they say that the catechizing is of no value. Again, 
that the washing that is given to infants does not profit. Again, that the 
sponsors do not understand what they answer to the priest. (Passau 
anonymous). 33 

The aforesaid heretics oppose the sacraments of the church : for they say 
baptism does not avail before years of discretion. But on this article of 
heresy there are different opinions among the heretics. For some say little 
children have no sin, and so baptism is not necessary for little children. 
Others say that little children have sin, but cannot have remission of sins or 
the virtue of baptism without faith. . . . Others of the heretics say that little 
children have sin, but baptism does not avail them before years of discretion, 

because they have not faith Without baptism faith avails not, nor 

faith without baptism There are those who say the sacrament of 

baptism that is celebrated in the church of God has no efficacy, either as to 

little children or adults He who comes to baptism either repents or 

does not. If he does not repent, baptism does not profit him ; if he repents, 
he is already justified, and all his sin is remitted. Therefore baptism has no 
power of remitting sin for him, and water baptism is not at all necessary for 

remission of sins Others said baptism does not avail without imposition 

of hands. (Alanus.) 

When anyone betakes himself to the heretics, he who receives him says : 
" Friend, if you would be one of us, you must renounce the entire faith that 
the Roman church holds." He answers : "I renounce it." "Then receive 
the Holy Spirit from the good men" (then he breathes upon his face seven 
times). Again he says : " Do you renounce that cross which the priest made 
on you in baptism, on breast and shoulders and head, with oil and chrism ? " 
He answers : "I renounce it." "Do you believe that water secures your sal- 
vation?" He answers : "I do not believe it." "Do you renounce that veil 
that the priest put on your head when you were baptized ? " He answers : " I 
renounce it." So he receives the baptism of the heretics and denies that of 
the Roman church. Then all place their hands upon his head, and kiss him, 
and clothe him with a black garment ; and from that hour he is as one of 
them. (Peter.) 

Other sacraments. — Some assert that no penance avails for remission of 
sin. Which they try to prove thus : God remits sins freely, therefore not for 
good works, therefore not through penance. (Alanus.) 

Concerning penance they say that which the priest enjoins is nothing, and 
they assert that confession is not to be made to them, but only that confession 
is to be made which God enjoins in Mark, chap. 1 ; Acts, chap. 3. Yet the 
good priest, which the heretic says he is, can pray for a sinner, James, chap. 5. 
Let the priest pray for him, and if he is in sins they shall be forgiven him. 
(Stephen.) 

Concerning the sacrament of penance they say that no one can be absolved 

by a bad priest That a good layman has the power of absolving ; that 

they themselves by the imposition of hands remit sins and give the Holy 
Spirit ; that one ought to be confessed by a good layman rather than by a bad 
priest. Again they say that no severe penance is to be imposed, after the 
example of Christ, "Go and sin no more." Again, they condemn public 
penances, as with chains, especially for women. (Passau anonymous.) 

33 Compare Reinerus also, who testifies that the Poor of Lombardy say infants are 
saved without haptism ; while both branches of the Waldenses hold that children bap- 
tized by priests of the Roman church are not saved [by the baptism ?]. 



486 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF THEOLOGY 

The pope is the head of all errors Prelates are scribes and religious 

Pharisees We must not obey prelates, but God alone They 

reprobate the names of prelates, such as pope, bishops, etc. They spurn 

councils, synods, and conventions They say that every good layman 

may be a priest, an apostle ; the apostles were laymen. Again, that the 
prayer of a bad priest avails nothing. Again, they deride clerical tonsure. 
Again, they say that every layman, and even a woman, ought to preach. (Ibid.) 

They reject the sacrament of confirmation, but their chief men lay hands 
on their disciples, in place of that sacrament. (David.) 

They all preach everywhere, and without distinction of condition, age, or 
sex. (Bernard.) 

They say that all good men are priests. (Stephen.) 

Error 16. That all places are equally blessed Error 22. That 

all good men are priests and ordained by God, and can bind and loose and 
hear confessions and confess. (Reinerus.) 

Oaths. — They say that every oath is unlawful, even to the truth, and 
indeed a mortal sin. But they nevertheless dispense with this, so that one 
may swear to evade death or not to betray others, or not to reveal the secret 
of his perfidy. (David.) 

Every lie and oath is a mortal sin, and an oath likewise. Though others 
of them say, as I have heard from them, that in fear of death it is permitted 
those who are not perfect to lie and swear. They themselves both lie and 
commit perjury, nor do they believe this to be sin, because even their lies 
they excuse and becloud by wiles and sophistries. (Stephen.) 

For no reason should one slay or swear. (Peter.) 

In no case, for whatsoever necessity, or reason, should one swear. (De 
Modo Procedendi.) 

These testimonies speak for themselves so fully and so plainly 
that few remarks upon them are necessary. The general evangel- 
ical character of the teachings thus attributed to the Waldenses 
is as impressive as the substantial unanimity of the witnesses. 
There are but two cases in which there seems to be a serious 
lack of agreement among the witnesses, and one of these ceases to 
be serious the moment it is examined. This is the apparent 
contradiction between David of Augsburg and Stephen of Bourbon, 
on the one hand, and the other writers, concerning the Waldensian 
attitude toward lying and judicial oaths. But it is quite plain 
that there is no real contradiction. All four of the testimonies 
cited agree as to the formal teaching of the Waldenses; so 
exactly, in fact, that they use almost identical words in setting 
forth the matter. But David and Stephen go a step farther, and 
accuse the Waldenses of a practice that differed glaringly from 
their teaching. How far this accusation is just is the only 
question for solution. Nobody can read David's tract without 
tracing in almost every paragraph a hatred of the Waldenses 



THE WALDENSES 487 

that can only be called malignant. He repeats the most horrible 
slanders of them, 34 adding, to be sure, that he does not himself 
believe these things, but evidently wishing that he could. He 
does not deliberately misrepresent them — that would defeat his 
object, which is to furnish information that would guide his 
fellow-inquisitors in the work of suppressing them. But his 
hatred is too violent to be controlled ; and besides, lying and 
deceit are safe things to be attributed to any enemies of the 
church — even by an inquisitor who on the next page advises his 
fellows to deceive the heretics, if by that means confession may 
be extorted from them ! There is less bitterness in the writing 
of Stephen, but is it not edifying, in view of all that we know of 
Roman casuistry and of the methods of the inquisition, to read 
this author's complaint about the sophistries and lies of heretics ? 
We may safely rule out both these testimonies, therefore, except 
to this extent : probably some of the Waldenses were persuaded, 
by forms of "encouragement" well known to students of the 
inquisition, to lay aside their scruples and take a judicial oath at 
their examination. Let him who is perfectly certain his own 
fortitude would be proof against the encouraging power of the 
thumbscrew, boot, and rack cast the first stone at the Waldenses. 
The other case is the testimony about the Waldensian teach- 
ing concerning the mass. David of Augsburg seems to be 
opposed explicitly by four other witnesses, one of whom had 
been a leader among the heretics. There are at least two ways 
of accounting for this conflict of evidence. One possible hypoth- 
esis is that all the witnesses speak the truth, not merely in intent, 
but in fact ; that all are equally accurate, as well as equally 
honest ; and that the different groups of the Waldenses did not 
agree in their teachings. Nearly all of our authorities recognize 
at least two such groups (thus Reinerus speaks of Pauperes 
Ultramontani and Pauperes Lombardi); some speak of a larger 
number. There is another hypothesis possible, namely, that the 

3* A single example : " They for the most part attend their conventicles by night, 
that they may practice the mysteries of iniquity while others sleep. But that which is 
said of them — that they kiss cats or frogs there, or see the devil, or turn out the lights 
and practice promiscuous fornication — I do not think is true of that sect, nor have I 
truly learned any such thing from those to whom I have given credit." 



488 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF THEOLOGY 

teaching of the Waldenses was uniform, and that David has 
stated it correctly, while the others have misapprehended it. To 
a Roman priest, bred in a full belief in transubstantiation, the 
evangelical language of the Waldenses might well be incompre- 
hensible. When they said, " A wicked priest is unfit to admin- 
ister the Lord's supper," his mind unconsciously translated it 
into, "A wicked priest cannot make," and so on. Note how this 
hypothesis is confirmed by the words of Reinerus. He indeed 
says categorically, " They firmly believe and confess that this is 
the body and blood of Christ ; " but then, in another section of 
his treatise, he describes an actual celebration of the Lords sup- 
per in such terms as to make it absolutely plain that transubstan- 
tiation was not in the thoughts of celebrant or communicant. 
On the whole, therefore, I incline to this latter hypothesis, as 
the one that best accounts for all the facts ; since the former 
fails to account for the inconsistency of Reinerus. And this 
circumstance also should have some weight : the other teachings 
attributed to the Waldenses are so evangelical as to make it 
improbable that they held the Roman doctrine, of the whole 
sacramental system the most fundamental. 

It is almost superfluous to point out the striking agreement 
between these teachings of the Waldenses and the sixteenth- 
century Anabaptists. The testimony is unanimous that the 
Waldenses rejected infant baptism. It is less certain, though 
most probable, that they rebaptized adults on profession of faith. 35 

Such was the origin and such were the teachings of the Wal- 
denses, according to Roman Catholic witnesses of the genera- 
tion succeeding Waldo. There is but one Waldensian document 
contemporary with these witnesses, a comparatively recent 
discovery — the already noted rescript of the conference of 
Bergamo, in the year 1218. There representatives of the Poor 
of Lyons (the original Waldenses, as I believe) and the Poor of 

35 There could be no question at all, if we could accept the testimony of Peter of 
Vaux Sernai as applying to the whole sect. Yet, in the face of this unanimous witness 
to the contrary, almost every writer on the Waldenses (Professor Comba dodges the 
subject and takes refuge in silence) makes them Pedobaptists from the beginning ! 
Pedobaptists they certainly became, but in the earlier years of the sect they rejected 
infant baptism, or there is no such thing as historical proof of any fact. 



THE WALDENSES 489 

Lombardy (an older sect that had come to bear the same 
name) discussed their differences. This document differs in 
many particulars from the conclusions to which we have now 
come through study of the Roman Catholic sources. These 
differences raise a very pretty historical problem, to the solution 
of which I may address myself at some future time.