An Account of the Persecutions in Italy, Under the Papacy (3/35)

An Account of the Persecutions of Calabria

In the fourteenth century, many of the Waldenses of Pragela and Dauphiny, emigrated to Calabria, and settling some waste lands, by the permission of the nobles of that country, they soon, by the most industrious cultivation, made several wild and barren spots appear with all the beauties of verdure and fertility.

The Calabrian lords were highly pleased with their new subjects and tenants, as they were honest, quiet, and industrious; but the priests of the country exhibited several negative complaints against them; for not being able to accuse them of anythying bad which they did do, they founded accusations on what they did not do, and charged them,
With not being Roman Catholics.

With not making any of their boys priests.

With not making any of their girls nuns.

With not going to Mass.

With not giving wax tapers to their priests as offerings.

With not going on pilgrimages.

With not bowing to images.

The Calabrian lords, however, quieted the priests, by telling them that these people were extremely harmless; that they gave no offence to the Roman Catholics, and cheerfully paid the tithes to the priests, whose revenues were considerably increased by their coming into the country, and who, of consequence, ought to be the last persons to complain of them.

Things went on tolerably well after this for a few years, during which the Waldenses formed themselves into two corporate towns, annexing several villages to the jurisdiction of them. At length they sent to Geneva for two clergymen; one to preach in each town, as they determined to make a public profession of their faith. Intelligence of this affair being carried to the pope, Pius the Fourth, he determined to exterminate them from Calabria.

To this end he sent Cardinal Alexandrino, a man of very violent temper and a furious bigot, together with two monks, to Calabria, where they were to act as inquisitors. These authorized persons came to St. Xist, one of the towns built by the Waldenses, and having assembled the people, told them that they should receive no injury, if they would accept of preachers appointed by the pope; but if they would not, they should be deprived both of their properties and lives; and that their intentions might be known, Mass should be publicly said that afternoon, at which they were ordered to attend.

The people of St. Xist, instead of attending Mass, fled into the woods, with their families, and thus disappointed the cardinal and his coadjutors. The cardinal then proceeded to La Garde, the other town belonging to the Waldenses, where, not to be served as he had been at St. Xist, he ordered the gates to be locked, and all avenues guarded. The same proposals were then made to the inhabitants of La Garde, as had previously been offered to those of St. Xist, but with this additional piece of artifice: the cardinal assured them that the inhabitants of St. Xist had immediately come into his proposals, and agreed that the pope should appoint them preachers. This falsehood succeeded; for the people of La Garde, thinking what the cardinal had told them to be the truth, said they would exactly follow the example of their brethren at St. Xist.

Foxe’s Book of the Martyrs, Chapter 6

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