An Account of the Persecutions in Italy, Under the Papacy (6/35)
Upon these charges the archbishop ordered a persecution to be commenced, and many fell martyrs to the superstitious rage of the priests and monks.
At Turin, one of the reformed had his bowels torn out, and put in a basin before his face, where they remained in his view until he expired. At Revel, Catelin Girard being at the stake, desired the executioner to give him a stone; which he refused, thinking that he meant to throw it at somebody; but Girard assuring him that he had no such design, the executioner complied, when Girard, looking earnestly at the stone, said, “When it is in the power of a man to eat and digest this solid stone, the religion for which I am about to suffer shall have an end, and not before.” He then threw the stone on the ground, and submitted cheerfully to the flames. A great many more of the reformed were oppressed, or put to death, by various means, until the patience of the Waldenses being tired out, they flew to arms in their own defence, and formed themselves into regular bodies.
Exasperated at this, the bishop of Turin procured a number of troops, and sent against them; but in most of the skirmishes and engagements the Waldenses were successful, which partly arose from their being better acquainted with the passes of the valleys of Piedmont than their adversaries, and partly from the desperation with which they fought; for they well knew, if they were taken, they should not be considered as prisoners of war, but tortured to death as heretics.
At length, Philip VII, duke of Savoy, and supreme lord of Piedmont, determined to interpose his authority, and stop these bloody wars, which so greatly disturbed his dominions. He was not willing to disoblige the pope, or affront the archbishop of Turin; nevertheless, he sent them both messages, importing that he could not any longer tamely see his dominions overrun with troops, who were directed by priests instead of officers, and commanded by prelates instead of generals; nor would he suffer his country to be depopulated, while he himself had not been even consulted upon the occasion.
The priests, finding the resolution of the duke, did all they could to prejudice his mind against the Waldenses; but the duke told them, that though he was unacquainted with the religious tenets of these people, yet he had always found them quiet, faithful, and obedient, and therefore he determined they should be no longer persecuted.
The priests now had recourse to the most palpable and absurd falsehoods:
they assured the duke that he was mistaken in the Waldenses for they were a wicked set of people, and highly addicted to intemperance, uncleanness, blasphemy, adultery, incest, and many other abominable crimes; and that they were even monsters in nature, for their children were born with black throats, with four rows of teeth, and bodies all over hairy.
The duke was not so devoid of common sense as to give credit to what the priests said, though they affirmed in the most solemn manner the truth of their assertions. He, however, sent twelve very learned and sensible gentlemen into the Piedmontese valleys, to examine into the real character of the inhabitants.