• Waldensian History 2:
  • The Protestant Reformation
Chanforan e Olivetano - mostra su Guardia Piemontese

At the beginning of the 16th century the Protestant Reformation spread across Europe: Luther's rediscovery of the Gospel of salvation for "grace alone" created a breakup within Western Christianity.

In 1532 during an assembly in Chanforan (Angrogna valley), the Waldenses of Piedmont agreed to adhere to the Reformation and to publish a new translation of the Bible, accessible to everyone, in French. In many parts of Italy religious and non-religious people embraced the message of the Reformation without organising themselves in a solid and enduring ecclesiastical structure also because of the repression carried out by the Catholic institution. The Waldenses instead gave up clandestinity and structured themselves as a Calvinist-inspired Reformed Church generating organised communities and ecclesiastical buildings. Pastors were sent to the Academy of Geneva for ministerial preparation.

The Church of Rome reacted to this cultural ferment with a repressive action to eradicate groups of dissent from most of the Italian peninsula, forcing abjuration or escape to other countries. The support to the Reformation exposed also the Waldenses to the Catholic reaction with different effects depending on the region: the communities of Luberon (Southern France) were destroyed in 1545; the ones of Calabria and Apulia were slaughtered in June 1561 or forced to abjure. In Piedmont the Waldenses managed to resist to the Duke of Savoy troops. In Cavour they signed a historic agreement allowing them to practise their religion. For the first time in European history subjects won the possibility to profess a faith that differed from the one of ruler.

In the second half of the 16th century after breaking with all mediation attempts with the Reformation proposals, the Church of Rome initiated, with the Council of Trent, a reorganisation of religious life destined to last centuries. They put in place a series of measures and instruments such as the Tribunal of the Inquisition and the List of prohibited books and strengthened religious Orders to establish everywhere the Catholic creed. The conflict between the two blocks resulted in harsh wars of religion.


The so-called "Olivetan" Bible, printed in 1535, wanted by the Waldenses after their adherence to the Reformation.

The monument of Chanforan, in the Angrogna valley, erected in memory of the historic assembly in 1532.

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