THE HISTORY OF THE EVANGELICAL CHURCHES
IN THE VALLEYS OF PIEMONT.
The Situation and Extent of the Valleys of Piemont
For as much as it is my purpose in the ensuing discourse to make a faithful and exact relation of those many signal and remarkable passages of divine providence, which have almost in all ages accompanied the poor Protestants of Piemont, (otherwise known by the name of Waldenses,) and especially of that bloody and cruel massacre, in the year of our Lord, 1655 (the woeful cry whereof has been heard throughout all the Christian world). I shall entreat the courteous reader to spend with me a few minutes in viewing the situation of those valleys, where not only those poor people then inhabited, but where, in all human probability, their forefathers and ancestors have both had their abode, and professed the fame religion, ever since the days of the Apostles.
Now because the said valleys are for the most pare enclosed within the confines of Piemont, it will not be amiss in the first place to give a brief description of the whole province, which indeed is but a little spot of earth in comparison, and of a very small extent, yet as pleasant for situation, and likewise by its incredible fruitfulness, bringing in as great a revenue (in proportion) to its Prince, as any province of Europe.
This province of Piemont (so called, because situated a pede montiam, or at the feet of the Alps, which separate Italy from France) the County of Nizza being thereto adjoined, has for its confines, on the east, the Dutchy of Milan, Montserrat, and the commonwealth of Genoa, on the south side it has for a trench, the Mediterranean Sea; on the west and the north part, it has the Alps for a wall or bulwark, and is by them separated on the west side from province and Dauphine, and on the north side from Savoy, and the Country of Valley.
Its longest extent from east co weft, is from the valley of Barcellonette, (which is three leagues from Ambrun) to Cairo, which is upon Bornia, towards Montferrat and Gennois. It is almost all covered with high mountains, and the Alps, Penines, Graies, or Greques, and Cotionnes, (which now have their name de la Val d’ Aosta,) Mont Semii, Mont Geneure, as also the Appenin Hills.
It is traversed with four great rivers, namely the River Po,(which has its source or head near Mont Visol, one of the highest mountains of Europe) the River Tanaro, the River Stura, and the River Dora. But besides these four, there are about eight and twenty other rivers great and small, wherewith it is watered like a pleasant garden, and which render it exceeding fruitful in cattle, wine, corn, hay, Nuts, and almost all other things in great abundance.
The truth is, this is a pare of the world where are many things very remarkable, and which, if particularly treated of, would swell into a large volume. But my design being not to enlarge much upon this subject, I shall content myself, for brevity’s sake, to give only a general description of the Valleys of Piemont; and this to prepare the ingenuous reader the better to comprehend the situation of that part of them, which before the late massacre, was inhabited by the Protestants.
The principal valleys which enrich Piemont, are on the North part, those two of Aosta and Susa, on the South side the Valley of Stura, and certain others, and in the midland, Lucerna, Angrogna, Roccapiatta, Pramol, Perosa, and S. Martino.
The Valley of Clusone otherwise called Pragelsa, that is to say, the high and the low communalty, (although it be at the descent of the Alps on the east side, and discharge its River Clusone in the Valley of Perosa, which is on the Weft-fide of Pigneroiio) in ancient times has been, and yet is a part of Dauphine, as far as La Capella, which is seated at the lower end thereof, and divides it from Perosa, As likewise it was the ordinary passage of the French armies into Italy.
These valleys, especially that of Angrogna, Pramol, and S. Martino, are by nature strongly fortified, by reason of their many difficult passages, and bulwarks of rocks and mountains, as if the All-wise Creator had from the beginning designed that place as a cabinet, wherein to put some inestimable Jewel, or (to speak more plainly) there to reserve many thousands of souls, which should not bow the knee before Baal.
But to come more closely to our purpose; of these Valleys of Piemont, there were several inhabited and peopled by those Protestants, who have now, for something above five hundred years, been styled Waldenses, as namely Lucerna, Perosa, and S. Martino.
The Valley of Lucerna, (which also bears the name of a county) contains in length fifteen miles of Piemont, or seven French miles, that is to say, from the lowest part thereof eastward, which is bounded by Garcigliana and Campiglione, to the highest pare westward, where is the Fort of Miraboco. The highest communalty thereof, (viz.) Bobio, Villaro, and La Torre, are the greatest part of them mountainous, the valley being not very large; but the lowest parts thereof, namely, Lucerne S. Giovanni, Penile, Campiglione, and Garcigliana, although they have both on the north and south side a little of the mountains, do extend themselves into a very fair plain.
Angrogna which is but a little Valley by itself on the north side of Lucerna, as also Rorata and Vallon, which are meridional to the Valley of Lucerne are wholly within the mountain: so is also Roccapiatta and Pramol, which are enclosed between the Valleys of Lucerna and Perosa.
The Communally of La Torre, took its name from an ancient and high tower, which stood upon a little hill near Bourg. Francis the first, king of France, considering the great prejudice that this Citadel, being so near the conflux of the two Rivers of Lucerna and Angrogna, in the very center of the said Valley of Lucerna, might bring to the affairs and interest of France, and the safety of Pignerole, caused it to be demolished. And this is the place where the Duke of Savoy did rebuild that Citadel, 1652, which served before as a slaughterhouse to murder and make away of many innocent Souls.
Bricher as being adjoined co the Valley of Lucerna, is on the east of Angrogna, and S. Giovanni, and on the south side of Roccapiatta, almost all in the plain.
The Valleys of Perosa and S. Martha are on the north of Lucerna, Angrogna, and Roccapiatta, situated in such fort, that the Valley of Perosa, being at the lower end, and on the east of the Valleys of S. Martine and Pragela, receives their two rivers, namely, Clusone and Germanacha.
The Valley of Perosa, being about six miles long, is distributed part in mountains, part in fair plains, and very fruitful hills. At the lower part thereof it hath the communalties of Porte, S. Germano and Villaro; in the middle, Pinachia, and in the higher part, that of Perosa, where there is the city and Citadel of Perosa, from whence the valley takes its name, this Valley of Perosa, being divided by the river into two parts. The Duke, upon agreement, put the King of France in possession of the north part, which is the greater, and more fertile, by reason of the passage and Appenage of Pignerolio, and reserved for himself the south part, to which is annexed Pramol in the mountain.
The Valley of S. Martino containing eight miles in length, is on the west of the Valley of Perosa, enclosed between the Valley of Lucerna, and Clusone, in the highest part of the Alps, which confine with the Valley of Queyras, and comprehend eleven communalties, namely, Rioclaret, Faet, Prali, Rodoreto, Salsa, Macel, Maneglia, Chabrans, Traverses, Bovili, and S. Martino, which gives the name to this Valley. This is the poorest of all, but yet the strongest by reason of its situation, wherein for this reason the Barbes or Ministers, (of whom we shall hereafter speak) had anciently their chief residence, or abode, for security and preservation against the rage of their malicious adversaries, who were always hunting them with a net, and thirsting after their blood.