A Description of the Evangelical Churches in the Valleys of Piemont
Before the late horrible dispersion of those poor Protestants in the year 1657, there were in the said valleys which were peopled with Waldenses, fourteen churches, which competed two classes or colloques, and those two classes one synod.
The one of these two was called the Colloque of the Valley of Lucerna, comprising the churches of S. Giovanni, La Torre, Villaro, Bebio, Rorata, and Angrogna, which belong to the Valley of Lucerna, and the church of Roccapiatta, which is between the Valley of Lucerna, and Perosa, situated upon those little hills which separate the two Valleys, and is annexed to the said Colloque of the Valley of Lucerna.
The other Colloque which was called the Colloque of the Valley of Perosa, and S. Martino, contained the other seven churches, namely, four in the said Valley of Perosa, and three in the Valley of S. Martino. Those of Perosa were Villaro and S. Germano; joined together and making one only Church, Pinachia, La Capella, and Pramol; and those of S. Martino were Villa Secca, Maneglia, and Prali.
The Church of S. Giovanni contains within itself a very fair tlain, and little hills, very fertile and abounding in grain, vines, chestnuts, figs, olives, and all sorts of fruits. But for as much as the whole is thus employed in husbandly, there is want of pastures and woods, which is the reason that they have not there much cattle, save only oxen to till their ground, and co carry their wine to Turin, and other places of Piemont, to sell.
The said church has yet annexed unto it the places of Lucerna Lucernetta, the vineyards of Lucerna, Fenile, Bubiana, and Bricheras. In the city of Lucerna, which gives the name to the whole Valley, a third part of the inhabitants were of the reformed religion. As also in Lucernetta, in the vineyards of Lucerna almost all the Inhabitants, professed the reformed religion time out of mind.
Fenile also is yet lower on the other side of the River Pelice towards the south, being a more fat and fertile soil, than any place of S. Giovanni, in all sorts of fruits and grain.
Bubiana as to the plain, is the same with Fenile, and close adjoining to it. But the Protestants have heretofore been chased and driven out of a great part thereof by little and little, and that which they then possessed in this Communalty, was for the most part in hills, which were terminated at Fruzzasca, Bagnolo, and Barge, where grows but little corn or wine, being all covered with chestnuts. The Protestant inhabitants of this place, (which were about fifty five families) were the greatest part of them poor, chiefly living upon mere industry, and of the profit they made by wood, which they carried co fell at the towns of Bubiana Lucerna.
The hills of Bricheras, (where there have always been Protestant Families) are like to those of S. Giovanni.
The Church of La Torre is the same for situation and quality with that of S. Giovanni, containing one plain, where is the town of La Torre, and also hills adorned with the same kinds of fruits as the said church of S. Giovanni.
The church of Villaro is adjoined to that of La Torre, but is a little higher towards Dauphine, containing a little plain, where the town is seated, and the residue of hills abounding with vines and chestnuts.
The Church of Bobbio confineth with that of Villaro, being a little higher towards the mountain on the west, but as fertile every way as that of Villaro. And as the said places are environed with a multitude of mountains and fat pastures, so the inhabitants had a very great number of oxen, kine, and smaller cattle, together with milk and wool in abundance, which returned them a considerable profit, as also the chestnuts which they dried and cleansed to sell, or exchange for other commodities.
The Church of Rorata is a little dale or valley situated on the other side of the River Pelice, on the west of Lucerna, being bounded by the mountains of Villaro. The said place abounds in pastures, and is otherwise very fertile, especially in chestnuts.
The church of Angrogna is northwest to that of S. Giovanni, inclining towards Perosa, in a mountainous country, but fertile in chestnuts, grain, and pastures, encompassed with very beautiful and fertile mountains for pasturage in the Summer season.
The church of Roccapiatta contains four pans or parcels, namely the said place of Reccapiatta, S. Bartholomio, Perustine, and L' Inverso delle Porte. In the three latter, which are lower towards the plain of S. Secondo, grows abundance of rich wines, chestnuts, and other good fruits. In Roccapiatta, which is somewhat higher inclining towards Angrogna, they have grain, pasture and other fruits, but no wine.
The Church of Villaro and S. Germano, is situated in the lowest part of Perosa, about a mile from Pignerolio; the west and north part of Villaro being on this side the River Clufone, within the obedience of the King of France, and S. Germano on the south and eaft of Villaro, within the Duke of Savoy's dominion, on the other side of the said River, which running along the whole length of the said Valley, separates the Kings Territories from those of the Duke. These two places of Villara and S. Germano contain a little plain both on the one side and the other, the rest is in hills, generally affording corn, wine, and other fruits.
The church of Pinachia stands within the French dominion, being on the west part thereof contiguous to that of Villaro, and contains a very fair and beautiful plain, fenced on the northside with pleasant little hills, having on the west the town and fort of Perosa, on the south the River Clusone, and on the other side thereof in the same south side, other hills, but scarce any plain at all, belonging to his Royal Highness. It generally abounds in grain, wines, nuts, grass, and all sorts of fruits.
The Church of La Capella is west to that of Pinachia, in the uppermost part of the Valley of Perosa, close adjoining on the west part thereof to the Valley of Pragela, or Clusone, (which belongs to the King of France, and so has done from all antiquity) and to the burrough or citadel of Perosa, on the east. This La Capella has several little hills exceeding fertile in all things, in a manner just like unto that of Pinachia, and it has annexed unto it Pomare, and another called Inverso de Perosa, separated from the said confines of Perosa, the one by the River Clusone, the other by the River Germanasca, which comes from the Valley of S. Martino. Moreover, it has other small villages called Le Mean, constituting a little communalty, at the foot of the Valley of Pragela, and having its dependence upon it, but in reference to all ecclesiastical affairs, always adjoined to the church of Capella or Perosa.
The Church of Pramol, is situated upon a Mountain, between the Valley of Lucerna and Perosa, at the feet whereof grows a little quantity of wine, and very good fruits, but in the highest part thereof grows nothing but grain, and abundance of wood, and there is also pasture-ground, this is the native country of Captain Jaher, of whom we shall hereafter speak at large, as one whose name ought to be very memorable to posterity.
The church of Chiotti or Villa Secca is at the lowest part of the Valley S. Martino, where there is almost no plain, save only there where the River Germanasca takes its course. The little hills which lie south from the said river side are very cold, to that there grow no vines near them. But those that lie north, whose sides open towards the South, are hot, and by that means have on them store of vines. In sum, all the parts thereof are tolerably fruitful in grain, fruits, and pasture.
The Church Maneglia, which is on the west part of that of Chiotti, comprehends three little communalties, namely, Maneglia, Macel, and Salsa. The whole is in a mountainous place, but exceeding fruitfull in grain, pasture, and the like, save only in the highest parts thereof.
The church of Prali, is situated in the upmost part of the Valley of S. Martino, and contains two Communalties, namely, Prali and Rodores, which are confined on the south, by the Alps, with the Valley of Lucerna, on the west by the Valley of Quyras, in Dauphine, and on the north by the Valley of Pragela: there grows here nothing but hay, and a great quantity of herbage.
Generally in all these churches (unless it be on the tops of the mountains) there is found great plenty of fruits, but especially chestnuts; yea, there are some places thereof where are vast spaces of ground yielding almost nothing else, as for example in the little hills of Babiana, and all along the Valley of Lucerna, and the south parts of the Valley of Perosa, which look towards the north, in so much that the inhabitants of those places dry and cleanse great quantities of them, a part whereof they lay up for their own spending, and the rest they sell or exchange for corn, and that, quantity for quantity, with the inhabitants of the plain (this being a great part of their food in Piemont.) They likewise make of these nuts, dried in an oven, or upon a kiln, an excellent sort of Biscuit, which in France they call Marrons, which they first of all string, as they do their chapelets, or beads, and then hang them up in some humid place the better to preserve them. These they frequently make use of, instead of macaroons, or such other kind of confects.