An Account Of The Persecutions Of Calabria
In the 14th 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 anything 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
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 or violence, 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.
The cardinal having gained his point by deluding the people of one town,
sent for troops of soldiers, with a view to murder those of the other.
He, accordingly, despatched the soldiers into the woods, to hunt down
the inhabitants of St. Xist like wild beasts, and gave them strict
orders to spare neither age nor sex, but to kill all they came near. The
troops entered the woods, and many fell a prey to their ferocity, before
the Waldenses were properly apprised of their design. At length,
however, they determined to sell their lives as dear as possible, when
several conflicts happened, in which the half-armed Waldenses performed
prodigies of valour, and many were slain on both sides. The greatest
part of the troops being killed in the different rencontres, the rest
were compelled to retreat, which so enraged the cardinal, that he wrote
to the viceroy of Naples for reinforcements.
The viceroy immediately ordered a proclamation to be made throughout all
the Neapolitan territories, that all outlaws, deserters, and other
proscribed persons should be surely pardoned for their respective
offences, on condition of making a campaign against the inhabitants of
St. Xist, and continuing under arms till those people were exterminated.
Many persons of desperate fortunes, came in upon this proclamation, and
being formed into light companies, were sent to scour the woods, and put
to death all they could meet with of the reformed religion. The viceroy
himself likewise joined the cardinal, at the head of a body of regular
forces; and, in conjunction, they did all they could to harass the poor
people in the woods. Some they caught and hanged up upon trees, cut down
boughs and burnt them, or ripped them open and left their bodies to be
devoured by wild beasts, or birds of prey. Many they shot at a distance,
but the greatest number they hunted down by way of sport. A few hid
themselves in caves, but famine destroyed them in their retreat; and
thus all these poor people perished, by various means, to glut the
bigoted malice of their merciless persecutors.
The inhabitants of St. Xist were no sooner exterminated, than those of
La Garde engaged the attention of the cardinal and viceroy.
It was offered, that if they should embrace the Roman catholic
persuasion, themselves and families should not be injured, but their
houses and properties should be restored, and none would be permitted to
molest them; but, on the contrary, if they refused this mercy, (as it
was termed) the utmost extremities would be used, and the most cruel
deaths the certain consequence of their non-compliance.
Notwithstanding the promises on one side, and menaces on the other,
these worthy people unanimously refused to renounce their religion, or
embrace the errors of popery. This exasperated the cardinal and viceroy
so much, that 30 of them were ordered to be put immediately to the rack,
as a terror to the rest.
Those who were put to the rack were treated with such severity, that
several died under the tortures; one Charlin, in particular, was so
cruelly used, that his belly burst, his bowels came out, and he expired
in the greatest agonies. These barbarities, however, did not answer the
purposes for which they were intended; for those who remained alive
after the rack, and those who had not felt the rack, remained equally
constant in their faith, and boldly declared, that no tortures of body,
or terrors of mind, should ever induce them to renounce their God, or
Several were then, by the cardinal's order, stripped stark naked, and
whipped to death with iron rods; and some were hacked to pieces with
large knives; others were thrown down from the top of a large tower, and
many were covered over with pitch, and burnt alive.
One of the monks who attended the cardinal, being naturally of a savage
and cruel disposition, requested of him that he might shed some of the
blood of these poor people with his own hands; when his request being
granted, the barbarous man took a large sharp knife, and cut the throats
of fourscore men, women, and children, with as little remorse as a
butcher would have killed so many sheep. Every one of these bodies were
then ordered to be quartered, the quarters placed upon stakes, and then
fixed in different parts of the country, within a circuit of 30 miles.
The four principal men of La Garde were hanged, and the clergyman was
thrown from the top of his church steeple. He was terribly mangled, but
not quite killed by the fall; at which time the viceroy passing by,
said, is the dog yet living? Take him up, and give him to the hogs,
when, brutal as this sentence may appear, it was executed accordingly.
Sixty women were racked so violently, that the cords pierced their arms
and legs quite to the bone; when, being remanded to prison, their wounds
mortified, and they died in the most miserable manner. Many others were
put to death by various cruel means; and if any Roman catholic, more
compassionate than the rest, interceded for any of the reformed, he was
immediately apprehended, and shared the same fate as a favourer of
The viceroy being obliged to march back to Naples, on some affairs of
moment which required his presence, and the cardinal being recalled to
Rome, the marquis of Butane was ordered to put the finishing stroke to
what they had begun; which he at length effected, by acting with such
barbarous rigour, that there was not a single person of the reformed
religion left living in all Calabria.
Thus were a great number of inoffensive and harmless people deprived of
their possessions, robbed of their property, driven from their homes,
and, at length, murdered by various means, only because they would not
sacrifice their consciences to the superstitions of others, embrace
idolatrous doctrines which they abhorred, and accept of teachers whom
they could not believe. Tyranny is of three kinds, viz., that which
enslaves the person, that which seizes the property, and that which
prescribes and dictates to the mind. The two first sorts may be termed
civil tyranny, and have been practised by arbitrary sovereigns in all
ages, who have delighted in tormenting the persons, and stealing the
properties of their unhappy subjects. But the third sort, viz.
prescribing and dictating to the mind, may be called ecclesiastical
tyranny: and this is the worst kind of tyranny, as it includes the other
two sorts; for the Romish clergy not only do torture the bodies and
seize the effects of those they persecute, but take the lives, torment
the minds, and, if possible, would tyrannize over the souls of the
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