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, q
iet, 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

worship images.

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

unhappy victims.