The Waldenses received a guarantee of civil and religious rights on this day in 1879--it was the first time in seven centuries that they enjoyed any measure of freedom or recognition.
The little reform movement began in 1176 when the rich merchant, Peter Waldo, first truly heard the words of Christ to the rich young ruler, "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you posses and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." Immediately, Waldo sold all he had and began a life of itinerant preaching.
He and an ever-growing band of disciples were often persecuted. Many were sent into exile. For centuries, they suffered isolation and ignominy.
With the coming of the Reformation, the scattered remnant of the Waldenses gladly joined their cause with that of the Protestants. Allowed refuge in Switzerland, they nevertheless pined for their homeland and in the in 1691, they made a "glorious return." But, it was not until the Italian nationalist revolutions of the mid-nineteenth century that the remaining faithful, now dwelling in alpine valleys of northern Lombardy, were able to secure even minimal legal rights.