Founded by Peter Waldo in Southern France and Northern Italy.
He was a contemporary of Francis of Assisi. Peter Waldo sought to put the Scriptures into the common language of the people, preach to people in a language they understand, and reform the obscenely wealthy monasteries who drew money from poor and stockpiled it (quite the opposite of the vision of Anthony – the first monk). This group group of believers sought permission to establish an “order” of monks but were rejected by the Pope Alexander III.
The Pope refused Waldo’s request to establish an order and forbade him to preach to people unless given permission by the local Bishop. Which, everyone knew, would never happen so effectively, the Pope banned Waldo and his followers from preaching altogether. They continued to share the true gospel of forgiveness of sins but then mixed it with good works in similar fashion to the Roman Catholics at the time. The Waldensians also managed to translate at least part of the Scriptures into French.
Eventually the Waldensians would reject the veneration of saints (praying to dead Christians), the necessity of sacraments (an unscriptural practice thrown out during the Reformation), They also refuted the unbiblical doctrines of purgatory (paying off sin debt after death), and transubstantiation (the idea that the bread and wine at mass LITERALLY becomes flesh and blood of Christ). These reforms infuriated the hierarchy of the Roman Catholics and Waldo and his followers were excommunicated by Pope Lucius III in 1184 and subsequently were HEAVILY persecuted for the next 700 years!
The Waldensians came out of hiding to be part of the reformation and many of them joined Genevan Reformed movements of the time but this great little pre-reformer group still exists today mostly in the same region of the world that they began – southern France and Northern Italy. Along with the Anabaptists, this group has had to endure tremendous hardship at the hands of false Christians claiming to be “of Christ” but whose works showed they were/are not. The Waldensians did not gain full civil rights in Italy until 1870!
Waldensians – Founded by Peter Waldo, perhaps the earliest of all true reformers. Waldo decried the lavish lifestyle of monks and priests amidst the squalor of the common people. He petitioned for the Scriptures to be translated from Latin (educated tongue) to French – the language of the common people. He also believed in preaching in the common language as well. The Roman Catholic church for some strange reason believed that all masses should only be “said” in Latin – a language which most common people could not understand. Waldo also believed in personal evangelism. His efforts would earn him infamous hatred and notoriety that would dog his followers, the Waldensians, for centuries BEYOND the great reformation! The Waldensians are perhaps the most persecuted Christian denomination in Church history, mostly due to their challenge of the Roman Catholic Pope’s authority.