The Waldensians take their name from Peter Waldo (ca. 1140- late 12th century), a wealthy son of a merchant of Lyon, France, who followed the instructions of Jesus Christ to sell all he had and give to the poor. He translated the New Testament into Provençal: he and his followers led lives of poverty and simplicity. They regarded themselves as orthodox Catholics, and were represented at the Third Lateran Council (1179) under Pope Alexander III. Their independent teaching, including the admission of women as preachers, led to excommunication; but not before their way of life had spread from Lyon to northern Italy. Harassed by the Inquisition, they took refuge in the remote valleys of the...
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