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Peter Biller
The Waldenses 1300-1500
In: Revue de l'histoire des religions, tome 217 n°1, 2000. pp. 75-99.
Résumé
Les vaudois (1300-1500)
L'impression première de pauvreté des travaux pour la décennie 1988-1998 est trompeuse : de nouveaux chercheurs n'ont pas
encore publié le résultat de leur recherche. Voici ceux qui émergent : l'ouvrage général de G. Audisio ; les études préliminaires et
l'édition des procès de Fribourg par K. Utz Tremp ; le chef-d'œuvre de P. Paravy sur la religion vécue en Dauphiné ; les écrits de
G. G. Merlo, qui attirent l'attention sur l'historiographie et soulèvent d'importantes questions. Tous ces travaux posent la question
de l'unité et de la continuité du valdéisme médiéval, surtout la discussion de G. G. Merlo sur les valdéismes des communautés
locales. Ils attirent l'attention sur les valdéismes variables des individus, ce qui suggère des arguments pour les connections
internes, la continuité et l'unité (mais non l'uniformité) du valdéisme médiéval.
Abstract
An initial impression of the decade 1988-98 being poor in new work is misleading — new and young scholars have not yet
published the results of their research. The most important works to emerge since 1988, or in progress, are these: Audisio's
debating general account; Tremp's preparatory studies and edition of the Fribourg trials; Paravy's grand account of the total
religion vécue of the Dauphiné — a masterpiece; Merlo's writings, which call for attention to historiography and raise the most
important questions to address. All of these works bring into question unity and continuity in medieval valdismo, most
penetratingly Merlo's discussion of the valdismi of particular local communities. This in itself suggests attention to the varying
valdismi of individuals, focus upon which suggests arguments for the inner connections, continuity and unity (if not uniformity) of
medieval valdismo.
Citer ce document / Cite this document :
Biller Peter. The Waldenses 1300-1500. In: Revue de l'histoire des religions, tome 217 n°1, 2000. pp. 75-99.
doi : 10.3406/rhr.2000.1072
http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/rhr_0035-1423_2000_num_217_1_1072BILLER PETER
University of York
The Waldenses 1300-1500
results since is misleading An 1988, initial of their or — impression new in research. progress, and of young the The are decade scholars most these: 1988-98 important have Audisio's being not works yet debating poor published in to new general emerge work the
account; Tremp's preparatory studies and edition of the Fribourg trials;
Paravy 's grand account of the total religion vécue of the Dauphine — a
masterpiece; Merlo 's writings, which call for attention to historiography
and raise the most important questions to address. All of these works
bring into question unity and continuity in medieval valdismo, most
penetratingly Merlo 's discussion of the valdismi of particular local
communities. This in itself suggests attention to the varying valdismi of
individuals, focus upon which suggests arguments for the inner
connections, continuity and unity (if not uniformity) of medieval
valdismo.
Les vaudois (1300-1500)
L'impression première de pauvreté des travaux pour la
décennie 1988-1998 est trompeuse: de nouveaux chercheurs n 'ont pas
encore publié le résultat de leur recherche. Voici ceux qui émergent:
l'ouvrage général de G. Audisio; les études préliminaires et l'édition
des procès de Fribourg par K. Ut z Tremp; le chef-d'œuvre de
P. Paravy sur la religion vécue en Dauphine; les écrits de
G. G. Merlo, qui attirent l'attention sur l'historiographie et soulèvent
d'importantes questions. Tous ces travaux posent la question de l'unité
et de la continuité du valdéisme médiéval, surtout la discussion de
G. G. Merlo sur les valdéismes des communautés locales. Ils attirent
l'attention sur les variables des individus, ce qui suggère
des arguments pour les connections internes, la continuité et l'unité
(mais non l'uniformité) du valdéisme médiéval.
Revue de l'histoire des religions, 217 - 1/2000, p. 75 à 99 In the following I shall provide (A) a list of some of the
works on the Waldenses which have appeared since the Aix-
en-Provence Colloque in 1988, and of some works "in pro
gress",1 (B) an account of Pierrette Paravy's monograph on
the Dauphine, and (C) reflections on five themes which
emerge from Paravy's work or for which it provides a point
of departure.
A. Work published or in progress 1988-98: general view
Here is a brief account of work achieved over the last
decade and work in progress, beginning with France. There
has been the continuing work of Gabriel Audisio, partly in
articles on such themes as sex and the comparative literacy
of Catholic and Waldensian peasants,2 and partly in his
book Les "vaudois".3 Although intended for the intelligent
general public, this book has nevertheless attracted attention
from specialists precisely because Audisio has had the cou
rage to produce an overall picture of the medieval Waldens
es. For the period 1300-1500 Audisio addresses the diaspora
and the connections of this with migrations; the divisions of
language; transmission inside families; links with the Hussit
es; survival and what was lost and what was preserved;
what he calls the "schizophrenia" of Nicodemism; and the
marginalisation of Waldensianism to remote, rural and illit
erate milieux. Gonnet and Molnar's general account of 1974
1. I am grateful to Alexander Patschovsky for informing me about
German work.
2. For example, G. Audisio, Famille, religion, sexualité dans une secte:
les Pauvres de Lyon (xv'-xvr siècle), Revue de l'histoire des religions, 209
(1992), p. 427-57. See also note 15 below.
3. G. Audisio, Les "vaudois". Naissance, vie et mort d'une dissidence
(xiT-xvr siècle), Turin, 1989. A translation is forthcoming from Camb
ridge University Press, under the title The Waldensian Dissent: Persecution
and Survival, с 1170-c. 1570. THE WALDENSES 1300-1500 77
was a reference work, especially useful in its particular
account of Hussite Bohemia. Audisio's work does not try to
duplicate this. Rather, through its brevity and the boldness
of its patterns it breathes life into the subject, stimulating
thought and enquiry. I shall return later to its picture of
socio-economic marginalisation. Appearing in 1994 were
Pierrette Paravy's two volumes on the Dauphine,4 to which I
shall return later. Among work in progress is a new edition
of Bernard Gui's Liber sententiarum, which has been
announced by Annette Pales-Gobilliard.5
The sentences of Gui's Liber sententiarum have also been
used briefly by Jean Duvernoy as the basis for comments on
Waldensian preaching in the early fourteenth century.6
In Italy there has been Grado Merlo's work: in 1988 his
sharp small study of Val Pragelato,7 in 1991 the collection of
studies in the second of his two volumes on Valdesi e valdismi
medievali,8 and again in 1994 a resumé of fourteenth- and fi
fteenth-century Waldenses and Waldensianisms (Valdismi) in
the Italian completion of Fliche and Martin's Histoire de
l'Église.9 The historiographical questions about unity and
4. P. Paravy, De la chrétienté romaine à la réforme en Dauphine, 2 vol.,
Collection de l'École française de Rome, 183, Rome, 1993. Although the
title-page has "1993", the work was not available until 1994.
5. A. Pales-Gobilliard, Pénalités inquisitoriales au xiV siècle, in Crises
et réformes dans l'église de la réforme grégorienne à la préréforme, Actes du
CXVe Congrès national des sociétés savantes, Avignon, 1990, Section
d'histoire médiévale et de philologie, Paris, 1991, p. 143-54 (at p. 143,
note 4). This article, on the statistics of these sentences, only mentions sen
tences on the Waldenses in passing, p. 143-4.
6. J. Duvernoy, La prédication dissidente, in La prédication en Pays
d'Oc (xir '-début XVe siècle), "Cahiers de Fanjeaux", 32, Toulouse, 1997,
p. 111-24 (at p. 118-20).
7. G. G. Merlo, Val Pragelato 1488. La crociata contro i valdesi: un epi-
sodio di una lunga storia, Torre Pellice, 1988. This came to my notice too
late to be taken account of in the 1988 Colloque.
8. G. G. Merlo, Identita valdesi nella storia e nella storiografia, Turin,
1991.
9. Planned in 26 volumes, A. Fliche and V. Martin's Histoire de
l'Église depuis les origines jusqu'à nos jours, Paris, 1937-62, had always
lacked volume 11, covering the period 1274-1378. The lack was made up in
the Italian translation with a specially written volume edited by D. Qua- PETER BILLER 78
continuity, one Waldensianism (valdismo) or a plurality of
autonomous Waldensianisms (valdismi), straddle the decade
summarised at Aix in 1988 and the decade summarised now.
They are the most penetrating and stimulating questions that
have been asked about the medieval Waldenses, and I shall
return to them at the end of this paper. From Marina Bene-
detti has come recently a deep reading of the deposition of
Peroneta de Beauregard.10
In anglophone areas there has been the continuing work
of Malcolm Lambert. In the second edition of his compend
ious and very detailed overall account, Medieval Heresy,
Lambert (in his own words) "recast entirely the chapter on
the Waldensians after 1218",11 and his recent general account
of the Cathars deals briefly with the Waldenses of fourteenth-
century Piedmont.12 An encyclopaedic account of medieval
Waldenses appeared from Robert Lerner in 1989.13 Anglo
phone preoccupation with literacy, accelerated by Brian
Stock's work on textual communities and the controversy
over Euan Cameron's book,14 helped stimulate a conference in
Oxford in 1992, which attracted an important paper from
Alexander Patschovsky on Waldensian literacy, sharp papers
on this theme from Audisio and Paravy, and a résumé of data
glioni, La crisi del trecento e il papato Avignonese (1274-1378), « Storia
della Chiesa», 11, Milan, 1994. See chapter 11 in this: G. G. Merlo, 'Non
conformismo religioso e repressione antiereticale', p. 448-77, and in particul
ar part 3, 'Soprawivenze di valdesi e valdismi', p. 461-7.
10. M. Benedetti, Peironeta di Beauregard, l'inquisitore e i Valdesi, in
M. Benedetti, G. G. Merlo and A. Piazza, (éd.), Vita di eretici e storie di
frati, Milan, 1998, p. 303-16.
11. M. D. Lambert, Medieval Heresy. Popular Movements from the
Gregorian Reform to the Reformation, Second Edition, Oxford, 1992, p. ХШ
and 147-71.
12. M. D. Lambert, The Cathars, Oxford, 1998, p. 290-4.
13. R. E. Lerner, Waldensians, Dictionary of the Middle Ages, 12, New
York, 1989, p. 508-13.
14. B. Stock, The Implications of Literacy. Written Language and
Models of Interpretation in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries, Princeton,
nj, 1983, and History, literature, and medieval textuality, Yale French Stu
dies 70, 1986, p. 7-17; E. Cameron, The Reformation of the Heretics. The
Waldenses of the Alps 1480-1580, Oxford, 1984. WALDENSES 1300-1500 79 THE
about the late alpine texts from Brenon.15 I have produced
some articles, several of which have not yet been publi
shed16 — and I shall return to them — but for the last ten years
my research has been mainly outside medieval heresy. Forth
coming from the Israeli scholar Shulamith Shahar is a book
on Waldensian women.17 Prescot Stephens has continued the
time-honoured tradition of English Protestant sympathy with
the medieval Waldenses in his evangelical history of them.18
In Germanophone areas there is extremely important
work in progress. Among the richest of all dossiers on Wal-
15. In P. Biller and A. Hudson (éd.), Heresy and Literacy, 1000-1500,
Cambridge, 1994; reprinted with corrections, 1996: P. Biller, "Heresy and
literacy: earlier history of the theme", p. 1-18 (p. 9-10); A. Patschovsky,
"The literacy of Waldensianism from Valdes to c. 1400", p. 1 12-36; A. Bre-
non,"The Waldensian Books", p. 137-59; P. Paravy, "Waldensians in the
Dauphine (1400-1530): from dissidence in texts to dissidence in practice",
p. 160-75; G. Audisio, "Were the Waldensians more literate than their
contemporaries (1460-1560)?", p. 176-85.
16. P. Biller, Medieval Waldensians' construction of the past, Procee
dings of the Huguenot Society 25 (1989), p. 39-54; Les Vaudois dans les ter
ritoires de langue allemande vers la fin du xiv* siècle: le regard d'un inquisi
teur, Heresis 13-14 (1989), p. 199-234; "Argent allemand et hérésie
médiévale", and (together with John Green), et
médiévale: appendice" in M. Aubrun, G. Audisio, B. Dompnier and
A. Gueslin (éd.), Entre idéal et réalité: Finances et religion du Moyen Age à
l'époque contemporaine, Clermont-Ferrand, 1994, p. 33-47 and 49-56. The
preaching of the Waldensian Sisters, Heresis 30 (1999), p. 138-68. Not yet
published is "What did happen to the Waldensian Sisters? The Strasbourg
evidence", forthcoming in F. Giacone (éd.), Mélanges Giovanni Gonnet.
There are comparisons with Cathars in Women and Texts in Languedocian
Catharism, in L. Smith and J. H. M. Taylor (eds.), Women, the Book and
the Godly. Selected Proceedings of the St Hilda's Conference, 1993, vol. 1,
Cambridge, 1995, p. 171-82 (p. 181-82); Cathars and Material Women, in
P. Biller and A. J. Minnis (éd.), This Body of Death. Medieval Theology and
the Natural Body, York Studies in Medieval Theology, 1, York, 1997, p. 61-
107 (p. 65-71); and in Through a Glass Darkly. Viewing Medieval Heresy,
forthcoming in P. Linehan and J. Nelson (éd.), The Medieval World. A col
lection of my papers will be printed in The Medieval Waldenses, forthco
ming from Variorum, which will include the unpublished "The setting of
the Liber Electorum".
17. Shulamith Shahar had made comparisons between Cathar and
Waldensian women in chapter 8 of her The Fourth Estate. A history of
women in the Middle Ages, London, New York, 1983.
18. P. Stephens, The Waldensian Story: a study in faith, intolerance and
survival, Lewes, 1998. 80 PETER BILLER
densians are the enquiries of around 1430 in the linguistic
border town, Fribourg, which were published in the late nine
teenth century in part-translation part-paraphrase.19 In addi
tion Fribourg's rich Archives d'État permit much detailed
enquiry into the accused persons. For some time Dr Kathrin
Tremp has been engaged in the study of this material and the
edition of this process — described in her report in this
volume — and from the studies which have already emerged it
would seem that the most significant positive advance in the
knowledge of any one Valdismo in the next decade will come
through Dr Tremp's work on Fribourg. Another very import
ant dossier is that concerning the Waldensians of Strasbourg
around 1400, and this is becoming the subject of a doctoral
thesis.20 One important small discovery has been made by
Ivan Hlavaček of a fragmentary inquisition-protocoll from
around 1400 in Prague.21 We are not yet in a position to see
the significance for Waldensian studies of Alexander Pats-
chovsky's own long-awaited and not yet completed general
book on politics and heresy.22
Although important work may have escaped my notice, it
is my impression that the riches of the period which I sur
veyed in Aix in 1988 are not quite matched by the
period 1988-98. Outstanding in this thinner field, however, is
Paravy's monumental work.
19. G. F. Ochsenbein, Aus dem schweizerischen Volksleben. Der Inquisi-
tionsprozess wider die Waldenser zu Freiburg i. U. im Jahre 1430 nach den
Akten dargestellt, Bern, 1881.
20. By Georg Modestin. My "Argent allemand et hérésie médiévale"
contains a discussion of the wealth and trading connections of the Walden-
ses of Fribourg and Strasbourg.
21. I. Hlavaček, Zur bôhmischen Inquisition und Haresiebekâmpfung
um das Jahr 1400, in F. Smahel (éd.), Haresie und vorzeitige Reformation im
Spâtmittelalter, Schriften des Historischen Kollegs, Kolloquien 39, Munich,
1998, p. 109-31. I owe this reference to Alexander Patschovsky.
22. Hâresie und Politik. Zur politischen Funktion von Haresie in der mit-
telalterlichen Gesellschaft (11.-15. Jh.). THE WALDENSES 1300-1500 81
В. Pierrette Paravy
The 1,500 pages of Pierrette Paravy's account of Christia
nity in the Dauphine between the later middle ages and
Reformation contain four books. The first book deals with
the diocese of Grenoble and the archdiocese of Embrun,
beginning with the economic and demographic depression of
the fourteenth century, the second book with the religious life
and practice of the Catholic laity, the third book with the
repression of sorcery in the fifteenth century, and the fourth
and final book with the Waldenses of the Haut-Dauphiné.
Lying in the background is one famous French historiogra-
phical tradition, in which the grand names are Gabriel Le
Bras, Canon Boulard and Jean Delumeau and in which the
emphases are on religious geography, the religion vécue of the
people, and the importance of varied and concrete accounts
of the religion of particular regions or provinces. Lying also
in the background is the centuries-long particular historiogra-
phical tradition of the Waldenses of Piemonte and Dauphine,
whether in the mythicising historiography of the post-Reform
Valdesi/Vaudois or the scholarly renewal brought about by
the regional monographs of Merlo and Audisio, Merlo's criti
cal historiography, and the editorial and critical work of the
Antichi Test Valdesi series.
Paravy describes the earliest traces of Waldenses in the
Haut-Dauphiné, the history of their repression, the communit
ies of particular valleys, Waldensian religious practice, the
books of the Waldenses, and adherence to reform in the si
xteenth century. Characterising her account, first of all, is the
broader context of her study, whether economic-demographic
or catholic-pastoral. Effortlessly brought into question, for
example, are inattention or attention by bishops to the cura
animarum of the valleys. Remarkable here is the sophisticated
pastoral analysis of a mid-fourteenth-century Archbishop of
Embrun, Pierre Ameilh, and his attempts to bring about pas
toral reform. Secondly, there is a bringing together of a very 82 PETER BILLER
wide range of sources, subjected to deep and penetrating anal
ysis. This may mean texts which have long been known and
read, such as the interrogations surrounding the crusade
of 1488 contained in the Archives d'Isère. It may mean texts
long known but seldom read attentively, such as Claude de
Seyssell's treatise against the Waldensians, or the books of the
Waldensians themselves — for Paravy's reading of the Walden-
sian books frequently goes beyond the efforts of the critics
represented in Enea Balmas' collection of 1983.23 It may also
mean texts which historians have not known in general, and
certainly not systematically exploited to write Waldensian his
tory. Here one very remarkable feature is the exploitation of
records of secular government, ranging from a census from
the mid-thirteenth century called the Probus to later fiscal
records. Paravy can bring together lists of names from these
secular records and lists of names from the records of inquisi
tion and rehabilitation, and use these to construct very precise
accounts of Waldensian families in particular valleys —
in terms of continuity through time, numbers and proportio
nal importance in particular populations, socio-economic
position, and so on. The depth of knowledge in the Dauphine
as a whole and the valleys in particular allow an extraordinar
ily rich and precise account of the crusade of 1488 and its
aftermath.
First, this is a work of grandeur: a masterpiece. Secondly,
anyone who works on the medieval Waldenses and reads this
must be stimulated — by emulation, stimulus, or occasionally
critical reaction — in dozens of different directions, to both
large themes and tiny details. As I read, for example, Paravy's
account of the Dominican Guillaume Peyraut leaving Vienne .
around 1250 to go off to preach in the remote and sterile val
leys I thought, "Of course, how blind we have been! Every
modern scholar who tries to write about the Church's literary
image of the Waldenses should begin with Peyraut's Summa
23. E. Balmas (éd.), Nuove ricerche di letter atur a occitanica, Istituto di
lingue e letterature neolatine dell'Università di Milano, Turin, 1983. THE WALDENSES 1300-1500 83
de vitiis et virtutibus and its account of Waldensian doctri
nes". Thomas Kaeppeli listed over 700 extant manuscripts of
this work: a medieval best-seller.24 Among the medieval
clergy, this must have been the most widely read account of
Waldensian doctrines.
Thirdly, here is a work which must be located in relation
to the problematic advanced by Grado Merlo. It is a study of
one Valdismo, in one particular and geographically restricted
milieu, and to this extent it conforms with Grado Merlo's call
for the multiplication of studies of particular Valdismi. Nevert
heless, Paravy shows little inclination to follow Grado Merlo
in questioning a fundamental "unity in diversity" among
medieval Waldenses. There is more to discuss here, in the
areas of similarity and dissimilarity of Grado Merlo's and
Pierrette Paravy's approaches to the Piedmontese and Daup
hinois sides of the Alps.
Here I would like to make Pierrette Paravy's work the
point of departure for a series of themes and problems.
С Themes and problems
1 / There is, first, the early history of the Waldensians in
the Dauphine. Paravy does two important things. She uses
lists of names in three stages — 1 / from around 1250, 2 / from
the fourteenth century, and 3 / from the 1488 cru
sade — to show continuity in families. Some of the important
Waldensian families of 1488 are in place at all three dates,
24. The edition used here is Summa virtutum et vitiorum, 2 vol.
(Antwerp, 1571); for the section on Waldensians see Summa virtutum ii. 28
(I, fol. 90 v). One of Guillaume's fellows in the convent at Lyons was ano
ther who had written on heresy, Stephen of Bourbon. On the manuscripts,
see T. Kaeppeli and E. Panella, Scriptores Ordinis Praedicatorum medii aevi,
4 vol., Rome, 1970-93, ii. 134-142 and iv. 106. My point is preliminary and
impressionist. It is worth noting the probable balance in a more precise
account of the diffusion of the text on the Waldenses, which would
a) reduce this number, taking into account only complete manuscripts of
the Summa virtutum, b) increase this number conjecturally, to take account
of lost manuscripts.

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