It is situated about midway between the entrance and head of Lucerna, on a ledge of turf in the side of the great mountains, raised some feet above the Pelice, which flows past at about a quarter-mile's distance. The troop had little difficulty in taking possession. Most of the inhabitants, warned of the approach of danger, had fled to the Alps.
Mapping Religion (and Emotions) in the Protestant Valleys of Piedmont
What Cataneo's troop in-fiicted on those who had been unable to make their escape, no history records. The half of Lucerna, with the towns of La Torre and Villaro and their hamlets, was in the occupation of Cataneo's soldiers, their march so far had been a victorious one, though certainly not a glorious one, such victories as they had gained being only over unarmed peasants and bed-rid women.
Resuming their march the troop came next to Bobbio. The name of Bobbio is not unknowal in classic story. It nestles at the base of gigantic cliffs, where the lofty summit of the Col la Croix points the way to France, and overhangs a path which apostolic feet may have trodden. The Pelice is seen forcing its way through the dark gorges of the mountains in a thundering torrent, and meandering in a flood of silver along the valley.
At this point the grandeur of the Val Lucerna attains its height. Let us pause to survey the scene that must here have met the eyes of Cataneo's soldiers, and which, one would suppose, might have turned them from their cruel purpose. Immediately behind Bobbio shoots up the "Barion," symmetrical as Egyptian obelisk, but far taller and massier. Its summit rises 3, feet above the roofs of the little town.
Compared with this majestic monolith the proudest monument of Europe's proudest capital is a mere toy. Yet even the Barion is but an item in this assemblage of glories. Overtopping it behind, and sweeping round the extremity of the valley, is a glorious amphitheatre of crags and precipices, enclosed by a background of great mountains, some rounded like domes, others sharp as needles; and rising out of this sea of hills, are the grander and loftier forms of the Alp des Rousses and the Col de Malaure, which guard the gloomy pass that winds its way through splintered rocks and under overhanging precipices, till it opens into the valleys of the French Protestants, and lands the traveler on the plains of Dauphine.
In this unrivalled amphitheatre sits Bobbio, in summer buried in blossoms and fruit, and in winter wrapped in the shadows of its great mountains, and the mists of their tempests. What a contrast between the still repose and grand sublimity of nature and the dreadful errand on which the men now pressing forward to the little town are bent! To them, nature speaks in vain; they are engrossed with but one thought. Other and remoter expeditions were now projected. Their plan was to traverse the Col Julten, sweep down on the Valley of Prali, which lies on the north of it, chastise its inhabitants, pass on to the Valleys of San Martino and Perosa, and pursuing the circuit of the Valleys, and clearing the ground as they went onward of its inveterate heresy, at least of its heretics, join the main body of crusaders, who, they expected, would by this time have finished their work in the Valley of Angrogna, and unitedly celebrate their victory.
They wouht then be able to say that they had gone the round of the Waldensian territory, and had at last effected the long-meditated work, so often attempted, but hitherto in vain, of the utter extirpation of its heresy.
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But the war was destined to have a very different termination. The expedition across the Col Julten was immediately commenced. A corps of men was detached from the army in Lucerna for this service.source site
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We see the soldiers toiling upwards on the track, which is a mere footpath formed by the herdsmen. At every short distance they pass the thick-planted chalets and hamlets sweetly embowered amid man fling vines, or the branches of the apple and cherry tree, or the goodlier chestnut, but the inhabitants have fled.
They have now reached a great height on the moun-tain-side. Beneath is Bobbio, a speck of brown. There is the Valley of Lucerna, a ribbon of green, with a thread of silver woven into it, and lying along amid masses of mighty rocks. There, across Lucerna, are the great mountains that enclose the Valley of Rora, standing up in the silent sky; on the right are the spiky crags that bristle along the Pass of Mirabouc, that leads to France, and yonder in the east is a glimpse of the far-extending plains of Piedmont.
But the summit is yet a long way off, and the soldiers of the Papal legate, bearing their weapons, to be employed, not in venturesome battle, but in cowardly massacre, toil up the ascent. As they gain on the; mountain, they look down on pinnacles which half an hour before had looked down on them. Other heights, tall as the former, still rise above them; they climb to these airy spires, which in their turn sink beneath their feet.
This process they repeat; again and again, and at last they come out upon the downs that clothe the shoulders of the mountain. Now it is that the scene around them becomes one of stupendous and inexpressible grandeur.
waldensians - The Reformation
Away to the east, now fully under the eye, is the plain of Piedmont, green as garden, and level as the ocean. At their feet yawn gorges and abysses, while spiky pinnacles peer up from below as if to buttress the mountain. The horizon is filled with Alps, conspicuous among which, in the east, is the Col la Verchera, whose snow-clad summit draws the eye to the more than classic valley over which it towers, where the Barbes in ancient days were wont to assemble in synod, and whence their missionaries went forth, at the peril of life, to distribute the Scriptures and sow the seed of the Kingdom.
It was not unmarked, doubtless, by this corps, forming, as they meant it should do, the terminating point of their expedition in the Val di Angrogna. On the west, the crowning glory of the scene was Monte Viso, standing up in bold relief in the ebon vault, in a robe of silver.
But in vain had Nature spread out her magnificence before men who had neither eyes to see nor hearts to feel her glory. Climbing on their hands and knees the steep grassy slope in which the pass terminates, they looked down from the summit on the Valley of Prali, at that moment a scene of peace. Its great snow-clad hills, conspicuous among which is the Col d'Abries, kept guard around it. Down their sides rolled foaming torrents, which, uniting in the valley, flowed along in a full and rapid river.
Over the bosom of the plain were scattered numerous hamlets. The peasants were at work in the meadows and corn-fields; their children were at play; their herds were browsing in their pastures. Suddenly on the mountains above had gathered this flock of vultures that with greedy eyes were looking down upon their prey. A few hours, and these dwellings would be in flames, their inmates slaughtered, and their herds and goods carried off as booty. Impatient to begin their work, these assassins rushed down on the plain.
The troop had reckoned that, no tidings of their approach having reached this secluded valley, they would fall upon its unarmed peasants as falls the avalanche, and crush them. But it was not to be so. Instead of fleeing, panic-struck, as the invaders expected, the men of Prali hastily assembled, and stood to their defense.
Battle was joined at the hamlet of Pommiers. The weapons of the Vaudois were rude, but their trust in God, and their indignation at the cowardly and bloody assault, gave them strength and courage. The Piedmontese soldiers, wearied with the rugged, slippery tracks they had traversed, fell beneath the blows of their opponents. Every man of them was cut down with the exception of one ensign. Of all the , he alone survived. During the carnage, he made his escape, and ascending the banks of a mountain torrent, he crept into a cavity which the summer heats had formed in a mass of snow.
There he remained hid for some days; at last, cold and hunger drove him forth to cast himself upon the mercy of the men of Prali.
Italian Protestants: Religion, Ethnicity, and Assimilation
They were generous enough to pardon this solitary survivor of the host that had come to massacre them. They sent him back across the Col Julien, to tell those from whom he had come that the Vaudois had courage to fight for their hearths and altars, and that of the army of which they had sent to slay them, he only had escaped to carry tidings of the fate which had befallen his companions. The Papal legate is about to try to force his way into the Val di Angrogna. In the Pra del Tor, or Meadow of the Tower, Cataneo expected to surprise the mass of the Waldensan people, now gathered into it as being the strongest refuge which their hills afforded.
There, too, he expected to be joined by the corps which he had sent round by Lucerna to make the circuit of the Valleys, and after devastating Prali and San Martino, to climb the mountain barrier and join their companions in the "Pra," little imagining that the soldiers he had dispatched on that errand of massacre were now enriching with their corpses the Valleys they had been sent to subdue.
They chose the last, and made ready for battle. But first they must remove to a place of safety all who were unable to bear arms. Packing up their kneading-troughs, their ovens, and other culinary utensils, laying their aged on their shoulders, and their sick in couches, and leading their children by the hand, they began to climb the hills, in the direction of the Pra del Tor, at the head of the Val di Angrogna.
Transporting their household stuff, they could be seen traversing the rugged paths, and making the mountains resound with psalms, which they sweetly sung as they journeyed up the ascent. Those who remained busied themselves in manufacturing pikes and other weapons of defense and attack, in repairing the barricades, in arranging themselves into fighting parties, and assigning to the various corps the posts they were to defend. Cataneo now put his soldiers in motion. Advancing to near the town of La Torre, they made a sharp turn to the right, and entered the Val di Angrogna.
Its opening offers no obstruction, being soft and even as any meadow in all England. By-and-by it beans to swell into the heights of Roccomaneot, where the Vaudois had resolved to make a stand. Their fighting men were posted along its ridge. Their armor was of the simplest. The bow was almost their only weapon of attack. They wore bucklers of skin, covered with the bark of the chestnut-tree, the better to resist thrust of pike or cut of sword.
In the hollow behind, protected by the rising ground on which their fathers, husbands, and brothers were posted, were a number of women and children, gathered there for shelter. The Piedmontese host pressed up the activity, discharging a shower of arrows as they advanced, and the Waldensian line on which these missiles fell, seemed to waver, and to be on the point of giving way. Those behind, espying the danger, fell on their knees and, extending their hands in supplication to the God of battles, cried aloud, "0 God of our fathers, help us!
O God, deliver us! He instantly shouted out that his soldiers would give the answer, accompanying his threat with horrible blasphemies. The Black Mondovi raised his visor as he spoke. At the instant an arrow from the bow of Pierre Revel, of Angrogna, entering between his eyes, transfixed his skull, and he fell on the earth a corpse.
The fall of this daring leader disheartened the Papal army.
The soldiers began to fall back. They were chased down the slopes by the Vaudois, who now descended upon them like one of their own mountain torrents. Having driven their invaders to the plain, cutting off not a few in their flight, they returned as the evening began to fall, to celebrate with songs, on the heights where they had won it, the victory with which it had pleased the God of their fathers to crown their arms.
Cataamo burned with rage and shame at being defeated by these herdsmen. In a few days, reassembling his host, he made a second attempt to enter the Angrogna. This promised to be successful.
He passed the height of Roccomaneot, where he had encountered his first defeat, without meeting any resistance.