17 February 2008

Waldensen or Valdesian Liberation Day February 17

The weather is foggy and damp and very fresh, as I've learned to say in these parts of the world. Not quite winter with the hope of spring dashed at the moment. My in-laws took one look at the black ice on the road and decided there were plenty of other things of interest to do around the house than negotiate all of our icy switch backs this morning. It might not be so lovely weather wise this morning, but it's a glorious day for celebration for a large portion of our Chisone, Germansca and neighboring Pellice valleys. It's the day that in 1848, the royal Savoy family issued the "Lettere Patenti", that finally guaranteed freedom of action and civil rights to Waldensens.
Who are the Waldensens and why they were they finally being granted basic human rights you might ask?

Our valleys are know as the Valdasian (Waldensen) because this is where Pietro Valdo(Peter Valdo)eventually came to reside along with his followers after being expelled from the Lyon area for his "heretical" views of the Roman Catholic church in 1177. The early protestant movement grew spreading throughout southern France and Northern Italy and beyond into Bohemia in spite of the Inquisition and being pushed further into hiding for their beliefs. These valleys were the stronghold of these resilient and resourceful people sometimes worshiping in caves such as Angrongna cave in Val Pellice to be able to sing hymns and worship together. For this they paid a high price in persecution. So when the decree for independence came they lit bonfires on the eve of 16 February in each of their villages up and down the valley to communicate that the long awaited liberation was at hand. Free to worship openly as they saw fit. Every February 16th the bonfires are lit once again, up and down our valleys with a display of fireworks to commemorate this momentous day. February 17th then finds the different congregations dressed in traditional costume of their village march with the local marching band to meet their neighbors and worship together that day. There are a variety of the carnival type pastries and cakes to share and much socializing whilst enjoying the sweetness of freedom to be had on this day. It's day to reflect on all that we so often take for granted. Even if the weather doesn't cooperate, the spirit still soars. The indulgence of sharing with your neighbors the simple pleasure of food and drink, out in the open, together in the center of your hometown. It's a pleasure worth commemorating every year no matter what the weather may do.
Tomorrow, I have a Valdesian dish to share with you. I think you'll find it a comforting treat.


Rowena said...

This is beautiful! Just the sort of event that I love attending. We hope to witness a big traditional occasion next week in the Veneto (there will be tasting booths!), but in the meantime I look forward to what your Valdesian dish will be. :-)

The Passionate Palate said...

What a fascinating post and bit of history. I knew nothing about the Valdsians. It sounds like a wonderful celebration - the image of bonfires through the valley sounds so beautiful. Can't wait to see the dish!

Michelle | Bleeding Espresso said...

There's actually a village down here in Calabria with a strong connection to this history still to this day--not coincidentally, its name is Guardia Piemontese :)

Bella Baita Marla said...

Hey Thanks. It is a fun celebration and hard to believe it has such a long history, kind of mind boggling.

Bookmark and Share