Peter Waldo
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Peter Waldo

Peter Waldo
Worms Lutherdenkmal Petrus Waldus 2012-02-21-18-24-52.jpg
Statue of Peter Waldo at the Luther Monument in Worms, Germany
Bornc. 1140
Diedc. 1205 (aged 64–65)
OccupationSpiritual leader, theologian, merchant
Theological work
Tradition or movementWaldensian

Peter Waldo ([1]), Valdo, Valdes, or Waldes (c. 1140 - c. 1205), also Pierre Vaudès or de Vaux, was a leader of the Waldensians, a Christian spiritual movement of the Middle Ages.

Relationship with Waldenses

Peter Waldo is regarded as the founder of the Waldensians sometime between 1170 and 1177.[2][3]

There were claims that the Waldensians predated Peter Waldo. In his A History of the Vaudois Church (1859), Antoine Monastier quotes Bernard, Abbott of Foncald, writing at the end of the 12th century, that the Waldensians arose during the papacy of Lucius.[4] Monastier takes him to mean Lucius II, Pope 1144-1145, and concludes that the Waldenses were active before 1145. Bernard also says that the same Pope Lucius condemned them as heretics, but they were condemned by Pope Lucius III in 1184.[5]

Monastier also says that Eberard de Béthune, writing in 1210 (although Monastier says 1160), claimed that the name Vaudois meant valley dwellers or those who "dwell in a vale of sorrow and tears" and was in use before Peter Waldo.

Life and work

Most details of Waldo's life are unknown. Extant sources relate that he was a wealthy clothier and merchant from Lyon and a man of some learning. Sometime shortly before the year 1160, he was inspired by a series of events, firstly, after hearing a sermon on the life of St. Alexius, secondly, rejection of transubstantiation when it was considered a capital crime to do it,[] thirdly, the sudden and unexpected death of a friend during an evening meal.[6][7] From this point onward he began living a radical Christian life, giving his property over to his wife, while the remainder of his belongings he distributed as alms to the poor.

At about this time, Waldo began to preach and teach publicly, based on his ideas of simplicity and poverty, notably that "No man can serve two masters, God and Mammon."[8] Waldo condemned what he considered as papal excesses and Catholic dogmas, including purgatory and transubstantiation. He said that these dogmas were "the harlot" from the book of Revelation.[9] By 1170 Waldo had gathered a large number of followers, referred to as the Poor of Lyons, the Poor of Lombardy, or the Poor of God. They evangelized their teaching while traveling as peddlers.[10] Often referred to as the Waldensians (or Waldenses), they were distinct from the Albigensians or Cathari.

The Waldensian movement was characterized from the beginning by lay preaching, voluntary poverty, and strict adherence to the Bible. Between 1170-80 Waldo commissioned a cleric from Lyon to translate the New Testament into the vernacular "Romance" (Franco-Provençal).[11] He is credited with providing to Europe the first translation of the Bible in a 'modern tongue' outside of Latin.[12]

In January 1179, Waldo and one of his disciples went to Rome, where they were welcomed by Pope Alexander III and the Roman Curia.[13] They had to explain their faith before a panel of three clergymen, including issues which were then debated within the Church, such as the universal priesthood,[14][15][16] the gospel in the vulgate or local language, and the issue of voluntary poverty. The results of the meeting were inconclusive. The pope affirmed his vow of poverty, but he was forbidden to continue preaching because he was a layperson.

Waldo's ideas, but not the movement itself, were condemned at the Third Lateran Council in March of the same year.[17] The leaders of the Waldensian movement were not yet excommunicated.

In 1180, Waldo composed a profession of faith which is still extant.[18][19]

Driven away from Lyon, Waldo and his followers settled in the high valleys of Piedmont, and in France, in the Luberon, as they continued in their pursuit of Christianity based on the New Testament. Finally, Waldo was excommunicated by Pope Lucius III during the synod held at Verona in 1184. The doctrine of the Poor of Lyons was again condemned by the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, when they mentioned the group by name for the first time, and declared its principles to be heresy. Fearing suppression from the Church, Waldo's followers fled to the mountainous regions of northern Italy in the Waldensian Evangelical Church.[20][obsolete source]


  1. ^ "Waldo". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
  2. ^ "Waldenses". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019. little is known with certainty about the reputed founder, Valdes (also called Peter Waldo, or Valdo). As a layman, Valdes preached (1170-76) in Lyon, France
  3. ^ Weber, N. (1912). "Waldenses". Catholic Encyclopedia. New Advent. Retrieved 2019. The real founder of the sect was a wealthy merchant of Lyon who in the early documents is called Waldes (Waldo)...On the Feast of the Assumption, 1176, he disposed of the last of his earthly possessions and shortly after took the vow of poverty.
  4. ^ Monastier 1859, p. 58.
  5. ^ Weber, N. (1912). "Waldenses". Catholic Encyclopedia. New Advent. Retrieved 2019. Pope Lucius III consequently included them among the heretics against whom he issued a Bull of excommunication at Verona in 1184.
  6. ^ Perrin 1884, p. 21.
  7. ^ Aston 1993, p. 18.
  8. ^ "The Conversion of Peter Waldo", Readings in European History, (J. H. Robinson, trans), (Boston: Ginn, 1905), pp. 381-383
  9. ^ Perrin 1884, p. 22.
  10. ^ Wylie 1848, p. 17.
  11. ^ Lelong 1723, p. 313-14.
  12. ^ Jones 1819, p. 18-19.
  13. ^ RHGF 1786, p. 682, section E.
  14. ^ Roe, Hooker & Handford 1907, p. 4445.
  15. ^ Cathcart 1883, p. 1200.
  16. ^ Beard 1885, p. 24.
  17. ^ Map 1924, p. 76.
  18. ^ Tourn 1980, p. 232.
  19. ^ Waldo 1969.
  20. ^ "Peter Waldo". Encyclopedia of World Biography. Gale Group. 2004. Retrieved 2017.




Further reading

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