From the Archives: A Barba of San Martino (1451)

HAVING BEEN INTERROGATED on the charges which had been read to him for his full knowledge, he answered that it was true that he had once made his confession to a barba at his home, a teacher of the sect called the Waldenses, who had been introduced in his house by Stefano Rigotti, of the parish of Usseglio. Asked what was the name of that barba, he answered that he was called “Big Michael” from Freyssinieres; asked if he had seen other barba beside that one, he said that he had: one from Meana, near Susa. Asked the name of the man, he answered that he did not remember. Asked if during his life he had seen other barba, he replied yes: one who was from Puglia, whose name he did not know, but from what he had heard he was from Manfredonia.

Interrogated as to how he knew they were barba of the so-called Waldensian sect, he said that every year they came to the valley, and that the people of the valley were making their confession to them, and that when they were leaving the valleys the barba named him as their delegate, together with Francesco Aydetti of Val Perousa and Val San Maffino. In their name he carried out the task of representing them in this valley, together with Francesco above, receiving confessions from men and women of the so-called Waldensian sect . . . and that they had collected money from these Waldensians and given it to this teacher of Manfredonia in Puglia.

Interrogated concerning when—month and day—and where he had gone in Puglia and how much money he had brought, he answered that it was in March of 1443 and 1449, and that the sum was 300 ducats. Asked how they had gone to Puglia and managed not to be recognized, he answered that the aforementioned Francesco disguised himself as a merchant, that he was his helper and that the two went through the town offering their merchandise for sale.

. . . Interrogated about the teaching he was imparting to the above mentioned people when he was receiving their confessions and when he was preaching to them, he answered that in their confessions he taught that they should not celebrate any feast day of any saint nor that of the Virgin Mary, that such feast days of saints and of Mary were not valid, and that it was not a sin to work on those days. He said that one should not believe in the eucharist, the host, or in the sacrifice at the altar, that at the time of the elevation of the host the body of Christ does not come into it, that it is only bread, and that one should not believe that Jesus was born of a virgin.

Further, that there are only two ways open to all and which determine whether one will be saved or will be condemned, i.e., one who does good will go to paradise, and one who does evil will go to hell and damnation; purgatory does not exist. Indeed, whoever believes in purgatory is condemned already. Further, charities after one’s death should not be done, for charities after death have no value; that they do not profit the one who does them if they are not done before death . . That Mary, the son, the saints, have no power to perform miracles or signs or answer prayer, but only God; that all things performed in churches have no value and no bearing; it would be much better that they should be performed in stables rather than in churches. . . .

By the Editors

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #22 in 1989]

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