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The twelfth century saw a rise in religious enthusiasm. A need for reform in a Church that had become too worldly was perceived. At times, this religious enthusiasm edged toward the limits of orthodoxy. One such example was the Waldensians.

The Waldensians found their origin in the “poor men of Lyons,” organized in the 12th century by Peter Waldo of Lyons. The Waldensians claimed that they preserved a pure and uncorrupted form of primitive Christianity. Apparently, Peter Waldo, a rich merchant of Lyons was profoundly affected by the words of Matthew 19.21, leading him to give his property to the poor. Waldo then chose to follow the life of a mission-preacher and mendicant. However, Waldo’s preaching against the worldliness of the Church brought forth opposition against him and his followers. In 1179, the Waldensians sought recognition for their way of life from the Church at the Third Lateran Council. Their bid failed. Instead, in 1184, Pope Lucius III placed them under a ban. From that point, the Waldensians regarded themselves as a separate body and appointed their own ministers. Ultimately, a crusade was raised against them.

View a description of Waldensian practices from the point of view of the official Church.

Waldensians fleeing the Crusaders


Virtual Medieval Church and Its Writings
University of Saint Thomas–Saint Paul, MN
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The Waldensians