TCD MS 266 is perhaps one of the most important works among the famous Waldenses prose manuscripts originally collected by Sir Samuel Moreland from the Waldensian Pastor Jon Leger. The document contains some critical information about the persecution that the Waldenses faced, along with a description of examination of prisoners, and letters from king Louis XII. However, the one article of greatest interest located on folio 19r, is a copy of the Papal Bull Id Nostri Cordis “our hearty desires”. This Bull of Pope Innocent VIII was promulgated in Rome on April 27, 1487, which was the 5th Kalends of May 1487 on the Julian Calendar. It was later repeated and signed again in the convent of St Laurence in June 26, 1487. The Bull outlined a plenary indulgence (forgiveness) for anyone who joined the military crusades against the Waldensians. His commands extended to religious and secular powers and threatened excommunication for those who did not join. A copy of the original bull has been kept in the Library at Cambridge for many years and is currently held in the unpublished medieval manuscripts Ms Dd.3.25. The existence of the bull is attested even by catholic historians such as Cesare Baronius in his Ecclesiastical Annals Volume 19 where he recognized the order for extermination of the Waldenses as going forth in the third year of the pontificate.
Leading up to these events, for years Rome had implemented inquisition against the Waldenses in the northern regions of Italy. Dominican Inquisitor Reinerius Saccho had identified the Waldenses as the most dangerous of all the heretical groups for three reasons:
- “First, because it is older; some say that it has existed from the time of Sylvester and others from the time of the apostles.”
- “Second, because it is more general; for there is scarcely any country in which this Sect is not.”
- “The third, because, while all other Sects excite the abhorrence of their hearers by the outrageousness of their blasphemies against God, this (namely of the Leonists) has a great appearance of piety; and they believe all things concerning God, and which are contained in the creed, rightly only they blaspheme the Romish Church which blasphemy a great multitude of the Laity are easily induced to believe. And, as we read in the Book of Judges, that Samson’s foxes had different faces, but their tails tied together, so the heretics are divided into Sects among themselves, but in attacking the Church they are united. When there are, in one house, heretics of three Sects, of which each condemns the other, each one at the same time attacks the Romish Church and thus these crafty little foxes destroy the vineyard of the Lord, that is the Church, by their errors.
There were concerns about the Waldenses being taught to read the bible freely and Reinerius had remarked how some could recite the entire New Testament “word for word”. The promulgation of the Bible in the vulgar tongue so widely, along with views contrary to the church of Rome which were deemed heretical, prompted the pope to launch a crusade against the Waldenses.
As a result following the release of the bull, commissioner Albert Cattaneo led the crusade against the Waldensians into the mountains and many were displaced or killed. On one occasion Cattaneo’s commander La Palud had observed some Waldenses go into a nearby cave and ordered a fire be built at its entrance. After the fire was extinguished, the inside of the cave was examined and there was found to be 400 children dead in their mother’s arms and about three thousand individuals perished from the smoke.
It was this important evidence to which men like Sir Samuel Moreland made comparisons biblically for the church of Rome to the man of sin in 2 Thessalonians and the prophetic warning contained in the books of Daniel and Revelation.
The Library of Trinity College Dublin holds a rare collection of ten Waldensian manuscripts (MSS 258-267), written in a dialect of Provençal, mostly dating from the 16th century. They contain mainly religious tracts, a bible (MS 258) and a volume containing seven poems (MS 261). TCD MS 266 was recently digitized as part of the Virtual Trinity Library project, generously funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York: https://digitalcollections.tcd.ie/concern/works/76537996g?locale=en
Morland, Samuel (1658). The history of the Evangelical churches of the valleys of Piemont : containing a most exact geographical description of the place, and a faithfull account of the doctrine, life, and persecutions of the ancient inhabitants ; Together, with a most naked and punctual relation of the late bloudy massacre, 1655 ; And a narrative of all the following transactions, to the year of Our Lord, 1658 . Princeton Theological Seminary Library. London : Printed by Henry Hills for Adoniram Byfield. p. 274.
Benedetti, Marina; Cameron, Euan (2022-06-27). A Companion to the Waldenses in the Middle Ages. BRILL. ISBN 978-90-04-42041-0.
Schaff, Philip (1924). History of the Christian Church: The middle ages, by David S. Schaff. Pt. 1, 1049-1294. 1926. Pt. 2, 1294-1517. 1924. C. Scribner’s Sons.
Maitland, Samuel Roffey (1832). Facts and documents illustrative of the history, doctrine and rites, of the ancient Albigenses & Waldenses. Princeton Theological Seminary Library. London : Rivington. p. 406.
Tuy, Lucas de (1613). Lucae Tudensis Episcopi scriptores aliquot succedanei contra sectam Waldensium: nunc primum in lucem editi cum prolegomenis et notis … (in Latin). excudebat Andreas Angermarius. p. 54.