1 – the Waldenses were a rural community whose lore was oral and proverbial rather than written. There is very little we can say for certain about them.
2 – the accusation of Waldensian heresy was taken up by the Reformers and turned into a matter of pride. These retrospectively projected Protestantism on this particular, stubborn and somewhat religiously autonomous people. “They were special only because propagandists paid so much attention to them” (262).
3 – the Waldensians responded to medieval corruptions by developing self-reliant patterns of practice and piety, preferring their own confessors and variations in rites and practice. Rather than a monastic reform, which was more characteristic of the middle ages, they relied on their informal clergy, known as barbes.
77 “Waldensian teaching was that because priests lived too fast and loose, they had lost the power to absolve sins, or even administer sacraments, according to some; the barbes, by constrast, were saintly men, imitators of the apostles, and had at least as much, or possibly more power, when compared to the priests.”
253 “The first striking feature of the Waldensian heresy to emerge from this examination is its lay character.” This was a departure from the medieval order, which is what made them suspect to those who kept records.
254 “Equally, the most distinctive features of heretical practice were those which were on the fringes of religious behaviour. They were: a preference for intermarriage and the maintenance of a close community; a conscious avoidance of casual blasphemy, to the point of seeming sanctimonious; the use of separate rituals in burial; and the cultivation of special emblems, like the barbes’ needles. In contrast to these signs, the worship and beliefs of the Waldenses were distinguished by irregularity and conventionality.”
“The popular nature of this dissent, finally, is most important. Its popular character lay most visibly in its failure to use logic to sort out the implications of its beliefs.”
256 “In their doctrines we have seen little evidence to place the Waldenses amongst the precursors of the reformers.”
258 Cameron stresses the importance of the rural setting. There is more difference between rural and urban reformations than between differing rural phenomena. “In the countryside protestant and catholic could mix, and in the case of the Valtelline even share places of worship.”
261 “The Waldenses reveal themselves simply as a group of people dedicated to their distinct, communal vision of their own importance and their own holiness, a group which refused to be bullied or distracted by outsiders unless for the most pressing of reasons.” To what is this owing? Mostly their setting in deep valleys of difficult access in the Alps (12).
Sometimes that’s what research achieves. It is an interesting historiographical lesson.