In 1685, with the Edict of Fontainebleau, the French government placed new restrictions on the Huguenots, and the new duke of Savoy, Victor Amadeus II, decided to follow suit. He banned Waldensian pastors, forbade their public worship and forced parents to give their children a Roman Catholic baptism. When the Waldensians rebelled, many were again killed and imprisoned.
Joshua Janavel and the Plight of the Waldensians
When the troops of the Duke of Savoy asked the Waldensians to give them hospitality, Joshua Janavel was not convinced. The Waldensians had survived through a long history of persecutions, starting in the 12th century. Their official adherence to the Protestant Reformation in 1532 (at the synod of Chanforan) only managed to exacerbate their friction with the Roman Catholic authorities of their lands.
In January 1655, they had been formally ordered to attend Mass or move further up in the mountains. Being winter, the duke thought they would choose the first alternative, but they didn’t. Most men moved to a location further up the mountain, preparing a place for their families.
The Easter Massacre
But the duke and his mother, Christine of France, who had been ruling as regent until recently and was still largely holding the reins, were not through. Eager to earn the favor of the papacy at a crucial time in their political career, they sent troops to attack the Waldensians, forcing them to flee. When the commander of the troops realized that the Waldensians were hard to catch, he played “good cop, bad cop” by blaming the attacks on his troops and asking for temporary housing. It was a trick, and Janavel knew it.
Within hours, homes were burned and men, women, and children were brutally killed, captured, and tortured.