Vignettes of the Middle Ages 1000 – 1500 AD

by Debra Dian

A faithful remnant reserved through the ages by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

Angrogna Valley – 1250 AD

Joyanna rested on a blanket while watching her children romp about in a field of yellow wildflowers–breathing in deeply the fragrance of Juniper trees covering the mountain slopes. Looking higher at the gorge, already filled with snow, inspired a vague notion that winter was on its way. But for today they would enjoy the warm sunshine. After a picnic lunch they had hiked around the dry gully, looking for tree seedlings that could be transplanted before cold weather came.

The young mother rejoiced as she watched her daughters Susanne, Angelina and Colette clasp hands and dance around in a circle while singing a song about Jesus. The older boys seemed oblivious to their sister’s frolic while they planted tree seedlings under a large tree.

Yon and Jehan had learned about sheltering young trees from harsh weather from their papa, Zander. Using the sharp edge of a stone they dug holes for each seedling rescued from the gully, then gently tapped mounded soil around the fragile roots. Perhaps when the trees grew larger they could be transplanted again around their houses.

Joyanna thought about the trees now surrounding their house–trees her grandfather had planted when he was young–trees that sheltered them from winter wind and summer sun–and perhaps hid them from the eyes of predators around in the mountains. Thinking further back to when her ancestors first came to the Alps to escape persecution–their homes had been carved out of mountainside caves to camouflage their presence. Also, the caves were used for lookout, to hide livestock and kept stocked with food and water in the event they needed to hide there again.     

She remembered stories about her ancestor, Peter Waldo,1 that had been passed down from grandparents to children–stories about his dramatic conversion and belief in Christ–stories about giving away all his possessions to the poor and preaching from the Bible to the people in the streets of Lyon, France.

Waldo and his followers had been rejected by the church authorities and banned from preaching only because they were not ordained bishops. But they continued quietly proclaiming Salvation2 and distributing portions of scripture they had translated into their own local language3. As time went on the persecution became more severe until they were forced out of Lyon and even further, all the way to the Alps of Piedmont.

However, Joyanna’s generation had enjoyed the serenity and beauty of the Alps. The torment and sorrow her ancestors endured seemed far away now. Although they cautiously gathered in a cave for community worship on Sunday morning and kept to themselves in the Alps–even so, apart from occasional sickness or accident resulting in an untimely death, most of Lyon’s Poor, as they were called, lived long happy lives.

Joyanna walked over to the boys praising their planting efforts. “I hear the seedlings singing for joy in their new home.”

 Yon laughed. “Since they’re so happy, I hope they grow twice as fast.”

Jehan giggled. “And then we’ll have even more birds and squirrels.”

The girls came running to see about all the foofaraw. Susanne breathlessly asked if there were any seedlings left to plant.

“Everything rescued from the gulley has already been planted,” Yon proudly announced. “If you want to plant one, you’ll have to go get one yourself.”

 Colette pouted. “I wanted to plant one too.”

Perturbed, Angelina poked Jehan’s shoulder with her hand. “You were supposed to save some for us.”

Jehan smirked. “You were having too much fun skipping around, singing—we went ahead and planted them for you.”

Joyanna thought for a moment—for a way to bring peace to the situation–and there wasn’t time to go hunting for more seedlings. “Since the seedlings are happily planted, let’s give them names! Girls, this task is yours.”

Colette lifted her chin high and smiled with satisfaction as she joined in with Susanne and Angelina assigning names to the new baby trees.

Yon quickly winked at Jehan, then shushed him to remain quiet. They had already named the trees, but no harm to them getting renamed—and their sisters would be happy.

After Joyanna and the children hiked back home they settled down for the afternoon Bible lesson. It was their way of learning to read and write while studying the Bible.

Joyanna stood before her troop gathered at the table. “Alright, let’s review. We’ve been studying God, our creator. God created all things by his command. Remember, we learned about that in the Psalms and the book of Apostle John. Psalms teaches us to worship God—praising him with thanksgiving. Apostle John teaches us about our Creator becoming our Savior—to remedy our rebellion against God. And we’ve been reading the book of Ecclesiastes and now we have the conclusion of why we need a Savior–to save us from our sins. Yon, please read the last portion of the book.”      

Joyanna pointed to the place on the page to begin reading. Yon, age fourteen, the eldest child, was also learning German language with a friend from Austria. He thought it fun to study a different language and besides it may be useful if he ever traveled back to Austria with his friend. He held the large Bible in his arms as he stood to read. The family Bible had been translated into the language of his people from central France.3

“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth…Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” Ecclesiastes 12:1-14

     Yon sat down while Colette timidly asked, “What are God’s commandments?”

     “Good question Colette! We need to know what they are so we can obey them. I’ll find them in the Bible and then we’ll read them.”

     Colette, age five and the youngest, was just beginning to learn to read. She could recognize and read a few printed words, but she could listen and understand very well—her competitive spirit trying twice as hard to keep up with older brothers and sisters.

     Joyanna turned the pages of the book of Matthew, pointing out to Susanne where to begin reading. Susanne, age twelve, the eldest daughter, behaved as if she were the eldest of all the children, taking charge, bossing everyone, even her older brother Yon. And Yon the peacemaker let her get away with it most of the time. Susanne remained sitting to read since the larger Bible was too heavy to hold.  

“…You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself…” Matthew 19:16-29

     Joyanna looked for the next scripture text to read, then placed the Bible in front of Angelina, who was ten years old and the artist of the family. She asked if they could make an embroidered wall hanging with the commandments. Colette expressed excitement about the project too and mother Joyanna smiled and nodded affirmatively, then Angelina slowly read.

“…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Matt 22:34-40

Then eight year old Jehan pleaded for a scripture text to read. Being very energetic, he always wanted to be involved and have a part in everything.

     “I think we have one more, so Jehan this one is for you to read.”

“…Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:10-14

Zander came in from working on the goat’s pen. He smiled widely, embraced his wife Joyanna, lightly kissing her cheek. “All my favorite people, doing my favorite thing—studying the word!”

    Joyanna flustered with surprise. “We must be running late with are lessons today…we went for a picnic.”

     Colette jumped up and tugged on Zander’s sleeve wanting to be the first to tell about their adventure. “Papa we went hiking. And…and danced in the field. Sang to the birds, and…and we named the new baby trees.”

     Zander scooped up Colette in his arms to hug her. “I wish I would have been there.”

     Joyanna explained. “Zan you would be proud of Yon and Jehan. They transplanted tree seedlings from the gulley and then the girls picked excellent names for each one.”

     Zander put Colette down and walked over to the table, ruffled the hair on Yon’s head and patted Jehan on the shoulder. Glowing with smiles at everyone, looking at each one eye-to-eye. “God’s co-workers you are—all of you—God’s wonderful workers—proud of everyone.”

Joyanna dismissed the children from their lessons for the day, entreating them to do evening chores before dinner. Joyanna prepared dinner while the girls cleaned and set the table. They placed the wildflowers they had gathered from the field in a jar of water, making a delightful surprise centerpiece.

Zander added another surprise to their simple meal of bread, butter, cheese and vegetables–roasted fish—fish that he and a neighbor had trapped from the river. They had roasted the fish while tending to the goats and cattle.

     After dinner, routinely the time to work on craft projects, some remained at the table to work in the candlelight and others moved to the benches and chairs nearby–Joyanna crocheting a blanket, Susanne crocheting stockings while Angelina and Colette worked on embroidering. Yon and Jehan worked on carving wooden toys.

     Zan sat in his own chair, a larger wooden chair with arms and a high back, cushioned with embroidered pillows made by Joyanna and Susanne. By the light of a candle on the small cabinet next to him, he read the scriptures quietly to himself and at times he read out loud to the family when he wanted to comment on the text he had read. When everyone tired—(usually determined by Zan)—he called the family to gather in a circle for prayer and then said goodnight.

     Zan and Joyanna had their own room close to the cook stove and on the other side of their small house a room on each side of the fireplace—one for the girls and the other for the boys. Curtains hanging in the doorway and tied back on a hook could be loosened to provide privacy for dressing, but at times the curtains were tied back to get warmth from the fireplace during the winter.

The boys discussed their plans for the next day, plans to go with Zan and their neighbor to the bee hives to harvest honey. Yon fell asleep while Zehan talked on and on about the previous trip they had made to the bee hives. “We can make another hive close by…maybe the bees will make even more honey…”

The work week quickly wound down with the Lyons thankful for much accomplished in preparing for the winter ahead, and hopeful for the delightful autumn days to continue on with still yet more to do.

Early Sunday morning everyone prepared for worship, then Joyanna hummed a song as the family trekked along behind papa Zan to the cave church. As the congregation gathered, the men humbly nodded their heads to greet each other, the women hugged and the children giggled till they were shushed. After singing the Psalms and reciting scriptures from the Bible, Pastor Coty led them in prayers. Then they shared bread and wine as a memorial of the Lord’s death and resurrection, and looking for his coming again.

As they went out, they sang a hymn as a reminder to keep their hearts on the love of God till they would meet again.

All the way home, Yon pondered pastor Coty’s comments and prayers about sending out preachers to Austria. He wondered if God had been preparing him to go. He was learning the language from his friend who was planning to go back to Austria. The intense desire to go seemed like a familiar feeling, same as when he had felt convinced to become a follower of Christ. Yet for now, he would keep these thoughts to himself–except God, from whom no one can hide their thoughts. He would keep on talking to God about it until he was sure.

      After church the Lyons enjoyed a leisurely Sunday and a picnic lunch under a clump of trees near their house. The girls played games of chase and catch, while the boys raced each other in climbing trees. Wary parents watched, relieved by quiet prayers for angels to hold their children from harm and soothed by the sound of gentle rushing waters flowing in the stream beside them.     

Later, Joyanna retrieved milk, butter and cheese from the spring house, where they were kept cool, to take home for preparing dinner. The spring house, a very small stone building bridged over a stream and cooled by the water flowing underneath had been built by Zander’s papa and was used by their community to store milk, cheese, eggs and meats. It was hidden by trees growing on each side of the stream.

     Also, stored in the spring house were bees wax accumulated after harvesting honey and this was the week planned for making candles from the wax. Early Monday morning, after Zan and the boys left to take care of the herds, Joyanna and her three girls prepared the cook stove and the tables with everything needed to melt the wax, dip the wicks and hang candles to dry. They had already hand braided the wicks during the evening craft time. Neighbors Jeannie, a middle-aged grandmother and her daughter, Paulette, came to help out for their share of the candles made. And another neighbor, Cecile, Pastor Coty’s wife, agreed to watch over the children for her share of the candles made. Even though they were already well stocked with the tallow candles, they considered the cherished bees wax candles well worth the extra work.

Everyone gathered as Joyanna worked at melting the wax in a pot on the stove. “Looking perfect. I’m going to carry this pot over to the fireplace hearth behind you. Everyone get ready.”

     Jeannie, Paulette and Susanne stood in a row along the table ready to dip the wicks and roll and trim if needed, Jeannie singing in her deep alto voice, “We are ready to dip, dip, dip.”

     Everyone chuckled. Then Paulette pretended to be embarrassed. “Mother, you make everything a celebration.”

     Joyanna encouraged her friend’s lightheartedness. “It’s alright. More fun this way.”

     Angelina and Colette stood nearby, ready to take the finished candles to hang for drying. Yon and Jehan had already made a wooden frame for hanging the candles, as well as flat wooden trowels to hold the wicks for dipping.  

     Everyone had refined their part in the process of making candles over the years, but this was the first year Colette was old enough to participate. Angelina handed her the first set of finished candles to hang. “Here Colette, you’re so excited to do this–hang the first one.”

     Colette grinned while carefully, cautiously taking the candles, lest she drop them, and hung them on the frame to dry. Everyone cheered and clapped! Colette blushed as she got back in line to do her part with the women in the candle making venture for the day.


Zan and the boys finished herding the goats and the cattle through the pasture and back into the pens. Then they walked over to neighbor Gus to help with the chickens while Yon studied German with his friend Alaric. Gus and his family raised chickens to supply the community with eggs and poultry meat.

His wife, Mariette, had given Gus three sons, who were grown and married, living nearby and adding ten grandchildren to their family. And Alaric had been adopted as their fourth son. Many years ago, his parents, Mariette’s sister and her husband, were condemned and burned by the Catholic authorities for teaching people from their own Bible. Then Gus and Mariette rescued their three year old orphaned son, Alaric, and raised him as her own.

When Alaric was seventeen years old he had gone to Austria with a few friends to help a pastor and his wife build a house and harvest wheat for a few years. While there in Austria, they studied the local language and after returning home continued to study literature and scriptures in German, planning to perhaps go back to Austria someday.

     Shortly after Alaric returned home he became engaged to Madeline and planned to stay in the Valley to build a home and family next to Madeline’s family homestead.   

     Yon wondered if Alaric had the same yearning to go back to Austria. “Are you thinking about going to Austria since Pastor Coty prayed for people to go?”

     Alaric looked surprised. “How did you know?”

     “Just a hunch, since I’ve had thoughts about it too!”

     Surprised again, Alaric asked why he would be thinking about going.

     “I don’t know. Maybe it’s silly. I just have this intense longing to go. Almost like when I first became a believer in Christ.”

     “You definitely should pay attention to that. You’re very young, but maybe God would have you prepare now for going later.”

     “I think studying German is preparing!”

     “Certainly! And Bible study and prayer.”

     “Doing that everyday too.”

     “I think you’re on the way!”

     “I don’t know, but I’ll keep talking with God about it.”

     Alaric laughed. “Me too! But let’s keep it a secret–just between you, me and God.”

     Yon closed his mouth tightly and nodded his head.

Mild autumn days continued on a few more weeks giving the Lyons and other families in the valley time to chop wood, prepare sheds with feed for livestock, harvest the remaining fruit and vegetables, finish blankets, cloaks, scarves, hats and socks, until they felt well prepared for the winter months ahead.

As the days became shorter, the nights became longer and colder requiring use of the fireplace at night to keep warm. The Lyon’s fireplace radiated just enough heat from the smoldering wood coals to keep them warm through the night till Zan could replenish with logs early in the morning.

      The sound of crackling fire from more logs added to the fireplace awakened the girls. Susanne and Angelina stretched and yawned but Colette leaped out of bed to go look out the window—she wanted to be the first to see the first snow fall in the valley. They knew it would be any day since it had already started snowing higher up on the mountain peaks.

     Colette carefully opened the shutter on the window to peak out. “Snow!”

     Forgetting to close the shutter, she ran past papa Zan, who had been sitting in his chair reading, announcing, “Snow! Snow!” Then giggling, she pounced on the bed where Susanne and Angelina were sleeping, announcing snow had arrived.

     Zan chuckled as he closed the shutter. “Glad to know you’re not opening the shutter because you’re warm from a fever.”

     Zan’s voice awakened the boys and Joyanna too, so that everyone came to the doorway to see the first snow falling. Joyanna quickly shut the door again lest all the warmth from the fireplace escape and then stoked the fire in the cook stove to make a hot breakfast. The girls changed into their dresses, caps and aprons to help their mother while the boys changed and went out with Zan to feed the goats and cattle before the snow got deeper. Joyanna handed them a pail of warm water she had heated so that they could pour it in the watering trough to keep it from freezing over.

     With a yearning for Austria still in his heart, Yon asked, “Papa does it snow in Austria?”

     Zan looked surprised. “Suspect it snows in Austria, just like here…why do you ask?”

     “Because perhaps I will go there one day.” Yon hesitated to say more since Alaric had asked him to keep it quiet, but at times Yon felt like he would burst if he didn’t go to Austria or at least talk about it to someone.

     Zan nodded in acknowledgement, while at the same time the idea of his eldest son leaving the family was not something he could accept at the moment. But for weeks to come he would ponder what this could mean.

     For now his attention was on the herd in the pen. He had been proud of his ingenuity in creating the pen–camouflaged with small evergreen trees planted all around the outside, keeping the herd hidden and sheltered from the wind. Later, during the colder weeks of winter, livestock could be moved to the caves to keep them warm. Carefully, he opened the gate that had tree branches tied to it.

Jehan chased after a goat that got loose as Zan and Yon watched him go into the trees to find it, then they returned their concern to giving the cattle under the lean-to a little salt to make them drink. After the cattle drank from the water trough, they put out fresh fodder and

 looking again for Jehan, but not seeing him, they walked over to where they had seen him going into the trees. Zan called out for Jehan, but no answer. Yon found tracks in the snow and the two started following the tracks. Then the tracks stopped abruptly at the stream, the same place where Zan had trapped fish. Today the stream flowed slowly, but a bit deeper than usual, so carefully they crossed over, stepping along huge stones. Then looking for tracks on the other side and looking up and down the stream there was no sign of the goat or of Jehan.

     Puzzled and worried, they walked further along the trail until the snowfall became heavier. Zan knew he had trained both his boys and the girls how to get back home if they were lost. And it didn’t make sense that they were seeing no more tracks in the snow. And now the snowfall became heavier even covering up tracks they had just made. Reluctantly, they headed back home calling out for Jehan all the way.

     As they got closer to home they began seeing new tracks coming out from the trees along the stream. Could these be Jehan’s?

     Wide-eyed with wonder their fears relieved as they opened the front door to see Jehan warming himself at the fireplace. “Where have you been?”

     Jehan looked puzzled. “What do you mean? I got the goat back to the pen, but both of you were gone so I came home. Where have you been?”

     Perturbed, Yon folded his hands across his chest. “We were worried that you got lost in the woods…we were looking for you…freezing feet and hands…and here you are warming by the fire…”     

Zan grinned at Jehan and rubbed his hands in front of the fire to warm them. “Knew I taught you how not to get lost in the woods!” He chuckled with relief that his teaching had paid off.

Thankful for the passing of a mild winter and hopeful for spring coming soon, the people of Angrogna Valley longed for another peaceful, prosperous year. Their generation had enjoyed a time of peace on all sides, but knowing the past history of persecution caused them to proceed with caution. They had prayed along with Pastor Coty at worship each Sunday morning, grateful for peaceful times, but mindful of the Lord’s command to go to all the nations and preach the gospel.

Pastor Coty encouraged them to enjoy God’s blessings, but to remember there is still work to do. Prayers for Austria brought to Zan’s memory the comment Yon had made months ago, causing him to ponder the connection. But he dared not ask Yon about it lest he put any ideas in his head. He had not known that Yon and Alaric continued discussing the possibility of going to Austria when they met to study German scriptures. Yet, Alaric had become more and more committed to marrying Madeline and settling down in the valley. He had mentioned to Madeline the idea of going to Austria together, but she would not consider leaving home. Alaric knew that if decided to go it would be without Madeline and he wasn’t convinced it would be the right thing to do since he had already committed to marrying her.

     It seemed that Yon may have to go alone or find someone else to go with him. They continued to pray about it.

     Yon’s birthday was coming up and soon he would be fifteen. This fact had not gone unnoticed by the village matchmaker. While Yon and Jehan visited Alaric, Jeannie came to visit Joyanna and Zander. She had come to present the idea of a perfect match for Yon—twelve year old Annette, granddaughter of Gus and Mariette. A betrothal could be arranged with the parents and a future marriage date set, usually within three years. This would give time for Yon and Annette to establish a chaperoned friendship while Yon built a house close by the Lyons.

     Joyanna was excited about the idea. She liked Annette and considered her to be a good choice as a wife for Yon. She reminded Zander that they had been “matched” and their marriage arranged and a very happy one too. Zander rubbed his bearded chin indicating he was giving the idea some thought.

     His eyes sparkled as he shared his thoughts. “Let’s arrange for Yon and Annette to meet without them knowing we’re thinking of arranging a marriage. His birthday is next week. We could have a party and invite his friends and include Annette. Then we can observe them. See if they like each other. We certainly don’t want to match them up if they hate each other. Well I’m sure they won’t hate each other, but you know what I mean.”

    Joyanna laughed with joy. “This is good. A celebration is a wonderful idea anyway. And then we can know with confidence before we proceed with an arrangement.”

     Jeannie clasped her hands together, rejoicing. “This is fantastic. We could have the party at my house, then it could be a surprise for Yon. He comes to Mariette’s house every week anyway to study with Alaric. We could have Alaric bring him over to my house as a surprise…”

     With great gladness, the three continued to discuss and plan the party for Yon. Like children they could hardly wait. They only hoped that Yon would have as much fun.

     Susanne, Angelina and Colette came in the front door just as Jeannie was leaving. They had been visiting Pastor Coty’s wife, Cecile, who taught them how to spin and weave goats hair. Jeannie waved goodbye to them without saying a word about the party. Joyanna and Zan had decided to keep it a secret from the girls too–secret, until the day of the party finally arrived.

The day before, Joyanna had enlisted the girls to help with baking bread, fruit pastries and cakes. They had asked what all the fuss was about, but Joyanna had put them off without explaining. Now the day had arrived and Zan and the boys had already left to go visit Alaric, Joyanna instructed the girls to change into their Sunday clothes because they would be going to a birthday party for Yon.

     Colette clapped her hands. “Will we get to eat the cakes we made…oh and…and play games?”

     Susanne more somber than the rest asked, “Who will be there?”

     Joyanna looked slightly annoyed. “Yon’s friends and some of your friends too. Annette, Varenna, Tessa…”

     Susanne smirked knowing Annette would be there. She had been secretly envious of Annette for many years. But Angelina was delighted, rejoicing, clasping her hands together. “Surprise party—with all our friends—what fun!”

     The timing of the surprise seemed to be going well with most everyone arriving to Jeannie’s house before Yon and Alaric. Zan had already let Alaric in on the secret and advised him to bring Yon to the party shortly after Zan and Jehan left to go there themselves.

     After arriving to Jeannie’s house, Jehan began feeling a little envious of all the attention Yon was getting, thinking that he had never been given a birthday party. He stepped outside, picked up a stick, poking it around on the ground as he walked, his way of venting anger. Suddenly, a small snake slithered away in front of him. Seeing that the snake was the harmless kind and small he chased after it, caught it and wrapped it up inside his hat. He couldn’t resist adding a little extra fun to the party. He went back inside and waited with everyone else for Yon and Alaric to arrive.

     As soon as Yon walked in the door everyone yelled, “Happy Birthday!”

     Yon’s face revealed he had indeed been surprised. Alaric slapped Yon on the back. “Happy Birthday brother!”

     Joyanna and Jeannie began serving plates of food after they had maneuvered seating Yon close by Annette. No need for introductions since they already knew each other. Everyone knew each other since. It was a small community and they had all attended church and family gatherings.

     After finishing dinner, Yon offered to get dessert for Annette. “Cake or pastry?”

     Annette’s eyes seemed to sparkle. “Pastry please.”

     Jehan, standing at the perimeter of the room, watching for a time to add his surprise, and unnoticed by everyone as they talked and ate, unwrapped his hat which he had tucked tightly under his arm and lowered it to the floor behind Annette. In a few seconds the small snake slithered out in front of her. Annette happened to look down, screamed and ran, running right into Yon causing the fruit pastry to fly back into his face. By now others in the room also saw the snake. The ladies screamed and ran while the men chased after it and Jehan stepped outside because he couldn’t contain his laughter.

     Zan caught the snake and took it outside and after all the commotion everyone relaxed and laughed about it. Especially Yon and Annette.

     Even though things turned out differently than expected, Zan and Joyanna came away from the party convinced to proceed with presenting to Yon the idea of a betrothal to Annette. As matchmaker, Jeannie had already discreetly spoken with Annette’s parents and they were in agreement. Now it was up to Yon and then Annette to make the final commitment.

     After Zan spoke with Yon about an arranged marriage to Annette, his papa’s words came to mind, over and over again. “Your mother and I agree…consider a betrothal and marriage to Annette…”

     He had agreed to think about it–pray about it. But in addition to thoughts and prayers about marriage to Annette, he asked, What about Austria?

     One day, after he had been awake most of the night pondering his dilemma, while walking with Zan, taking the herds out to pasture and Jehan had wandered off at a distance, he asked. “Papa is it appropriate to add a condition to a betrothal and marriage proposal?”

     Curious, Zan asked him to explain.

     “Well, I haven’t talked with you about it, only with Alaric and God, but I’ve been seriously thinking of going to Austria–to be a preacher. That’s why I’ve been studying German scriptures. And Alaric was thinking of going too, but Madeline will not agree to it. So he feels like he cannot go because he would have to break his commitment to marry her.”

     Zan stopped walking and faced Yon, looking tenderly at his young son. “Austria? Sounds like you have a dilemma–say on.”

     “Could I offer to marry Annette, if, IF, she will agree to go with me to Austria as a preacher’s wife?”

     “Ah, I see.” Zan rubbed his bearded chin and then walked on to keep up with the herds and Jehan.

     Yon remained quiet keeping pace with his papa while Zan quietly pondered his own thoughts about the matter. Then Zan stopped again, looking at his son eye to eye. “It seems to me that in marriage each of you have to make a commitment to each other. She would have to go where you go. And if you have openly shared your intent to go to Austria to be a preacher and she and her parents accept that—then she would be obligated to go with you when that time comes.”

     Yon leaped up off the ground, throwing his hat up in the air. “Yea!”     

Several weeks later, after dinner, as the family gathered around to work on crafts, Zan called everyone to listen to a special announcement. “We never know what a day may bring, but Joyanna and I agree to commit Yon to God. And from our hearts we allow him to go—God willing, go to Austria as he was called.” Then papa called everyone to gather around Yon and pray for God’s blessing upon him.

Likewise Annette’s parents gave away their daughter to God and to Yon, allowing her to go to Austria as a preacher’s wife as they said with tears, “Some are called to go, some are called to let go.”


Yon and Annette’s friendship and fondness for each other grew during their three years of betrothal. As promised Alaric married Madeline and settled down in their own house near Gus and Mariette. Yon, including Annette, continued to study German scriptures with Alaric. Instead of building a house near the family homestead, after Yon and Annette married, they prepared to move to Austria, to build a home and start a small church there. The Lyons and the community in the Angrogna valley continued living in peace for many years until around 1312 when waves of persecution began. Severity of the persecutions continued to crescendo for the Waldensians even through the time when they embraced the Reformation movement in the sixteenth century.4

This story is a fictionalization. Although, historical events, people and places are used fictitiously, details of the time period have been portrayed as accurately as possible for authenticity. All characters are fictional unless otherwise noted. If an actual historical person is mentioned an endnote with citation will be included.

1. American Waldensian Society. History. Peter Waldo of Lyon, France (1140 – 1217 AD) began a gospel revival known as “The Poor of Lyons” or in Italy they were known as “The Poor Lombards” based on the Biblical ideal of poverty and giving to the poor while preaching, teaching the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They were rejected by the religious authorities and severely persecuted by the Catholic Church causing migration from the cities to the Alps of Piedmont, Southern France, Germany and Southern Italy. In the 16th century they became associated with the protestant reformation in their worship and beliefs, yet enduring more persecution.

Graves, Dan. Christian History Institute. Waldo Sought a Truer Faith.

2. Salvation: “Repent, and believe the good news. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven. *If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me’… For us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. Mark 1:15, John 3:16, Matthew 10:32-33, 16:24-26, 19:21, Romans 4:24-25. *Earliest teaching of Peter Waldo and his followers based on Matthew 19:10, but also included the basic gospel scriptures.

American Waldensian Society. History. Peter Waldo of Lyon, France (1140 – 1217 AD) began a gospel revival based on the Biblical ideal of poverty and giving to the poor while preaching, teaching the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

3. David S. Schaff. History of the Christian Church. Vol. 5, The Middle Ages 1049 – 1294. The Waldenses. pp. 493-507, p. 505. The Waldensians from Lyon translated into the vernacular, the New Testament, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes.     Franco-Provençal (also Franco Provencal, Patois, Gaga, Savoyard, Arpitan or Romand) is a dialect group within Gallo-Romance originally spoken in east-central France, western Switzerland and northwestern Italy. Franco-Provençal emerged as a Gallo-Romance variety of Latin. The linguistic region comprises east-central France, western portions of Switzerland, and the Aosta Valley of Italy with the adjacent alpine valleys of the Piedmont.

4. David S. Schaff. History of the Christian Church. Vol. 5, The Middle Ages 1049 -1294. The Waldenses. pp. 493.507. Persecution from the Roman Catholic Church caused the Waldensians to flee from Southern France into the Piedmont valleys by the mountain streams of the Perouse, the Lucerne and the Angrogna. Because of their industriousness winning favor of the king, they dwelt in the Cottian Alps for a hundred years without harm. However, from around 1312 through the Reformation, the Waldenses experienced severe persecution—imprisonment, death by fire and other tortures. But despite persecution their numbers continued to grow moving into Germany, Austria and beyond. In Austria they were active in handing out the Scriptures. Their beliefs characterized adherence to the Scriptures and teaching of the scriptures in the vernacular to all people. They opposed the Roman Catholic teaching of Transubstantiation, purgatory, prayers for the dead, the practice of “Indulgences,” and the worship of relics, images and saints. Church historians have said that the Waldensians were among those who paved the way for the Reformation.

Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version©, NIV ©Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ©Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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