Saturday, December 18, 2010
On Friday, we were given a tour of a number of local Waldensian sites. First stop: the training center in the mountains.
Driving up a mountain road, we arrived at a parking area overlooking a bridge which spanned a cascading mountain stream. We walked up to a church, over a little stone bridge, up a stone path—up and up until my sea-level-loving lungs were ready to burst! Leg muscles more likely to hold a laptop than a mountain path strained to grip the rocky path. Snow lay about us in patches—good for traction, but adding to the sport of trying to stay vertical!
The training center--Il Colegio--is actually a set of stone structures hanging on the side of this mountain, at I don’t know what elevation, but HIGH!!! We stared out at the beauty of the snow-covered mountains, then enter the ‘study’—a small room, with a table in the middle, with a row of crude low benches around its perimeter. This is where the finest of the Waldensian men were handpicked and trained in the Scriptures before being sent out two years later, to bring the gospel into Europe. They were not expected to (nor did many) return.
Next door was the kitchen, an even smaller room, with a rack of dishes and a small table. Next to that, a stable, and then a dormitory room. Think small, cramped, dank, low-ceilinged, and dark. This is where the men lived, ate, slept, and studied for two years. They would have had to bring the stones from the mountains here to build these structures, and eke out a living from this mountainside refuge. The structures looked somewhat Celtic to me, and I wondered about the Irish-Italian connection. If you read “How the Irish Saved Civilization” (Thomas Cahill), you would have read how Columbanus, exiled from both Ireland and France, determined to go to the plain of Lombardy in Italy, and built the first Italo-Irish monastery there at Bobbio, in about 612. Did the Waldensians, 500 years later, build or rebuild on this same site?!
We spent a bit of time here, contemplating the past, imagining the men constantly on guard for their lives from lack of food or armies sent to kill them, almost able to hear their voices, and shivering in the cold they would have experienced. At the foot of these mountains stands a new training center, ready to train the next army of disciples; we envisioned bringing our interns here to find their own place in history. And then we made our descent.