Middle English Waldensis, from Medieval Latin Waldenses, Valdenses, from Peter Waldo (or Valdo)
First Known Use: 15th century
Members of a Christian movement that originated in 12th-century France. Devotees sought to follow the example of Jesus and the Apostles by adopting lives of preaching and poverty. The movement's founder, Valdes, was condemned by the archbishop of Lyon for continuing to preach without church permission. Although placed under a ban in 1184 by Pope Lucius III (1181–85), Valdes remained orthodox and hoped for eventual acceptance by the church. His followers, however, gradually departed from Roman Catholicism by rejecting the clergy's right to administer the sacraments, the notion of purgatory, and the veneration of saints. Rome responded by actively persecuting the Waldenses, and their numbers diminished by the end of the 15th century. In the 16th century they adopted some aspects of Protestant doctrine and the church organization of Genevan Protestantism. Intermittently persecuted in later centuries, they have remained a small movement within Christianity. They survive today in Argentina, Uruguay, and the U.S.