Explore the Trail of Faith.



Barbi College
Built during the Middle Ages and thought to be the oldest Protestant seminary in the world, the School of the Barbas (ministers) was a seminary where young men memorized the Bible before setting out to share their faith as the apostles did. There, they also studied Latin, French and Italian, and transcribed the books of the Bible into their own dialect called Patois. The school was used until 1532 when the Waldenses joined the Reformation.


Church of the Cave
Situated in a mountain and well-hidden by trees and rocks, Gheisa d’la Tana, the Church of the Cave was the meeting place of the Waldenses during a time when the Bible and public worship was forbidden. Parishioners had to crawl on their hands and knees through the cave’s narrow entrance to reach a safe place to study the Bible and worship.


Monument at Chanforan
The Waldenses responded to the opportunity to reaffirm the Bible as the absolute standard of faith and join with others who believed as they did. Ministers met with reformers in Switzerland and Germany and after a period of careful deliberation, the Waldenses joined the Reformation. In 1532, thousands of ministers and laymen met with prominent Reformers at Chanforan, and the Waldensian Church changed forever as its followers embraced the Reformation and secrecy was abandoned.


The Temple at Ciabas
Built to the specifications of the original Temple at Ciabas, the church at the Trail of Faith serves as a reminder of the Waldenses’ faithfulness to God. Thought to be the oldest Protestant church, it was built in 1555 with thick walls and tapered windows and no bell tower since it was illegal to call people together for worship. The temple was also used as a place of refuge during siege.


Exile Departure Site
In 1686, the Duke of Savoy ordered the Waldensian religion abolished. Any practice of the religion was punishable by death. Troops massacred, raped, pillaged and burned the villages. Others were imprisoned, but from secret caves and forests, there emerged God’s remnant of the faithful, who launched a daring plan to free their imprisoned countrymen. Eventually, the prisoners were released, but were exiled to Switzerland unless they renounced their faith. More than three-fourths of them chose exile. Almost 200 died crossing the snowy mountains. Only 2,656 lived to reach Geneva.


Monument at Sibaud
This monument marks the return of the exiled from Switzerland to Italy. Hundreds died along the way, but still they persevered, fighting their way one village at a time. It appeared the 900 farmer soliders would meet certain defeat at Salbertrand where they faced 2,500 French troops ready for battle. Stopping only long enough to pray for God’s protection, the Waldenses forged onward and miraculously won the battle, losing only fifteen men. Six hundred French soldiers were killed. Napoleon remarked that this was the greatest military victory in the annals of military history. In 1691, the Duke of Savoy permitted the Waldenses to reclaim their homes.


The Beckwith School
The Waldenses suffered persecution and death for the right to read the Bible, so they were dedicated to education. After reading about the Waldenses and being inspired by their journey, Canadian John Charles Beckwith settled in the Waldensian Valleys in 1827 and began building schools. When he died 30 years later, 165 schools had been built through the hamlets.


Memorial Fountain at Torre Pellice & Edict of Emancipation
On February 17, 1848, King Charles Albert I signed an Edict of Emancipation, giving the Waldenses the same political and legal rights as other citizens. As a result, they could now organize congregations and conduct evangelistic meetings outside the valleys. For the Waldenses, February 17 remains an anniversary of liberation that is celebrated even now. August 15 is also observed as a festival day since it marks the glorious return of the Waldenses to their native Italy after being exiled to Switzerland.


The Tron House
Pierre and Louise Tron and their children were among the first 29 people to settle Valdese. Built in 1893, their tiny frame house was one of the first constructed here just 500 yards from its present location. The first settlers worked to prepare the settlement for the arrival of 200 of their countrymen who came later that summer.


The Sawmill & Big Waldo
As part of an agreement to purchase land from the mortgage company, a steam-powered sawmill was set up in the center of the Colony. The plan was to sell the surplus lumber from the sawmill to help pay the mortgage. The engine was old and unreliable and eventually, the idea of incorporating the town was abandoned. The mortgage company reclaimed the land and sold small parcels of it to the Waldensian families.


The Refour House
The Refour House, a rock structure built with field stone, is an example of what the Waldenses brought with them to the new world. In typical Italian valley fashion, the house had three stories, the bottom for the farm animals, the second for the living quarters, and the third for sleeping. However, early settlers often slept in the stables near the animals for heat, especially during those first harsh winters.


The Community Oven
One of the first projects of the original settlers was to build the community oven. Several women from the settlement raised funds for the oven by visiting area churches, where they sang hymns and shared their story. Three stone masons from the Old Country did the work, and soon the women were baking their first loaves of fresh bread in the colony.


Waldensian War Memorial
This Monument contains the names of all the men and women descendants of the Waldensian settlers of Valdese who have served and lost their in the armed services of this country. It lists the names of men and women beginning with the Spanish-American War, to the Gulf war. There are 277 names listed in memorial of the fallen. The stone carrying these names was donated by a lady from Newland, North Carolina.


Pentagon Memorial
Built in honor of the late Lieutenant Eric Allen Cranford (December 21st, 1968-September, 11th 2001), this memorial stands in remembrance of Eric and the countless others who lost their lives that fateful day. Eric was an Eagle Scout who lived in Drexel and attended Drexel First Baptist Church. Eric graduated from East Burke High School as well as N.C. State University and Naval Flight School. He was the son of Fred Cranford, one of the original trail board of directors and writer of the play From this day Forward the famed production of Valdese. By embodying the design of the pentagon and including a piece of the rubble form the terrorist attack the memory of Eric and all other fallen heroes will not be forgotten. Tyler Andrews completed the memorial in 2010 as an Eagle Scout project.

The Waldensian Trail of Faith consists of fifteen open-air exhibits and replicas tracing the religious heritage, many believe from the apostles, and pilgrimage of the faithful Waldenses from the Alps of Northern Italy to the settling of Valdese in 1893.

401 Church Street NW, Valdese,
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