1989 - The 300th Anniversary of the Glorious Return
On the night of 17 August 1689, 900 men ferried across the Lake of Geneva to the village of Yvoire. From there they proceeded by forced marches, climbing hills and scaling mountains, across the 130 miles which separated them from the Waldensian Valleys.
Preceded and followed by hostages taken in the villages along the way so as to avert any resistance, the commando column moved forward relentlessly, the exhausted and wounded left lying in the road. The surprise and the daring itinerary made it possible to avoid an encounter with Savoy troops, their only clash with French soldiers being at Salberstrand in the Susa valley on the night of the 23rd.
In spite of heavy losses the Waldensians were victorious. Seeing this “foreign legion” descending upon them, the Catholic people in the valleys abandoned their homes and took flight toward the plains to the east. The Germanasca Valley was freed without a struggle.
At Prali it was necessary to regroup and count losses. Casualties to this point numbered 30%, including those killed in action, wounded left along the road, scouts captured by the enemy, and some French who deserted. Henry Arnaud then seized the occasion of the liberation of the former Waldensian Church from its Catholic “idols” to preach a sermon on a text from Psalm 129, in which he sought to interpret for his companions the significance of the venture they were engaged in. This Protestant rampart to which they had come thus far, he said, had to be fully reconquered in order that Gospel preaching might once more be present in Catholic Piedmont. Theirs was not a march of nostalgia, but a combat by soldiers doing the will of the Lord. As one soldier recorded in his diary:
It is not possible to recount all that we suffered in ...