The Waldensians And The Bertoch Family
The Bertoch family has a Waldensian heritage that reaches back into the ancient Italian Alps Who are the Waldensians? There are many theories about where these mountaineers originated. Each with supporting evidence, as well as unanswered discrepancies. The truth of their origin will likely never be known.
For the passed 100 years or so, the generally accepted theory has been that this people descended from Peter Waldo. A wealthy merchant who in 1176 had a life changing event.
While dining together, one of Waldo's close friends suddenly and without warning died. This prompted Waldo to examine his life. He determined that he was not following the gospel as he aught to.
Waldo sold all his possessions, gave the money to the poor. He then began to preach. Waldo quickly gained many followers, who called themselves the Poor of Lyons, after the village of Lyons, France where Peter lived.
Waldensian woman being accused during the inquisitions that raged through Europe during the middle ages. This scene was replayed thousands of times, as Waldensians faced brief trials and often were tortured for their beliefs.
After being labeled as heretics by the Catholic Church, and after many were put to death, these Christians eventually left the Catholic Church, to form their own separate Christian sect, which they would call the Waldensian Church.
Forced to move from Lyons, France to the Piedmont Valleys in Italy, in order to escape persecution, these early reformers would thrive for many centuries in their new home.
However, while this explanation of the origin of the Waldensian faith is now broadly accepted, it should be noted that this story is modern in nature. Earlier Waldensians believed that they descended from the original Apostolic Church, founded by Christ. They believed that they existed in the mountains, completely separate from the Catholic Church, and that they never belonged to the Catholic Church.
They argued that Peter Waldo took his name from them, and not the other way around. Waldo meaning "of the valleys." or from the Piedmont Valleys.
Still others argue that the Waldensian movement began in the late 800s with the Bishop of Torin. Who objected to the iconoclasm and other follies that at that time were entering into the Catholic Church.
Personally I favor the apostolic origin. Both because it is a beautiful way for it to have all begun (an admittedly emotional choice), and also due to some language clues, that would seem to support an earlier beginning.
Regardless of opinion (which is all anyone can have) the fact that they existed no later than 1176 has been firmly established. These Christians practiced a totally separate religion from Rome, many generations prior to the beginning of the reformation.
Piedmont Valleys located in Italy, where the Waldensian people settled. The mountains offered protection for this people, against the persecutions that they faced for centuries. These mountains inspired a hymn called "The Hymn of The Waldensian Mountaineer." Known today as "For The Strength of The Hills." This hymn has since been borrowed by the LDS (Mormon) Church, which shares a similar situation, being protected by mountains against outside persecution.
Fast forward several hundred years to the mid 1800s when a new religious movement in America would reach the Piedmont Valleys.
Jean Bertoch, a prominent member of the Waldensian community met missionaries from the Mormon Church, and became convinced that their teachings were correct.
This enthusiastic convert to Mormonism would send his children to Utah, America to join the main body of the Mormon movement.
Many Bertochs live in Utah, Italy, and other areas throughout the world.