The Waldensian Trail of Faith is open for families who would like to enjoy a fun, educational day outdoors after being cooped up at home during the coronavirus pandemic.
The trail is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for historical tours and bocce games, using COVID-19 guidelines. Face masks are optional.
The trail features monuments commemorating the Waldensians’ historic accomplishments, including translating the Bible from Latin and Greek into French, building the first Protestant church and becoming the first religious group to have a religion different from the country that ruled them.
The tour begins in the gift shop with a brief introduction of the Waldensian people. Visitors can view a map of Italy’s Waldensian valleys where they originally came from before arriving in Valdese.
A 15-minute video tells the history of the Waldensians’ apostolic journey after first hearing about Jesus, the religious persecution they faced dating back to the 12th century, and their journey from Italy to America.
There are two types of tours offered. For the self-guided tours, attendees will use hand-held audio devices as a guide along the trail. A personally guided tour requires a reservation at least two to three days in advance.
“If they have a prearranged guided tour, the speaker will guide them on their own personal and enlightening tour of the trail to learn of the Waldensians and their faith,” said Sheryl Tron, office manager.
The 11-acre outdoor trail, built in 1993, offers 16 exhibits representing 2,000 years of Waldensian history and will take an hour and 30 minutes to complete.
The outdoor museum displays each phase in the Waldensians’ journey. Visitors will experience the Waldensian people’s home life through the Tron and Refour house exhibits and the community outdoor oven exhibit.
Some historical facts tour participants will learn are the significance of the Temple of Ciabas, believed to be the first Protestant church, and the Church of the Cave, where in Italy, the Waldensians had to hide to read the Bible and worship Jesus.
Due to overpopulation and starvation, many Waldensians had to leave Italy and travel to other countries to start a new life. In May 1893, Waldensians arrived in Burke County and founded the town of Valdese.
“The sawmill is probably our favorite part of the trail adventure because it was critical to establishing the Waldensians’ first homes here in Valdese,” Tron said. “It’s exciting to watch the original sawmill in action on guided tours cutting the souvenir blocks everyone receives.”
At the end of the tour, attendees can stay and enjoy bocce ball on one of the four courts available. Bocce is an Italian lawn-bowling game popular in other parts of the world and Italian immigrant communities in America.
The Waldensian Trail of Faith is at 401 Church St. NW, Valdese. Cost is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and $6 for students. The last tour of the day begins at 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Walk-ins are welcomed for self-guided tours.
To request a personal guided tour, call 828-874-1893 or email email@example.com.
Barbara Jolly-Deakle is a News Herald correspondent and a member of the Morganton Writers Group. She can be reached at BabbyWrites@CompasCable.net.
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