In 1233 Pope Gregory IX commissioned the Dominicans to punish “heresy” (dealing with the Waldenses who taught that “apart from the Bible, they had no confession of faith, no rules nor any authority of men. To follow Christ was their chief desire.” – from Christians Only by James DeForest Murch) They became the “armies of the pope.” Anyone suspected of heresy was brought before the tribunal and commanded to recant. If he recanted (few did) he was set free. If he refused to recant he was surrendered to officers of the civil government to be tortured, for the “Church does not shed blood.” But Dominican friars would be present at the torture in case the heretic recanted. If they didn’t, they were tortured until they expired. The Inquisition, however, did not diminish the ranks of the Waldenses. If anything it added to it, for as Tertullian said,” The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”
In desperation, the pope called for a crusade that would be directed against the Albigenses and Waldenses. Many French nobles answered the call and marched to war against their own countrymen. For 20 years “blood flowed like water.” Southern France was devastated by the war of the fiercest kind. The Albigenses, who took up the sword, perished by the sword. They were all but exterminated. The peace-loving Waldenses managed to escape into Northern Italy where they found refuge in the high valleys of the Alps. They carry on their work, to this very day, the only group of believers to survive since the 12th century.