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Medieval Sourcebook: The Conversion of Peter Waldo


And during the same year, that is the 1173d since Lord's Incarnation, there was at Lyons in France a certain citizen, Waldo by name, who had made himself much money by wicked usury. One Sunday, when he had joined a crowd which he saw gathered around a troubadour, he was smitten by his words and, taking him to his house, he took care hear him at length. The passage he was reciting was the holy Alexis died a blessed death in his father's house. When morning had come the prudent citizen hurried to the schools of theology to seek counsel for his soul, and when he was taught many ways of going to God, he asked master what way was more certain and more perfect than all others. The master answered him with this text: thou wilt be perfect, go and sell all that thou hast," etc

Then Waldo went to his wife and gave her the choice of keeping his personal property or his real estate, namely, he had in ponds, groves and fields, houses, rents, vineyards, mills, and fishing rights. She was much displeased at having to make this choice, but she kept the real estate. From his personal property he made restitution to those whom he had treated unjustly; a great part of it he gave to his little daughters, who, without their mother's knowledge he placed in the convent of Font Evrard; but the greatest of his money he spent for the poor. A very great famine was then oppressing France and Germany. The prudent citizen, Waldo, gave bread, with vegetables and meat to every one who came to him for three days in every week from Pentecost to the feast of St. Peter's bonds.

At the Assumption of the blessed Virgin, casting some money among the village poor, he cried, "No man can serve two masters, God and mammon." Then his fellow-citizens ran up, thinking he had lost his mind. But going on to a higher place, he said. " My fellow-citizens and friends, I not not insane, as you think, but I am avenging myself on my enemies, who made me a slave, so that I was always more careful of money than of God, and served the creature rather than the Creator. I know that many will blame me that I act thus openly. But I do it both on my own account and on yours; on my own, so that those who see me henceforth possessing any money may say that I am mad, and on yours, that you may learn to place hope in God and not in riches."

On the next day, coming from the church, he asked a in citizen, once his comrade, to give him something to eat for God's sake. His friend, leading him to his house, "I will give you whatever you need as long as I live." When this came to the cars of his wife, she was not a little troubled, and as though she had lost her mind, she ran to the archbishop of the city and implored him not to let her husband beg bread from any one but her. This moved all present to tears.

[Waldo was accordingly conducted into the presence of the bishop.] And the woman, seizing her husband by the throat, said, "Is it not better, husband, that I should redeem my sins by giving you alms than that strangers should do so? " And from that time he was not allowed to take food rom any one in that city except from his wife.

from an Anonymous Chroncicle written about 1218 and translated in J. H. Robinson, Readings in European History, (Boston: Ginn, 1905), pp. 381-383


This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

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(c)Paul Halsall Jan 1996
halsall@murray.fordham.edu