In January 1655, the Duke of Savoy gave the Protestant Waldensians two impossible options: attend the Catholic Mass, or abandon their homes and land in the lower valleys and move to the upper valleys. Rather than abandon their faith, men, women, little children and the sick waded into icy lakes and rivers and ascended frozen peaks to reach the homes of their destitute brethren in the upper valleys. But the Catholics were not done yet with the Protestants.
The Italian army would get help from 5,000 French soldiers. Early on Easter week, the French Catholics, just as they had done in their massacre of French Protestant Huguenots on Saint Bartholomew’s Day in 1572, began their attack but had little success against the small Waldensian army. With the help of treachery, they persuaded the Waldensians that they were coming in peace, so that the villagers even housed and fed them. At dawn on Easter Sunday, the Catholic forces began their merciless murder, torture, rape and looting; over 1,700 Waldensians perished in what is known today as the Piedmont Easter Massacre.