Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary 
WALLENSES, or Albigenses the Vaudois, or inhabitants of the beautiful valleys of the Alps, between Italy and Provence. Many have supposed that they derived their name from Peter Waldo, or Valdo, a merchant of Lyons, in the twelfth century, and one of their leaders and patrons; but their history has been traced considerably farther back, which has led others to suppose that, on the contrary, he derived his name from them, as Peter the Waldensian, or Peter of the Valleys. The learned Dr. Allix, in his "History of the Churches of Piedmont," gives this account: For three hundred years or more, the bishop of Rome attempted to subjugate the church of Milan under his jurisdiction; and at last the interest of Rome grew too potent for the church of Milan, planted by one of the disciples; insomuch that the bishop and the people, rather than own their jurisdiction, retired to the valleys of Lucerne and Angrogne, and thence were called Vallenses, Wellenses, or, The People in the Valleys. From a confession of their faith, of the early date, A.D. 1120, we extract the following particulars:
1. That the Scriptures teach that there is one God, almighty, all-wise, and all-good, who made all things by his goodness; for he formed Adam in his own image and likeness; but that by the envy of the devil sin entered into the world, and that we are sinners in and by Adam.
2. That Christ was promised to our fathers, who received the law; that so knowing by the law their unrighteousness and insufficiency, they might desire the coming of Christ, to satisfy for their sins, and accomplish the law by himself.
3. That Christ was born in the time appointed by God the Father; that is to say, in the time when all iniquity abounded, that, he might show us grace and mercy, as being faithful.
4. That Christ is our life, truth, peace, and righteousness; as also our pastor, advocate, and priest, who died for the salvation of all who believe, and is risen for our justification.
5. That there is no mediator and advocate with God the Father, save Jesus Christ.
6. That after this life there are only two places, the one for the saved, and the other for the damned.
7. That the feasts, the vigils of saints, the water which they call holy, as also to abstain from flesh on certain days, and the like, but especially the masses, are the inventions of men, and ought to be rejected.
8. That the sacraments are signs of the holy thing, visible forms of the invisible grace; and that it is good for the faithful to use those signs or visible forms; but that they are not essential to salvation.
9. That there are no other sacraments but baptism and the Lord's Supper.
10. That we ought to honour the secular powers by subjection, ready obedience, and paying of tribute. On the subject of infant baptism, they held different opinions, as Christians do in the present day.
For bearing this noble testimony against the church of Rome, these pious people were for many centuries the subjects of a most cruel persecution; and in the thirteenth century, the pope instituted a crusade against them, and they were pursued with a fury perfectly diabolical. Their principles, however, continued unsubdued, and at the Reformation their descendants were reckoned among the Protestants, with whom they were in doctrine so congenial; but in the seventeenth century the flames of persecution were again rekindled against them by the cruelty of Louis XIV. At the revocation of the edict of Nantz, about fifteen thousand perished in the prisons of Pignerol, beside great numbers who perished among the mountains. They received, however, the powerful protection and support of England under William III. But still the house of Saxony continued to treat them as heretics, and they were oppressed by a variety of cruel edicts.
When Piedmont was subjected to France in 1800, the French government, Buonaparte being first consul, placed them on the same plan of toleration with the rest of France; but on the return of the king of Sardinia to Genoa, notwithstanding the intercession of Lord William Bentinck, the old persecuting edicts were revived in the end of 1814; and though they have not been subjected to fire and faggot as aforetime, their worship has been restrained, and they were not only stripped of all employments, but, by a most providential circumstance only, saved from a general massacre. Since then they have been visited by some pious and benevolent Englishmen; and the number of Waldenses, or Vaudois, has been taken at nineteen thousand seven hundred and ten, beside about fifty families residing at Turin.
Mr. Milner very properly connects this people with the Cathari, or Paulicians, of the seventh century, who resided chiefly in the valleys of Piedmont, and who, in the twelfth century, according to this valuable historian, received a great accession of members from the learned labours and godly zeal of Peter Waldo, a pious man of unusual learning for a layman at that period. His thoughts being turned to divine things by the sudden death of a friend, he applied himself to the study of the Scriptures, and was, according to Mr. Milner, the first who, in the west of Europe, translated the Bible into a modern language. Waldo was rich, and distributed his wealth among the poor, and with it the bread of life, which endeared him to the lower classes; and it was probably the great increase of these pious people, in consequence of his exertions, which brought upon them the horrible crusade in the next century. This was, however, wholly on account of their pretended heresies,—their bitterest enemies bearing testimony to the purity of their life and manners. Thus a pontifical inquisitor, quoted by Usher, says, "These heretics are known by their manners and conversation; for they are orderly and modest in their behaviour and deportment; they avoid all appearance of pride in their dress; they are chaste, temperate, and sober; they seek not to amass riches; they abstain from anger; and, even while at work, are either learning or teaching." Seysillius, another popish writer, says of them, "Their heresy excepted, they generally live a purer life than other Christians." Liclenstenius, a Dominican, says, "In morals and life they are good; true in words; unanimous in brotherly love; but their faith is incorrigible and vile, as I have shown you in my treatise." But most remarkable is the testimony of Reinerus, an inquisitor of the thirteenth century: "Of all the sects which have been, or now exist, none is more injurious to the church, (that is, of Rome,) for three reasons:
1. Because it is more ancient. Some say it has continued from the time of Silvester; others from the time of the Apostles.
2. Because it is more general. There is scarcely any country into which this sect has not crept.
3. Because all other heretics excite horror by the greatness of their blasphemies against God; but these have a great appearance of piety, as
they live justly before men, and believe rightly all things concerning
God, and all the articles which are contained in the creed."
Charles Buck Theological Dictionary 
or VALDENSES, a sect of reformers, who made their first appearance about the year 1160. They were most numerous about the valleys of Piedmont; and hence, some say, they were called Valdenses, or Vaudois, and not from Peter Valdo, as others suppose. Mosheim, however, gives this account of them: he says, that Peter, an opulent merchant of Lyons, surnamed Valdensis, or Validisius, from Vaux, or Waldum, a town in the marquisate of Lyons, being extremely zealous for the advancement of true piety and Christian knowledge, employed a certain priest, called Stephanus de Evias, about the year 1160, in translating, from Latin into French, the four Gospels, with other books of holy Scripture, and the most remarkable sentences of the ancient doctors, which were so highly esteemed in this century. But no sooner had he perused these sacred books with a proper degree of attention, than he perceived that the religion which was now taught in the Roman church, differed totally from that which was originally inculcated by Christ and his apostles.
Struck with this glaring contradiction between the doctrines of the pontiffs and the truths of the Gospel, and animated with zeal, he abandoned his mercantile vocation, distributed his riches among the poor (whence the Waldenses were called poor men of Lyons, ) and forming an association with other pious men who had adopted his sentiments and his turn of devotion, he began, in the year 1180, to assume the quality of a public teacher, and to instruct the multitude in the doctrines and precepts of Christianity. Soon after Peter had assumed the exercise of his ministry, the archbishop of Lyons, and the other rulers of the church in that province, rigorously opposed him. However, their opposition was unsuccessful; for the purity and simplicity of that religion which these good men taught, the spotless innocence that shone forth in their lives and actions, and the noble contempt of riches and honours which was conspicuous in the whole of their conduct and conversation, appeared so engaging to all such as had any sense of true piety, that the number of their followers daily increased.
They accordingly formed religious assemblies, first in France, and afterwards in Lombardy; from whence they propagated their sect throughout the other provinces of Europe with incredible fortitude, that neither fire nor sword, nor the most cruel inventions of merciless persecution, could damp their zeal, or entirely ruin their cause. The attempts of Peter Waldus and his followers were neither employed nor designed to introduce new doctrines into the church, nor to propose new articles of faith to Christians. All they aimed at was, to reduce the form of ecclesiastical government, and the manners both of the clergy and people, to that amiable simplicity and primitive sanctity that characterized the apostolic ages, and which appear so strongly recommended in the precepts and injunctions of the Divine Author of our holy religion. In consequence of this design, they complained that the Roman church had degenerated, under Constantine the Great, from its primitive purity and sanctity. They denied the supremacy of the Roman pontiff, and maintained that the rulers and ministers of the church were obliged, by their vocation, to imitate the poverty of the apostles, and to procure for themselves a subsistence by the work of their hands. They considered every Christian as, in a certain measure, qualified and authorised to instruct, exhort and confirm the brethren in their Christian course; and demanded the restoration of the ancient penitential discipline of the church, 1:e. the expiation of transgressions by prayer, fasting, and alms, which the new- invented doctrine of indulgences had almost totally abolished.
They at the same time affirmed, that every pious Christian was qualified and entitled to prescribe to the penitent the kind or degree of satisfaction or expiation that their transgressions required; that confession made to priests was by no means necessary, since the humble offender might acknowledge his sins and testify his repentance to any true believer, and might expect from such the counsel and admonition which his case demanded. They maintained, that the power of delivering sinners from the guilt and punishment of their offences belonged to God alone; and that indulgences of consequence, were the criminal inventions of sordid avarice. They looked upon the prayers and other ceremonies that were instituted in behalf of the dead, as vain, useless, and absurd, and denied the existence of departed souls in an intermediate state of purification; affirming, that they were immediately, upon their separation from the body, received into heaven, or thrust down to hell. these and other tenets of a like nature, composed the system of doctrine propagated by the Waldenses. It is also said, that several of the Waldenses denied the obligation of infant baptism, and that others rejected water baptism entirely; but Wall has laboured to prove that infant baptism was generally practised among them.
Their rules of practice were extremely austere; for they adopted as the model of their moral discipline, the sermon of Christ on the mount, which they interpreted and explained in the most rigorous and literal manner; and consequently prohibited and condemned in their society all wars, and suits of law, and all attempts towards the acquisition of wealth; the inflicting of capital punishments, self- defense against unjust violence, and oaths of all kinds. During the greatest part of the seventeenth century, those of them who lived in the valleys of Piedmont, and who had embraced the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the church of Geneva, were oppressed and persecuted in the most barbarous and inhuman manner by the ministers of Rome. This persecution was carried on with peculiar marks of rage and enormity in the years 1655, 1656, and 1696, and seemed to portend nothing less than the total extinction of that unhappy nation. The most horrid scenes of violence and bloodshed were exhibited in this theatre of papal tyranny; and the few Waldenses that survived, were indebted for their existence and support to the intercession made for them by the English and Dutch governments, and also by the Swiss cantons, who solicited the clemency of the duke of Savoy on their behalf.
Webster's Dictionary 
(n. pl.) A sect of dissenters from the ecclesiastical system of the Roman Catholic Church, who in the 13th century were driven by persecution to the valleys of Piedmont, where the sect survives. They profess substantially Protestant principles.
The Nuttall Encyclopedia 
A Christian community founded in 1170 in the south of France, on the model of the primitive Church, by Peter Walden, a rich citizen of Lyons, and who were driven by persecution from country to country until they settled in Piedmont under the name of the Vaudois ( q. v .), where they still exist.