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tempio valdese di Rora' (TO) The members of the Waldensian and Methodist churches in Italy and South America are currently about 45.000. Though professing the same doctrines and being united by the same organization, they can be divided into three groups, each having distinct characteristics.

One third live in the valleys of West Piemonte, where they were present from the 16th century Reformation until 1848. These currently make up a group of 18 communities in the vicinity of Pinerolo, a large town where they were able to reside only after 1848.
Many institutions and buildings which are to be found at the centre of the Waldensian world are in Torre Pellice, a town in the heart of the Valleys which was defined by Edmondo De Amicis as the Italian Geneva. Il Collegio was built here in 1832 as well as the hospital, constructed with the financial help of the Tsar of Russia and the King of Prussia. This was followed by the new church (il Tempio), the Casa Valdese, where the Synod is held each year, and by the schools, now converted into a guest house. The last building to be raised was the dormitory for boy students, built in 1922 as a memorial to the fallen of the First World War, which now houses the Cultural Centre, library and museum.

Another third of the Waldensian members are scattered over the peninsular.
Communities of considerable importance have grown in the larger cities through the years: Turin where, thanks to General Beckwith, the Waldensians were able to build their first tempio outside the ancient Valleys. In a short time, the community here became significant, not onlu numerically, but also socially, due to its hospital, its hostel for out-of-town students and its sea holiday centre in Liguria: all institutions very much to the forefront in the social field of their time.
Florence, another important centre with a number of protestant churches. The Waldensian Church had its Theological Faculty here from 1860 until 1922, and also several ministries in the field of pedagogy, some of which are still present. There is also a home for elderly, Il Gignoro, which can be regarded as particularly commendable.
Waldensians formed two communities in Rome immediately after 1870; besides the two churches, the Faculty of Theology makes it, today, an important cultural centre for protestantism in Italy.
Other communities, some of ancient origin, others more recent, are to be found in agricultural areas or in small towns. Many families or single persons, isolated for reasons of work, study or residence, join with these groups.

The South American churches make up the third group, with about 15.000 Waldensians. They are called the Iglesia Evangelica Valdese del Rio de la Plata. The situation here is similar to that in Italy, with a close-knit group of ancient colonies in the district of Colonia in Uruguay and an extensive diaspora in the two republics of Uruguay and Argentina.

© 2005 Chiesa Evangelica Valdese