To Members of the Latrobe Family:Am writing to tell you about an exciting tour that Mark McMeley, a professor on the faculty of Valencia College, Orlando, Florida, and I are leading late next spring, to major, historic regions of French Protestants and their close spiritual cousins the Waldensians, who managed to survive the inquisition high up in the alps of northwest Italy. Mark divides his time between Orlando and Buenos Aires, where he also teaches. Fluent in French, Italian, and Spanish, he’s a son of the Waldensian-American community of Monett, Missouri, and has often led tours especially to many of the places on our itinerary.
Would love to have descendants of the early American Latrobes, and any others interested in Huguenot heritage, with us on what we're convinced will be an exciting immersion into especially the history of French and Swiss-French Protestants, who have had such a big influence on all the lands where they settled as refugees. Although I'm not of Huguenot descent myself (my late father said that our French ancestors came into England with the Norman Invasion in 1066!), I became fascinated with their story when my wife and I lived in St. Augustine, Florida, and I visited the remains of Fort Caroline, the Huguenot settlement at the mouth of the St. John's River (present-day Jacksonville) that predates even St. Augustine, whose Spanish commander Menendez attacked and annihilated the French colony.
Our adventure in 2014 will include fascinating places that we missed on a similar but shorter tour that I led in 2012, while still blending both fun and learning. For example:
The coastal Mediterranean’s Château de Raissac that preserves the artistry of 16th-century Huguenot naturalist/ceramicist/engineer Bernard Pallisy, and is also famous for its wine cellars;
Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, where the Huguenot villagers, remembering their ancestors’ own persecutions centuries earlier, bravely hid Jews from the Nazis during World War II;
Ancient Lyon, France’s second city, famous for its history but especially for its delicious cuisine (here the Huguenots made major advances in the manufacture of silk);
Northwest Italy’s soaring Alps, refuge from the worst of the inquisition that targeted the followers of medieval church reformer Peter Waldo (see photo on cover of attached pdf of the brochure);
The Château de Condé (also on the cover), palatial fortress for Huguenot nobility, plus the nearby fields where many U.S. World War I "Doughboys" died to help save Paris from the Kaiser’s forces.
But here for you are a YouTube video and three websites that tell much more about three of the wonderful stops on our tour. See first:
Annually in this remote hamlet of Mialet, at what the Huguenots call "The Museum of the Desert," descendants of Huguenots from all over Europe gather on the grounds on the first weekend in September for their "Assembly of the Desert." And Protestants from Switzerland, Germany, and all over France--literally from Normandy to Nice, from Paris to the Pyrenees, flock there in droves. This video is of this year's gathering.
Now log onto http://www.museedudesert.com/article5759.html.This is the English version of that museum's website. On our 2012 tour we spent a morning at the Musee, which is housed in a late medieval/early French Renaissance farm dwelling of stone, expanded into a well-appointed, modernized (inside) building that relates the entire moving story of the Huguenots between the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes through the times of their worst persecution for their faith, under Louis XIV. We were especially fascinated by the collapsible pulpits and Communion flagons & chalices, that quickly could be hidden, along with Bibles and prayer & psalm books, under floorboards and walls by Huguenots worshiping in secret, should the king's troops suddenly surprise them. But particularly impressive are the exhibits that tell the story of the brave "Camisards"-- Protestant farmers and ranchers of Languedoc, that beautiful, mountainous region of southeast France, who, fed up with the brutality of the king's dragoons, finally rebelled--and, armed only with pikes, swords, and blunderbusses, surprisingly held off the king's trained troops before, hopelessly outnumbered, they suffered defeat and many of them, painful execution.
Now see the link below for a tribute by 21st-century Jews to the brave villagers in another place that we'll visit, Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, a Protestant community near the sources of the Loire River in the mountains. During World War II the Huguenot pastors persuaded the villagers, at great risk to themselves, to hide and save thousands of Jews (many of them children and teens) from the Nazis and their French collaborators. Now increasingly a place where French city folk love to spend their August vacations, Le Chambon will welcome us, instead, in charming May, with delicious cuisine du midi and southern Gallic smiles!
Finally, by way of contrast, see this link in English to one of the chateaux that we'll visit--with venerable vineyard and winery. Chateau de Raissac is especially noteworthy for the paintings of the French owner, M. Jean Viennet, and the "pallisy ware" of Christine, his Scandinavian wife, who continues the tradition of pioneering, 16th-century Huguenot artist and engineer Bernard Pallisy, whom she admires:
Their children operate the winery, while M. and Mme. devote their time to their art and to welcoming guests!
Carefully read the brochure for complete details of our venture. NAWAS, an excellent tour agency, based in California, that has arranged wonderful tours I've led in the past, has worked out for us an overall price that includes full airfare from Orlando, Knoxville, or our trans-Atlantic departure point--or actually from any one airport from which ten or more in our group depart.
This overall price also includes first-class hotels with private baths, services of an English-speaking professional guide, comfortable motor coach and skilled driver, all breakfasts, and most of our evening dinners, as well as entrance fees to all sights. Mark, who’s led many tours to this region, knows inexpensive but great bistros and restaurants where we can eat lunches and the dinners that are not included. That will be a big help, especially in France, which otherwise can be quite pricey.
Registrations and inquiries about our tour continue to come in. Ruth Bamberger, of northern Kentucky, who is active in a ministry of her congregation in nearby Cincinnati in which she visits in prisons, is looking for another woman with whom to share a room on our tour. Perhaps someone you know?
Please do share the news about our tour with Latrobe descendants and with others who may be interested. Feel free to forward this note and to duplicate the brochure, making as many copies as you wish.