The Waldensian Heritage Museum preserves and interprets the history of Waldensian settlement in the foothills of North Carolina. The Waldensian Church of Italy dates back to at least the 12th century and its followers suffered severe persecution for centuries. In the late nineteenth century, population pressures forced many Waldenses to leave their homeland in the Cottian Alps of northern Italy. A group of twenty-nine journeyed to North Carolina and founded the town of Valdese in 1893, preparing the way for hundreds more Waldensian settlers.
The Waldensian Heritage Museum features many artifacts of early settler life including photographs, clothing, crafts, toys, household items, church furnishings, farm implements, carpentry tools, books, wine making equipment, and a quilt depicting scenes of Waldensian history.
Across the street from the museum is the historic Waldensian Presbyterian Church, completed in 1899. The Romanesque style church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Prior to building the church, the Waldensian congregation decided to unite with the Presbyterian Church of the United States, finding great similarities in creed and governance. One notable tradition that survived the journey to the New World was the practice of having children memorize a chapter of the Bible-centuries of persecution had instilled a fear of losing access to written scripture.
Every summer the story of the Waldenses is brought to life in the outdoor drama From This Day Forward, which is performed by the Old Colony Players in Valdese.
Hours of Operation
Museum tours are offered Tuesday through Friday at 11 am and 2 pm. Tours can be arranged for other times by appointment.
During the outdoor drama season, mid-July through mid-August, the museum is open from 4 pm – 6 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
Upon request, visitors to the museum may also tour the sanctuary of the Waldensian Presbyterian Church.
Hours of operation and fees are subject to change. Contact directly for most current information.
The Waldensian Heritage Museum and Waldensian Presbyterian Church are located in downtown Valdese, NC.