Excerpt from Encyclopaedia Britannica 2003
"The Waldenses departed from the teaching of the Roman Catholic church by rejecting some of the seven sacraments and the notion of purgatory. Their views were based on a simplified biblicism, moral rigour, and criticism of abuses in the contemporary church. Their movement, often joined to and influenced by other sects, spread rapidly to Spain, northern France, Flanders, Germany, and southern Italy and even reached Poland and Hungary. Rome responded vigorously, turning from excommunication to active persecution and execution. Though the Waldenses confessed regularly, celebrated communion once a year, fasted, and preached poverty, they repudiated such Roman practices as prayers for the dead and the veneration of saints, and they refused to recognize secular courts because they did not believe in taking oaths.
In the early 13th century a number of Waldenses returned to orthodoxy; by the end of the century persecution had virtually eliminated the sect in some areas, and for safety the survivors abandoned their distinctive dress. By the end of the 15th century they were confined mostly to the French and Italian valleys of the Cottian Alps."