Auto Da Fe

Auto da Fe (Spanish, from the Latin ACTUS FIDET, "act of faith"), a ceremony in the acts of the Spanish Inquisition in which condemned heretics were punished, and those acquitted of heresy were released. The auto da fe generally took place on a Sunday, between Pentecost and Advent, and very often on All- saints'-day. The procession was headed by the Dominican monks, carrying the banner of the Inquisition. Following these, and separated from them by a crucifix, were those whom the Inquisition had pardoned. Next marched those who were condemned to death, attired in a peculiar habit, barefooted, their head covered with a high cap, on which were painted devils and flames. Finally came effigies of such as had avoided condemnation by flight, and the coffins of the victims, painted black, with images of devils and flames on them. The march was closed by priests, who accompanied the procession through the principal streets of the city as far as the church, where a sermon on faith was delivered. The verdict of the Inquisition was then read to the accused, who were obliged to stand in front of a cross, with extinguished tapers in their hands. As soon as the sentence of death was read against any one, an officer of the Inquisition gave the accused a slight tap on the chest to signify his surrendering the culprit to the secular authorities. The condemned were then loaded with. chains, taken to prison, and two hours afterward cited before the higher court, where they were asked in what religion they preferred to die. Such as declared their adherence to the Roman Church were strangled, the others burnt alive. A stake was prepared on the place of execution for each victim. Two priests invited each of them to make their peace with the church, and, when all their efforts failed, solemnly consigned them to the devil. The burning then commenced; and the remains of such as were already dead, together with the effigies of such as had fled, were also thrown into the fire. The day after the auto da fe, those whom the Inquisition had pardoned were (after swearing never to reveal what had taken place during their trial) restored to the places from whence they had been taken when arrested. On the occasion of an auto da fe, the Inquisitors were accompanied by the civil and military authorities, the nobility, and even the king and princes, while people of all ranks crowded to see the exhibition. No auto da fe has taken place since the middle of the 18th century; and the sentences after that time, up to the abolition of the Inquisition in 1808 by Joseph Napoleon, were carried into execution privately, in the buildings of the Inquisition. SEE INQUISITION.

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