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AUTO-DA-FE (ca. 1481-1810).

Portuguese, meaning act of faith. Tragic and justly infamous ceremony; climax of a heresy-hunting investigation by the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal. Those condemned as heretics were led to public penance or execution, the latter usually by being burned at the stake.

The auto-da-fe took the form of a procession through the main streets of the city to the public square, usually in front of a church. It was led by hooded monks who were followed by the hapless prisoners. Those condemned to death carried lit candles, wore a pointed cap on their heads and a tunic called the san benito upon which the “crimes” of the victims were inscribed and various diabolic symbols were painted. Priests, monks, and soldiers brought up the rear of the procession.

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