Auto de fe

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Pedro Berruguete. Saint Dominic Presiding over an Auto-da-fe (1475).

The phrase auto de fe refers to the ritual of public penance or humiliation of condemned heretics and apostates that took place when the Spanish Inquisition had decided their punishment.

Auto de fe in medieval Spanish means "act of faith". The phrase also commonly occurs in English in its Portuguese form auto da fe (or auto da fé).

Punishments for those convicted by the Inquisition ranged from wearing a special identifying penetential tabard or sanbenit, through other penances or terms of imprisonment, to the ultimate penalty of being "relaxed", that is, being released to the secular arm. The secular state performed executions, which generally punished a repeated offense of heresy, following a first conviction. If prisoners in this category remained obdurate, the executioners burned them alive; but if such prisoners became reconciled to the Roman Catholic Church, the executioners would strangle them at the stake before lighting the fire.

Autos de fe took place in public squares or esplanades. They lasted several hours: ecclesiastical and civil authorities attended.

The first auto de fe took place in Seville, Spain, in 1481, with the execution of six men and women. The Inquisition enjoyed limited power in Portugal, having been established in 1536 and officially lasting until 1821, although its influence was much weakened with the government of Marquis of Pombal, in the second half of the 18th century. There was only one act of auto da fe in Porto. In Lisbon, the Rossio square served as the burning place.

Autos de fe also took place in Mexico, Brazil and Peru: contemporary historians of the Conquistadors such as Bernal Díaz del Castillo record them. They also occured in the Portuguese colony of Goa, India, following the establishment of Inquisition there in 1562-1563.

The last execution due to the Spanish Inquisition -- the last auto de fe -- involved the schoolmaster Cayetano Ripoll and took place on July 26, 1826. His trial (on a charge of deism) lasted nearly two years. He died by garotting on the gibbet after repeating the words, "I die reconciled to God and to man".


  • Kamen, Henry (1999). The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision. Yale University Press. ISBN 0300078803
    • This revised edition of his 1965 original contributes to the understanding of the Spanish Inquisition in its local context.
  • Lea, Henry Charles (1906–1907). A History of the Inquisition of Spain (4 volumes). New York and London.
  • Whitechapel, Simon (2003). Flesh Inferno: Atrocities of Torquemada and the Spanish Inquisition. Creation Books. ISBN 1840681055af:Auto de fe

de:Autodafé es:Auto de fe fr:Autodafé pt:Auto-de-fé sv:Autodafé


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