auto-da-fé

(Portugese: act of faith)

Term applied to the public ceremony comprehending the official and ultimate announcement of a sentence of the Inquisition. Features of the ceremony included: a procession to a place specially designated in which those to be condemned as guilty of heresy, and those to be publicly reprimanded, participated; a religious discourse or exhortation followed by the swearing in of secular authorities who vowed obedience to the inquisitor in matters pertaining to putting down heresy; the "decrees of mercy" which comprised the remission, alleviation, etc., of sentences previously imposed, for those who had become reconciled with the Church; and finally, pronouncement of sentence on the guilty. These latter were then surrendered to the civil power. The ceremony attained its height in the 16th century in Spain.

New Catholic Dictionary

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