Unspeakable Times
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15 Brutal Facts About Auto De Fe, The Inquisition's Public Torture Ceremony

April 3, 2017 44.6k views15 items

What was the auto de fé? Beginning in Spain at the end of the 15th century, the auto de fé was a religious and civic spectacle. The phrase literally means "act of faith," and the auto de fé was the climax of an Inquisition tribunal. In short, it was the moment of public penance, torture, and sometimes even death that heretics underwent if and when convicted of heresy. Facts about the auto de fé reveal a peculiar, cruel ceremony not so dissimilar from other forms of strange and slow forms of historical torture. Though most people think of brimstone and flames when they imagine punishment during the Spanish Inquisition, the auto de fé was not only about burning condemned men and women at the stake. 

While many people associate the auto de fé with the Spanish Inquisition, it is important to note that autos de fé were not practiced exclusively in Spain. Portugal, France, and European colonies around the world also enacted autos de fé. In many cases, actually, the colonies outdid Europe in scope. And, unlike other forms of torture and penance, they didn't focus specifically on women with the auto de fé.

Autos de fé were practiced for a length of time that might surprise some people. But the stories of horror and tragedy that autos de fé brought are not going away any time soon, and neither is the multitude of torture-in-art works that they inspired.