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Auto-da-fé

(Port. = “act of faith”). A ceremony of the Spanish Inquisition at which, after a procession, Mass, and sermon, sentences were read and the execution process inaugurated. Heretics were dressed in the ceremonial san-benito, a yellow penitential garment with a red cross front and back, grotesquely embroidered for the unrepentant, and they wore a yellow miter. Those sentenced to death were handed over to the secular authority for execution within five days, usually by burning. Most of the great auto-da-fés occurred when Tomás de Torquemada* was head of the Inquisition. The last in Spain was at Seville in 1781, though one was celebrated in Mexico as late as 1815.