Autoodaf - what is it?

From the word "auto-de-fe" blows in the Middle Ages, associations arise in the imagination with evil witches (in fact, unhappy slandered women) and severe inquisitors such as Torquemada. I remember a treatise on demonology "The Hammer of the Witches" and bonfires burning in the squares of Spain. So, auto-da-da-what is it? Let us consider this concept in more detail.

Origin of the term

Preparation for execution

What is the origin of this word? In Spanish, there is an expression auto de fe, which means "act of faith." A similar phrase is also found in Portuguese and Latin. And in Russian, what is auto-da-fe?

During the Middle Ages in Spain and Portugal there was a religious ceremony, furnished with great solemnity. It consisted of several parts, among which were such as:

  • The passage of the procession.
  • The performance of worship.
  • Speech by preachers.
  • Bringing public repentance to convicted heretics.
  • Announcement of their sentence.

This religious ceremony is called "auto-da-fe".

Other meanings of the word

Girolamo Savonarola

Sometimes this concept is used in other meanings. So, for example, in the commonly used sense, the word "auto-da-de" also means the process of enforcing a severe sentence. Basically it was the burning of unfortunate convicts in the flames of a fire carried out in front of the interested public. But as we shall see below, strictly speaking, this is not true, since the execution took place outside the framework of the auto-da-fe.

This ceremony should not be confused with the so-called vanity fire, which was the burning of various objects in the squares of Florence, as directed by the religious leader Savonarola in the 15th century. Such items were “instruments of secular vanity,” to which books of worldly content, mirrors, costumes, perfumes and paintings confiscated from Florentine citizens were attributed.

Origin of the ceremony

King on auto-da-fé

There is an opinion that auto-da-fe appeared when the Inquisition appeared, that is, in the 13th century. And its wide distribution occurred at the end of the XV century. It was then that it acquired the character of a mass ritual event, while being furnished very dramatically.

But it should be notedthat Anna Komnina (the daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Alexei I and one of the first female historians who lived in the 11th-12th centuries) described the burning of a representative of the sect of the Bogomils Basil in 1025.

In Spain, the practice of conducting an auto-da-fe was established when the Inquisition strengthened its position there at the end of the 15th century. For the first time in Seville 6 people were burned in 1481. Often the auto-da-fe mechanism was used to enrich the royal treasury.

Facts from the story

Thomas Torquemada

Studying the question of auto-da-fe - what it is, we present some facts from the history of this ceremony:

  • The well-known figure of the Spanish Inquisition Torquemada from 1483 to 1498 burned 8.8 thousand people. According to some data, in Spain from 1481 to 1808 about 34 thousand people were burned, and about 29 thousand were immured, sent to galleys, lost their property. Although there are other numbers that are an order of magnitude smaller.
  • The Inquisition extended its influence also to the American colonies. Autodafés were held in Peru, Mexico, and Brazil. But also in the Portuguese colonies that were in India.
  • In the 16th century, the use of auto-da-fe reached enormous proportions; this practice existed until the end of the 17th century.
  • In Spain, the Inquisition was finally canceled only in 1834, and the last auto-de-fede took place in 1826 in Valencia, but at that time the convict was not burned, but hanged.

How did the auto-da-fe?


The procedure of auto-da-fe, as a rule, was arranged on the main city square with a large gathering of people. With this action, the nobility, both spiritual and secular, was necessarily present. In some cases, the king was in the square with his family, confidants, city officials, representatives of handicraft corporations.

To conduct an auto-da-fe, a specific day was appointed on which sentences were announced in several cases simultaneously. From the convicted heretics and witches, they took off their shoes, dressed them in "shameful" clothes, gave candles in their hands and took them to a solemn procession.

Then a Catholic Mass was held, during which a sermon and prayer was read, and after it all those present swore an oath that they would obey and assist the inquisitors.

After that, sentences were announced. At first they read the lungs, and behind them the grave offenses of those heretics and criminals who repented.Those who did not repent were handed over to the secular authorities, which was tantamount to a sentence of burning.

Thus, no fires directly during the auto-da-fe was ignited. Nobody was condemned to death by the Inquisition. Sentencing and execution was solely the prerogative of secular power.

The most difficult of the sentences of the Inquisition was the excommunication and transfer to secular judicial bodies. In accordance with the legislation of those times, stubbornness in heresy and renunciation of faith was equated with high treason - the most serious of crimes.

Other meanings

Considering the question of whether this is an auto-da-fe, one should also mention its reflection in the modern world. Naturally, such a famous ceremony in history has not sunk into oblivion without a trace. She was repeatedly captured in works of literature, film and music.

Among the books in the fantasy genre can be noted the novel by Alexei Pekhov “Autodafe”. This is a famous Russian writer, mainly working in this genre. He has awards received at national and international festivals, and is also a screenwriter for computer games.The book by Alexey Pekhov, “Auto-da-fe,” is, of course, not about medieval ritual. But fantasy fans praised her highly.

There is also the song of the Unreal band Autodafe. This is a Moscow rock band, which adheres mainly to industrial style, which means “industrial”. The themes of the songs of this group are very diverse - the apocalypse, the second coming of Christ, the cosmic and medieval themes.

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