AUTO DA (Port. Act of Faith) was the name given to the procession or ceremony that used to take place in Spain and Portugal at the execution of heretics condemned to death by the inquisition. It was generally held on a Sunday between Whitsunday and Advent, very often on All-saints day. At dawn, the dismal tolling of the great bell of the high church gave the signal to begin the drama of the day; for as such it was looked upon by the people, who thronged to it in troops, believing that they did a good work in merely looking 'on. of the highest rank reckoned it prudent to give their coun tenance to the ," holy" tribunal at these processions, and even grandees of Castile did not disdain to make themselves familiars of the inquisition. The procession was led by the Dominicans, carrying the flag of the inquisition; next followed the penitents, on whom only penance had been laid; behind them, and separated by a great cross which was borne before, came those. condemned to death—barefoot, clad in the sanbenito, and with a pointed cap on the head; then, effigies of the fugitives; and lastly, the bones of dead culprits, in black coffins, painted with flames and symbols. The frightful train was closed by the army of priests and monks. The procession went through the princi
pal streets to the church, where, after a sermon on the true faith, the sentence was announced. In the mean time, the accused stood before a. crucifix with extinguished torches in their hands.. After the sentence had been read to them, an officer of the inqui sition gave each of the condemned a blow on the breast with his hand, as a sign that they avere given over by that tribunal to the secular power; on which a secular officer took them in charge, had them fettered, and taken to prison. A few hours afterwards, they were Nought to the place of execution. If they yet, at the last, made profession of the Catholic faith, they were so far favored as to be first strangled; otherwise, they were burned alive, and with them the effigies and bones of the fugitive and dead culprits. As .a rule, the king, along with his whole court, had to exalt by his presence the solemnity of the horrid t. ansaction. The most splendid auto da 53 took place at Madrid. under Charles II.„ iii 1080; the last was held as recently as towards the middle of last century.