*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 26th of September 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
A happy Sunday to you, and I’m sorry if this show bums you out. But it is an opportunity to talk about a number of important things, but also something violent, distasteful, and anti-Christian: the auto-de-fe.
Perhaps you know this word. Perhaps you think it’s a French car.
But what if I told you that it was Spanish for “Act of Faith”?
Perhaps with that news, you would expect something uplifting or Christ-centered.
But if you know, you know that this was a very strange name for the executions and murders carried out by the Spanish Inquisition on behalf of state and ecclesiastical leadership.
There were a number of punishments for heresy, and a number of ways in which supposed heretics were judged, condemned, and put to death. The Auto De Fe was one of them. Essentially, this “Act of Faith” was a publicly held outdoor worship service in which condemned heretics would be given the opportunity to repent- their own “act of faith” or they could refuse, remain obstinate, and be put to death. There are some technicalities… let me explain.
At the auto-de-fe, you would be given the Sanbenito to wear- that is, the “blessed sackcloth” Depending on the crime it could be relatively plain, or it could have the crimes listed on it or devilish images. A penitent could be identified often by the yellow color of this Sanbenito.
Now, if you were guilty but repented you would wear the “Fuego Revolto” sackcloth with flames pointing downwards to show how you escaped that particular kind of death. You still were killed, just strangled before being burned.
If you were obstinate you wore the Samarra which was decorated with pictures of hell and devils, because that was going to be your fate after the flames.
Ok- now to the remarkable story of Leonor Cisneros, a Spanish woman who became a follower of Reformation doctrines sometime in the 1530s along with her husband.
The Spanish Reformation is fascinating because of the strength of the crown to crush dissent. There was a fairly robust underground book trade that introduced the ideas of Luther et. al. to Spaniards but meeting together for worship was a dangerous idea. So these crypto Protestants could hang out with the other marginalized and despised and had no designs on overthrowing the government, reforming the crown, etc… it was an underground affair.
And the Inquisition had to be especially tough to root out this underground sect and the auto-de-fe, a spectacle unlike others sought to dissuade further attempts at reform.
It was in 1568 that Leonor and her husband Antonio were arrested with a group of others called “Lutherans” (which meant “reformation trouble makers” more than anything particularly Lutheran). The accused were separated, and just like in cop shows, the interrogators tell the isolated person that the others have confessed and repented. Leonor was told this, believed it and confessed and repented. Her husband and most of the others had not in fact confessed or repented. So on the day of the auto-de-fe, the condemned were marched out in front of the crowd in their various Sanbenitos. Leonor wore the simple garment of the penitent while her husband and others wore the Sambarra complete with pictures of flames. Antonio saw this and publicly berated his wife for cowardice. Antonio died but Leanor did not. But the memory of her husband going to his death while condemning her was too much. She un-repented (did a repentance backsies?) And finally received her Sambarra which she wore on this, the 26th of September in 1568 at her very own auto-de-fe.
The last word for today comes from the Gospel of John:
I give you peace, the kind of peace only I can give. It isn't like the peace this world can give. So don't be worried or afraid.
You have already heard me say I am going and I will also come back to you. If you really love me, you should be glad I am going back to the Father, because he is greater than I am.
I am telling you this before I leave, so when it does happen, you will have faith in me.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 26th of September 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man who told me he enjoys his sambarras with a little guacamole and a hint of lime. He is Christoper Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a man whose favorite “autos/ottos” do not include the “de fe” but do include both the taco from tacodeli in Oak Cliff and, Otto: Doug and Kelsi’s boy. I am Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.