Date of Graduation

Summer 2014


Master of Arts in History



Committee Chair

John Chuchiak


auto de fe, Spanish inquisition, procession, spatial representation of power, religious ceremonies

Subject Categories



The auto de fe, or "act of faith” in English, served as the most elaborate public spectacle in what was otherwise the most private and secretive actions of an Inquisitorial Tribunal. At these massive public ceremonies that had both illustrative and didactic purposes, the Spanish Inquisition announced the sentences and punishments of those convicted heretics it sentenced and condemned. Although most previous scholars have identified these autos de fe as ostensibly a form of religious ritual, it is my contention that the Spanish Inquisition's auto de fe served not only religious, but obvious political, cultural and didactic purposes. Combining the politics of both the secular and the religious, as well as imbuing the ceremony with hierarchical and political messages, the inquisitorial auto de fe served not only to warn the Catholic faithful of the dangers of heresy, but it also served to delineate the proper hierarchical social and cultural spaces of what the Inquisition and the Spanish Crown believed were the ideal nature of the proper order of Spanish colonial society.


© Justin R. Duncan

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