Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A garment of sackcloth worn at an auto-da-fé of the Spanish Inquisition by condemned heretics, being yellow with red crosses for the penitent and black with painted flames and devils for the impenitent.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A sackcloth coat worn by penitents on being reconciled to the church.
  • n. A garment or cap, or sometimes both, painted with flames, figures, etc., and worn by those who had been examined by the Inquisition and were brought forth for the auto da fe.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Anciently, a sackcloth coat worn by penitents on being reconciled to the church.
  • n. A garnment or cap, or sometimes both, painted with flames, figures, etc., and worn by persons who had been examined by the Inquisition and were brought forth for punishment at the auto-da-fé.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A garment worn by persons under trial by the Inquisition when brought into public view at an auto de fe either for recantation and subsequent pardon after penance, or for punishment by hanging, flogging, or burning alive.

Etymologies

Spanish sambenito, after San Benito, Saint Benedict of Nursia (from its similarity to the scapular supposedly introduced by him).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Spanish sambenito. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The mitre and sanbenito worn by Candide were painted with flames reversed and with devils that had neither tails nor claws; but

    Candide

  • I was dreadfully shocked at the burning of the two Jews, and the honest Biscayan who married his godmother; but how great was my surprise, my consternation, and concern, when I beheld a figure so like Pangloss, dressed in a sanbenito and mitre!

    Candide

  • Eight days afterwards they were each dressed in a sanbenito, and their heads were adorned with paper mitres.

    Candide

  • The mitre and sanbenito worn by Candide were painted with flames reversed and with devils that had neither tails nor claws; but Dr. Pangloss's devils had both tails and claws, and his flames were upright.

    Candide

  • They were completely purged of it, having done penance in proper form at an Auto held on the Rocio at Lisbon, candle in hand and sanbenito on their shoulders.

    The Sea-Hawk

  • "I derived the notion," he continued, "from a sanbenito in a Goya picture."

    The Historical Nights' Entertainment First Series

  • "Prithee, thou brown-robed fellow, how looked he in a _sanbenito_ -- that tall, fierce, black-bearded Captain that your Provincial mentions here?"

    Sir Mortimer

  • Christ, the Grand Inquisitor, seated as judge; his familiars standing by ready with their implements of torture to fulfil his bidding; his fellow monks enthroned around him; his sign, the crucifix, towering from hell to heaven in sight of the universe; the whole heretical world, dressed in the sanbenito, helpless before him, awaiting their doom?

    The Destiny of the Soul A Critical History of the Doctrine of a Future Life

  • The slow, dismal tolling of bells; the masked and muffled familiars; the Dominicans carrying their horrid flag, followed by the penitents behind a huge cross; the condemned ones, barefoot, clad in painted caps and the repulsive sanbenito; next the effigies of accused offenders who had escaped by flight; then, the bones of dead culprits in black coffins painted with flames and other hellish symbols; and, finally, the train closing with a host of priests and monks.

    The Destiny of the Soul A Critical History of the Doctrine of a Future Life

  • "Go hang thyself, coward, or, if you choose, swim out to the Spaniard, and shift from thy wet doublet and hose into a sanbenito.

    To Have and to Hold

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Comments

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  • Spanish Inquisition garment resembling scapular, either yellow with red St. Andrew's crosses for penitent heretics or black and decorated with friars and devils for impenitent heretics at an auto-da-fé.

    Sometimes spelled sambenito

    October 9, 2007