The sanbenito was usually worn over the clothes of a convicted heretic. The garment that resembled a type of apron or tunic when worn usually came
down to the person’s knees and opened on the side. As a punitive sentence, a convicted heretic could be sentenced to wear this garment of shame for periods ranging from one year to life. Once the period of the sentence ended, the Holy Inquisition ordered
the convicted heretic’s sanbenito with the convict’s name and the particulars of his crime hung on the walls or ceilings of his local parish church. The permanent display of this garment of shame with the heretic’s family name and his accused
crime against the faith served as a perpetual reminder of his act of heresy for the entire parish.
"All the san benitos of
the condemned, living or dead, present or absent, be placed in the churches where they used to live…in order that there may be perpetual memory of the infamy of the heretics and their descendants." (Inquisition Tribunal 1561)
Periodically the inquisitors or their designated assistants, also
conducted visitations of the parish churches in their district with the goal of ensuring that all of these publicly displayed sanbenitos remained in place. Whenever the garments disappeared or appeared damaged, or deteriorated, the Holy Inquisition ordered
them replaced. (End)
"Above all have a horror of heresy... "
(Extract from Fr. Salvany's
book "Liberalism Is A Sin", Chp. XV, p. 97)