(The). The vest of penitence. It was a coarse yellow
tunic worn by persons condemned to death by the Inquisition on their
way to the auto da fé; it was painted over with flames, demons,
etc. In the case of those who expressed repentance for their errors,
the flames were directed downwards. Penitents who had been taken before
the Inquisition had to wear this badge for a stated period. Those worn
by Jews, sorcerers, and renegades bore a St. Andrew's cross in red on
back and front.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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