Medieval Torture

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					Medieval Torture

 A pictorial journey
            Why torture?
• During the Middle Ages, torture was a
  very common way to punish offenders.
  Following are the most common torture
  devices used during the Middle Ages.
  Viewer discretion is advised.
       Indeed…why torture?
• Torture was frequently employed during
  the Middle Ages to punish criminals and
  extract confessions. Hundreds of
  devices were used including The Rack
  and The Chair.
          Did torture work?
• Even though thousands died in
  unimaginably painful ways, torture
  wasn't as frequent as most of us
  believe. During the Inquisition only 1 or
  2 percent of the heretics or criminals
  were subject to long periods of torture -
  the rest were simply incarcerated or
  punished in other ways.
     Who determined torture?
• Most medieval towns had a council to
  determine a person's guilt. Only in the
  most severe of cases, such as murder
  or treason, was the victim tortured. In
  the majority of cases he was
  incarcerated or simply vanished from
  the town and never allowed back.
• In bigger cities such as London the law was
  more harshly enforced. Many castles had
  torture chambers, usually located in the
  dungeon or tallest tower, where many could
  be tortured at the same time. Burning at the
  stake and other methods were not the
  Sunday spectacle we think. When they
  happened, they often occurred inside the
  castle - away from the population. When a
  town was becoming rebellious, open acts of
  torture frequently occurred.
• The Middle Ages were not a
  period one would like to live
  in, but they were not
  extremely unfair and
  bloodthirsty either. Many
  towns never tortured a
  person, resorting to
  banishment instead. On the
  contrary, many leaders used
  torture extremely frequently
  such as Vlad the Impaler.
The Spanish Tickler

       • The victim was naked and tied
         making him or her completely
         defenseless. Then the torturers
         began the (sometimes public) act of
         mutilating the victim. They often
         began with the limbs and slowly
         moved into the chest, back, neck
         and finally the face.

         In short, the Spanish Tickler or Cat's
         Paw, is nothing but an extension to
         the torturer's hand. The spikes were
         sharp enough to tear anything in
         their path.
Judas Cradle
   •   The triangular-shaped end of the judas cradle was
       inserted in the victim's anus or vagina. This torture
       could last, depending on some factors discussed
       below, anywhere from a few hours to complete days.

       The time it took someone to die varied enormously
       from individual to individual. Torturers would
       sometimes add weight to the victim's legs as to
       increase pain and hurry the victim's death. Other
       torturers would place oil on the device which
       increased pain considerably.

       This device was rarely, if at all, washed. If the victim
       did not die quickly enough, or their painful execution
       was interrupted, they would invariantly die from an

       The victim was sometimes rocked or made fall
       repeatedly onto the "pyramid". This was done so
       torturers could acquire vital information from the
       victim. If he or she refused to talk, the torturer
       would either add more weight to the victim or make
       him or her fall repeatedly on the device.
Coffin Torture

 • The victim was placed inside the "coffin".
   Torturers were well-known for forcing
   overweight victims into the device, or even
   making the "coffin" slightly larger than
   normal to make the victims more

   The period of time a victim was to be kept
   inside the coffin was determined by his or
   her crime. Very serious crimes, such as
   blasphemy, were punished by death inside
   the coffin where the victim was to be kept
   inside under the sun with animals eating his
   or her flesh.
The Rack Torture
  • The torturer turned the handle causing the
    ropes to pull the victim's arms. Eventually, the
    victim's bones were dislocated with a loud
    crack. If the torturer kept turning the handles,
    some of the limbs were torn apart, usually the

  • Sometime this method was limited to
    dislocating a few bones, but the torturer often
    went too far and rendered the legs or arms
    (sometimes both) useless. In the late Middle
    Ages, some new variants of this instrument
    appeared. They often had spikes that
    penetrated the victim's back - as the limbs
    were pulled apart, so was his spinal cord
    increasing not only the physical pain, but the
    psychological one of being handicapped at
    best, too.
              The Wheel Torture
              (Breaking Wheel)
•   The device consists of a large wooden wheel with many spokes. The
    victim's limbs were tied to the spokes and the wheel itself was slowly
    revolved. Through the openings between the spokes, the torturer
    usually hit the victim with an iron hammer that could easily break the
    victim's bones. Once his bones were broken, he was left on the wheel to
    die, sometimes placed on a tall pole so the birds could feed from the
    still-living human.

•   This device was used as a capital punishment during the Middle Ages.
    Reserved for hated criminals, The Wheel always killed its victim, but did
    so very slowly.
Thumbscrew Torture

        • The victim's fingers were placed
          inside the instrument and slowly
          crushed as the torturer turned
          the handle on top. This method
          was primarily used to extract
          confessions as it was both
          painful and very lasting.
        • The same instrument was also
          used to crush victim's toes.
The Rat Torture

    • The victim was completely restrained
      and tied to the ground or any
      horizontal surface. A rat was then
      placed on his stomach covered by a
      metallic container. As the container
      was gradually heated, the rat began
      to look for a way out - through the
      victim's body.

      Digging a hole usually took a few
      hours of agonizing pain for the
      victim. This almost invariantly
      resulted in death.
                     Saw Torture

•   The victim was tied to an inverted
    position. This had several "benefits":
    first, it assured sufficient blood
    diverted to the brain, second, it
    slowed down the loss of blood and
    third, it humiliated the victim.

•   While some victims were cut
    completely in half as a symbolical
    gesture, most had only up to their
    abdomen cut, this was done to
    prolong the time of death.

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