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Medieval Torture

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Hanna Hambly

on 20 June 2017

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Transcript of Medieval Torture

In the Netherlands, the torture of the whip was applied by children so they could learn to become executioners themselves some day.
The Whip
His aim was to shatter the limbs one by one with the hefty weapon. Each arm and leg was broken in several places before the job was done.

A skilled executioner would smash the bones of his victim without piercing the skin. The wheel was then propped upright so onlookers could appreciate the dying gasps of the victim.

At first the severity of the injuries was thought to be sufficient to bring about death. Later the exectutioner ended the torture by one or two blows to the chest.

The wheel could be refined, too, to include other torturous aspects. A suspended wheel might be turned over a fire or a bed of nails. In any event it meant unbearable suffering for the victim
In England, torture was not allowed
against witches because witches were not
believed to be conspirators.

Tormentum insomniae is torture by sleeplessness, and was allowable perhaps because it did not seem to be a real torture.

In one instance, John Lowe, 70-year-old vicar of Brandeston, was "swum in the moat," kept awake for three days and nights, and then forced to walk without rest until his feet were blistered. Denied benefit of clergy, Lowe recited his own burial service on the way to the gallows
Tormentum Insomniae
Squassation was a form of torture used in conjunction with the strappado.

It was the process of hanging weights from the victim as they were being tortured with the strappado.

Weights ranged from fifty to five hundred pounds. The greater the weight, the more bones would be dislocated.
A scold was defined as: "
A troublesome and angry woman who by brawling and wrangling amongst her neighbours breaks the public peace, increases discord and becomes a public nuisance to the neighbourhood."

It remains unclear why men should not be pulled up on a similar charge. It was up to the judges to pronounce on whether a woman was indeed a scold.

Frequently, it was a disgruntled husband bringing his wife to court.
Ideal by water
Needless to say, an "innocent" declaration could be arranged, depending on the power of the bribe and "the corruption of the officiating clerics. For a fee the irons and the coals would be sufficiently cool to tolerate"
The collar was furnished with spikes and was held fast by cords stretching to the four corners of the room.
The Collar
The burning of a witch was usually a great public occasion. The execution took place shortly after the sentencing, just long enough to hire an executioner, construct the execution site and gather the fuel.

In Scotland, a witch burning was preceded by days of fasting and solemn preaching. The witch was strangled first, and then her corpse--or sometimes her
unconscious or semiconscious body
--was tied to a stake or dumped
into a tar barrel and set afire. If
the witch was not dead and
managed to get out of the flames,
onlookers shoved her back in.
In Scandinavia, it was once believed "that a witch can be saved from eternal damnation if she is buried alive, seed is sown over her, and the resulting crop harvested"

The Burial
Which one do you think is the worst and why?

Which do you think you could cope with?

Draw a sketch of one techniques and label them

Create a Wanted poster for a witch. Tell people what their crimes are and describe her

One method of torturing accused witches was to tie them up in a sack, string the sack over a tree limb and set it swinging.

The rocking motion of this witch's cradle...caused profound disorientation and helped induce confessions.

Most subjected to this also suffered profound hallucinations, which surely added color to their confessions
The Witches Cradle
In France and Germany the
wheel was a popular form of
capital punishment, not least
because it was pure agony for
the victim.

In concept it was similar to a
crucifixion. The prisoner was
brought to the scaffold where his cloak was ripped off, to reveal nothing but a pair of brief linen pants.

The prisoner was then tied to the side of the wheel lying on the scaffold, stretched across its spokes and hub. Now the executioner advanced wielding an iron bar.
The Wheel
A device called the turcas was used to tear out fingernails.

In 1590-1591 John Fian was subjected to this and other tortures in Scotland. After his nails were ripped out, needles were driven into the quicks
The Turcas
Strangulation was used either on its own or as the merciful partner to burning at the stake.

Because being burnt alive evoked sympathy from the crowds, victims were generally dispatched of before being consigned to the flames.

Another method of strangulation was the garotte
The spider was used in mastectomies. It was heated until the iron was red and used to mutilate and tear a woman's breasts off.

The Spider!!!
There is a frequent phrase used by judges, that the accused has confessed without torture and thus in undeniably guilty.

only used in an iron press with sharp-edged channels over the shins, in which they are pressed like a cake, bringing blood and causing intolerable pain, and this is technically called without torture.
The Shin-Vice
"Cold or red hot, the four claws ripped the breasts of countless women condemned for heresy, adultery and 'libidinous acts' such as self-abortion, white magic and other crimes.

Shown to the left are testicle rippers"
This was a very simple and popular means of extricating confession.
The victim was tied across a board by his ankles and wrists. Rollers at either end of the board were
turned, pulling
the body in
directions until
dislocation of
every joint
The Rack
Drugs administered by torturers and exorcists to produce desired states of mind among their victims and patients, respectively, may prove to be more significant than any opiate of narcotic used by alleged witches. In his Cautio Criminalis (1632), Spee wrote that torture technicians who were unable to extract a confession from their victims forced them to drink a potion which produced disorders of the brain, thus leading to bizarre confessions.

Psychochemical Torture
n 25 March 1586 Margaret, wearing a flimsy gown, was taken to die at the Tollbooth, six yards outside the prison. She and the womenfolk accompanying her begged that she should die in the white gown she had bought into prison for the purpose. The request was turned down. She laid down on the ground, covered her face with a handkerchief, her privacy only protected by the gown laid across her. Both hands were tied to posts to make her body the shape of a cross. A stone the size of a fist was put under her back.She once again refused to change her views and the first weight was laid on her. By nine o'clock that morning, about eight hundred-weight (0.4 tonnes) was in place. The stones crushed her ribs which pierced the skin. Within 15 minutes she was dead

The pear was used in the
mouth, the rectum and in the vagina.

The pear was "expanded by force of the screw to the maximum aperture of their segments.

The inside of the cavity in question was irremediably mutilated, nearly always fatally so. The pointed prongs at the
end of the segments serve better to rip into the throat" or "the intestines."
The oven at Neisse, was a forerunner of the ovens used in Nazi concentration camps.

The difference was that in the concentration camps, the victims were killed before they were roasted.

In mid-17th-century Silesia, more than two thousand girls and women were cooked during a nine-year period. This tally includes two babies
The oven of
Before an ordeal by fire began, all involved would take part in a religious rite that lasted three days. The accused underwent blessings, exorcisms, prayers, fasting, and the taking of sacraments.
Ordeal by Fire
Some tortures were devised with women specifically in mind. Mastectomy was one of them. Although both men and women could have the skin torn off them with red- or white-hot pincers, mastectomy was a distinctly feminine device. One torture manual recommended particular attention be paid to female breasts as they are "extremely sensitive, on account of the refinement of the veins.”
… was stripped, her flesh torn off with red-hot pincers, and her breasts cut off.


"This is a reconstruction of an inclined ladder. The victim was stretched out on the device until his shoulders dislocated. It was also common for the victim to be burned on the armpits and the flanks with a torch composed of seven wax tapers"

Ladder Rack

This form of torture was specific to women. It involved tying a stick into a woman's hair and twisting it tighter and tighter. When the Inquisitor no longer had the strength to twist, he would hold the victim's head or fasten it in a holding device until burly men could take over the chore.Not only would the hair be ripped out, but the scalp would often be torn open, exposing the skull-cap.As expected, only women with thick or long hair were chosen for this torture.

With the four sharp points rammed deep into the flesh under the chin and into the bone of the sternum, the fork prevented all movement of the head and allowed the victim only to murmur, in a barely audible voice, "abiuro" ("I recant", engraved on one side of the fork).
The Heretic’s fork
Thumbscrews were applied to prisoners as a means of obtaining confessions.
Stoning is well-documented as a
punishment from Biblical times onward.

Often a women was stoned to death by friends and members of her community.
A metal cage for the head with a built-in gag.

Some bridles were very cruel pieces of work, with
spikes which pierced the tongue
. Some simply had a
built in, a device which would further humiliate the "scold" who wore it through the streets.

In the streets, the scold would be subjected to the taunting and jeering of the crowds which gathered to witness the spectacle.
The Scold BRIDLE
The executioner, according to the pleasure of the interrogators, can vary the pressure from zero to
that of total body weight. The victim can be rocked, or made to fall repeatedly onto the point.

The Judas Cradle
"The maiden was a tomb-sized container with folding doors. Upon the inside of the door were vicious spikes. As the prisoner was shut inside he would be pierced along the length of his body. The talons were not designed to kill outright, however, and the pinioned prisoner was left to slowly perish in the utmost pain"
The iron Maiden of numbering
This was one of the most revolting punishments ever devised by the human imagination and even in those days was hardly ever used. This is done by inserting a sharply pointed stake into his posterior, which then is forced through his body, emerging through the head, sometimes through the throat. This stake is then inverted and planted in the ground, so that the wretched victims, as wemay well imagine, live on in agony for some days before expiring. . . .

Hanging was a popular way of doing away with witches, particularly in England and Salem, Massachusetts. Approximately 1000 people were hanged for witchcraft in England. Of these, about 400 were hanged over a 14-month period by
One 'foolproof' way to find out if someone was a witch was ducking. With right thumb is tied to left toe, the accused was plunged into a convenient pond.

If he or she floated it proved an association with the black arts, with the body rejecting the baptismal water. If the victim drowned they were innocent.

Given the curious position of the prisoner, it was more likely they would float.
Ducking the witch
The ducking stool punishment was most often used on women prisoners. Grossly unpleasant, and often fatal, the woman would be strapped into a seat which hung from the end of a free-moving arm. The seat and the woman would be dunked into the local river or pond. The dunking could last for an entire day or just a few seconds. "It was up to the operators of the stool as to how long she remained under the water." Many elderly women were killed by the shock of the cold water.
The Ducking Stool
"It was often believed, in Catholic countries, that the soul of a heretic or witch was
corrupted by evil.

To cleanse them before punishment, sometimes the victims were forced to consume heated or scalding
consumables (scalding water, fire
brands, coals, even soaps).

The modern day 'washing the mouth
out with soap' is a direct descendant.

Cleansing the Souls...
It was once commonly believed that a witch's power could be nullified by blooding her or by destroying her blood in a fire, hence the practice of burning at the stake.

Sometimes uncooperative witches were burned with green wood, so it took longer to kill them.

They put your legs between two planks of wood, which they bind with cords, between which they put wedges, they then hit the wood with a hammer to squeeze the legs...driving the splinters deep into the bone until the legs crack and fall in pieces when they are unloosed;
Most Die a little later.
The Boots
On 25th of March 1586 Margaret, Wearing a flimsy gown, was taken to die.

She laid down naked on the ground, covered her face with a handkerchief, her privacy only protected by a gown laid across her.

Both hands were tied to posts to make her body the shape of a cross. A stone the size of a fist was put under back.

She once again refused to change her views and the first weight was laid on her. By 9 o'clock that morning, about eight hundred (0.4 tonnes) was in place.

The stones crushed her ribs which pierced the skin. Within 15 minutes she was dead.
Drugs administered by torturers and exorcists to produce desired states of mind, It may prove to be more significant than any opiate of narcotic used by alleged witches.

In his Cautio Criminalis (1632) spee wrote that torture techniques who were unable to extract a confession from their victims forced them to drink a potion which produced disorders of the brain, thus leading to bizarre confessions.
Convicted witches were also "scored above the breath" (slashed over the nose and mouth) and allowed to bleed. Sometimes witches blooded this way bled to death
The Head
Medieval Torture
The other type of ordeal by fire was walking blindfolded across hot coals.
The accused was tied at feet and hands then lowered into cold water by a rope. This rope was tied around the defendant's waist and had a knot a particular distance from the torso. If both knot and accused dipped beneath the surface of the water, the accused was proven innocent. If the knot was dry, the defendant was guilty.

In another the victim is forced to drink large quantities of water in a short time, resulting in gastric distension, "water intoxication", and possibly death.
In this type of ordeal, the water was
symbolic washing sin from the face of the

Again three-day religious rite was held
beforehand. the accused faced
plunging their hand into boiling
water. More serious offenses
demanded that the arm was
submerged up to the elbow."

Once again, the burn was
bandaged for three days before
the fateful examination. There
also existed an ordeal by cold water.
The Pear
Often the victim has the mouth forced or wedged open, the nose closed with pincers and a funnel or strip of cloth forced down the throat. The victim has to drink all the water (or other liquids such as bile or urine) poured into the funnel to avoid drowning. The stomach fills until near bursting, and the victim is sometimes beaten until the victim vomits. The torture then begins again.
Crime and Punishment
This instrument was an effective way to extract confessions, as the period of pain could be prolonged for many hours if the torturer chose to. It compresses the skull, shatters the teeth, then squeezes out the eyes OUT OF YOUR HEAD!
Ever wondered what it would be like to be buried ALIVE??
To wake up alone, in the dark, closed in... no one to help.
A cheap and effective way to torture someone was with the use of rats. There were many variants, but the most common was to force a rat through a victim's body (usually the intestines) as a way to escape. This was done as follows:

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.
Flaying is a very old torture method that was used thousands of years ago in the Middle East, Africa and even America. During the Middle Ages, it was frequently used to torture and execute criminals, captured soldiers and witches.

In one version of the Flaying Torture, the victim's arms were tied to a pole above his head while his feet were tied below. His body was now completely exposed and the torturer, with the help of a small knife, peeled off the victim's skin slowly. In most cases, the torturer peeled off his facial skin first, slowly working his way down to the victim's feet. Most victims died before the torturer even reached their waist.

In other versions, The person would first be exposed to the Sun until his skin reddened. or submerged into boiling water and was taken out after a few minutes. The he was slowly flayed.

Some cultures believed that human skin contained magical properties. Others used human parts, such as scalps, to show social status.
Lead Sprinkler
At first sight, it looks like a holy water sprinkler, but in reality it's a bit more complex. The torturer poured molten metals in one end and its contents slowly rushed to the other side where they fell on any part of the victim's body. Many executions occurred with this instrument.

A common way to execute a victim was by pouring molten silver on his eyes. This caused a great deal of pain and eventually provoked death.
The crocodile tube wasn't common, but it was used to kill many infidels and thieves.

The victim was fixed inside a tube just big enough for the victim's entrance. The tube, having crocodile teeth-like spikes, was slowly compressed leaving the victim totally immobilized. The torturer could only see his face and feet.

With the help of carbon and fire underneath the tube, the torturer gradually heated the tube until he extracted a confession or killed the victim. The former was most common, as this is one of the cruelest and most painful tortures ever used on human beings.

With the face and feet exposed, the torturer was able to inflict painful wounds on the victim. Facial mutilation and toe ripping were preferred choices
Crocodile Tube
The pillory was used to publicly humiliate a victim.
Even though it was meant as a mild form of punishment,
the crowd sometimes made it lethal.

The pillory often served as a post for Flagellation.
When the victim was restrained with the device, he was completely defenseless and subject to the crowd.

In many cases the crowd threw harmless objects such as vegetables, but when the victim committed a serious offense they threw stones or other heavy objects. The crowd often humiliated the victim by cutting his hair, putting marks on his body and even mutilating some of his body parts.

The pillory didn't last more than a few hours, but it was sometimes carried on for days. The device was situated in either the marketplace or the plaza - where most villagers could see the victim's suffering. The army was also well-known for using the pillory as a means of punishment.
In Medieval Times, foot roasting was a popular way to extract a confession or punish a criminal of minor crimes.

The victim's feet were imprisoned in the stocks (see picture) and then red-hot coal was placed right under them. When the subject was interrogated, a screen was put between the heat and his feat, acting as relief. If he refused to confess, his bare feet were exposed to the flames.

The torture progressed until the victim's feet were charred to the bone. When this occurred, the phalanges and
other bones fell as the feet were completely
burned. This very rarely resulted in death,
but if the victim refused to confess, he could
be subject to other tortures.
Foot Roasting
Medieval Crime and Punishment
Laws and punishments in medieval Europe were extremely harsh. Kings and the nobility
created and enforced the laws, and believed that peasants and common people would
only behave properly if they feared what would happen to them if they broke the law.
There were no police or prisons, so punishments involved
fines, public humiliation or physical pain.

In Villages
In a village, the lord would be in charge of the manor court. Fines were a common punishment, but there were others. A woman found to be guilty of gossiping, nagging her husband (in which case she was known as a scold) or using foul language would be forced to wear a scold’s bridle. A peasant who educated his son without the lord’s permission could be fined, or put in the stocks. The pillory was a punishment in which the guilty person was locked in stocks and had rotten fruit and vegetables thrown at them by other villagers.
Punishments for serious Crimes
Serious crimes, such as major theft or murder, would be tried at higher courts. Punishments could include branding (burning a mark on the skin); cutting off hands, ears or tongues; being held in a lord’s dungeon; or execution. Ordinary people were executed by hanging. Their bodies would be left to rot in public as a warning to others to obey the law. People of higher rank were executed by beheading.
Other serious crimes such as heresy (having beliefs or opinions that differed from those of the Church) or witchcraft were dealt with by Church courts. The king’s court heard charges of treason (betraying the king). Confessions were often obtained under torture, with the use of thumbscrews and other devices. If found guilty of a serious crime, a
person could be burned to death or skinned alive. Traitors (people guilty of treason) could be executed by being hanged, drawn and quartered. This involved first hanging a person, cutting him down while still alive, and then pulling out his intestines while he watched. Finally, his body was then cut into four pieces.

Types of Crimes

Vagrancy - Vagrant is a person, usually poor, who goes from place to place without a home or work. In Medieval Europe this was considered a crime, from the 1530's and this was punishable by getting whipped and hung from the 1540's onwards.

Smuggling - In the 1700s people smuggled
in goods from abroad eg. Tobacco, Brandy,
Tea and Silk.

Highway Robbers: Stagecoaches were a popular target as they usually carried people with lots of money and jewellery, aka. rich people.
After the ordeal, the burn wound was wrapped up. After three days, the injury was inspected to divine innocence or guilt. If there was an open sore, the defendant was guilty; if the wound was healed over, the defendant was innocent.
Then it was time to be exposed to the fire. Sometimes that meant carrying a lump of hot iron for a set distance
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