The most horrible tortures of the Middle Ages

The most horrible tortures of the Middle Ages


The Middle Ages were certainly the most terrifying period in human history. If today you think that people are violent and cruel, you have to see how they used to punish their fellows 500 years ago.

Poverty and hunger are the words that best describe that period. Most people were poor, suffering from incurable diseases, and their freedom depended on the rich who owned land.

What was the politics of those times? If you had money, you could “atone for your sins” for a sum of money. Since most people subjected to torture were poor people, “ingenious” methods were invented. People could consider themselves lucky if, as a result of a crime, they “escaped” with a punishment such as cutting off their hand or tongue.

Most of the torture devices are in the “Rothenburg ob der Tauber” museum in Germany. Copies of this kind are also exhibited in museums in Romania, especially in Sighisoara, at the “Torture Chamber”.

1. Impalement

This method of torture is usually associated with Vlad the Impaler, hence his name.

The victim was penetrated and left to die, a process that could take up to 3 days.

Legend has it that Vlad Tepes liked to eat, watching people struggling on stakes.

2. The cradle of Judas (Judas chair)

It’s certainly not as cruel as the impalement, but much more sadistic. The victim’s anus or vagina was placed at the top of the pyramid (photo), in order to prolong the pain, or to impale as slowly but “effectively” as possible.

The victim was usually naked to highlight the humiliation of this torture, and weights were usually hung on his feet to make the process even more painful. This type of torture could last from a few hours to days.

3. The coffin

The “Coffin” torture was one of the most frightening in the Middle Ages.

Usually, those who ended up punished in this way committed “serious” crimes, such as heresy and blasphemy.

The victim was placed inside a metal cage, built in the shape of a human body, and was usually hung from trees.

The “heretic” was left there to be eaten alive by birds and other animals. Some people threw stones or other objects to intensify the convict’s pain.

4. The table of torture

Who could forget the torture table, which was a common tool in the Middle Ages?

Its purpose was to immobilize the victim and torture them by breaking their bones. Nails were also applied to some tables to take the convict to the heights of pain.

5. Breast splitter

Used as a punishment for women, the “breast splitter” was used to induce pain, cause blood loss, or simply leave victims without breasts.
It was also used hot, so that the impact was much bigger. Very few women survived this cruel tool.

6. Catherine’s wheel

This device was used to prolong the pain of the accused. The victim was tied to a spinning wheel, an executioner crushing him with an iron hammer.

Once his bones were broken, he was left to die in agony on the wheel. Moreover, it was sometimes hung from a tree for birds to eat from its living flesh. Most did not die of pain, but of dehydration.

Sometimes, when the punishment was intended to be more “lenient”, the accused was hit in the stomach and chest, parts of the body known in French as “coups de grace”, which caused a much faster death.

7. The saw

This was the most common and cheapest tool, being used for those accused of blasphemy, adultery, heresy, theft, murder or witchcraft.
The person was hung upside down to allow the blood to be redirected to the brain – the ideal way to make the victim aware abd conscious for as long as possible.

Usually the victim was cut in half, but sometimes up to the abdomen, to prolong the pain.

8. The brain crusher

The use of the brain crusher was a popular method during the Spanish Inquisition.

The victim was placed horizontally, and her head was inserted into the crusher. The device compressed the skull, broke the teeth and removed the eyes.

This method was usually used to obtain important information. If the trial was not completed, the victim was left with serious injuries to his brain, eyes or teeth.

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