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Medieval Torture Devices

10 Brutal Torture Devices Used in Medieval Times

By Erin VallePublished 2 months ago 5 min read
The Rack Torture Device

The human mind is a wonderful creation of evolution, yet it is also capable of wicked ideas. The archives of history have long been filled with graphic accounts of torture, human cruelty, and the sick delight that both individuals and societies had in witnessing the misery of others. Discover ten(10) brutal methods used to torture and kill people in medieval times, if you dare.


In fact, the Brazen Bull began in ancient Greece. The bull was constructed of bronze at the time. A huge fire would be started underneath the victim, who would be imprisoned inside a bull's chamber. The victim would be burnt alive when the metal bull heated up to a scorching temperature. The Greeks installed ornate piping in the bull's head during antiquity, simulating an enraged bull's shouts from the victim. As the Roman Empire collapsed and the Byzantine Empire that remained had no use for bulls, the practice of using them faded away in the beginning of the medieval period.

9. Heretic’s Fork

A torture tool from medieval times, the Heretic's Fork was positioned between the breastbone and the bottom of the chin. It had a strap fastened to its throat. Usually, the victim was constrained in some way, such being bound or chained. The fork would puncture the victim's chest or throat if he drifted off of and his head dropped. This tool avoided crucial areas, preventing death and extending suffering.

8. Flaying

Because it was a long procedure, flaying, also known as skinning, was arguably the most excruciating means of punishment used in the medieval era. First, the victim was stripped down and their hands and feet were bound to prevent them from moving. The executioner would then start removing the victim's skin with a razor-sharp blade, usually beginning with the head since this would cause the greatest pain as the victim would still be conscious. In many cases, the body was even partially cooked to make the skin softer and more easily removed. There were several ways to pass die via flaying, including illness, cold, blood or fluid loss, and shock. Additionally, the timing of death could vary from a few hours to a few days.

7. The Rack

In the ancient period, the rack was another horribly well-known torture device. It had a table, usually made of wood, with levers and axles on either end. The victim was made to lie down, and then their heels and wrists were bound with leather belts or straps. Ropes or chains wound across the axles and were fastened to the straps. Then, one or more executioners would gradually press the levers, turning the axle(s) and tightening the chain. As a result, the prisoner's body was gradually stretched outward by the straps digging into their skin. It is difficult to comprehend the intense physical turmoil that one would have experienced: vertebrae stretched, joints, muscles, and tendons gave way, posture altered, the ribcage compressed the lungs, bones broke, and nerve endings were revealed. For those considered "especially tough", the axles used on them has spikes that tears their skin and leave their flesh exposed.

6. Judas Cradle

In medieval Europe, there was a torture device known as a Judas Cradle. It was a big, pointed-seat with thick metal stool. When ordered to sit exactly on the point, a victim would be chained or tied so tightly that they were unable to move or escape. The muscles would slowly rupture over hours or even days, and the spike seat would eventually pierce the lower organs, killing the victim. This gadget was utilized in England as well as in a few other countries in continental Europe, mainly France and Germany. Many of these are in museums around Europe since they were made to be sturdy.

5. The Iron Maiden

The Iron Maiden was an ominous, spike-filled coffin-shaped device. The purpose of the iron maiden was precisely this. The victims would first be pushed into the iron maiden, where the door would be closed behind them. The spikes would then pierce every part of their bodies, causing excruciating pain all over. According to Siebenkees' colportage, this torture device was first used on August 14, 1515, to execute a coin forger.

4. Thumbscrew

One of the most infamously successful instruments for getting an accused person to confess was the thumbscrew. The fact that it was extremely painful for the victim despite being completely non-lethal was one of its redeeming qualities, according to the torturers. The victim's fingers were inserted between the loose and secured bars when he was ready to be tormented. After then, the loose bar was gradually tightened throughout the vertical bars' length until it was tightly squeezed up against the victim's fingers. Those accused of being heretics or blasphemers were among the most frequent targets of thumbscrew torture. These victims were initially brought before the inquisitors for a trial and sentence after they had been tricked into making confessions.

3. The Blood Eagle

This torture method was created by a somewhat disturbed mind, albeit it remains unclear whether it was a real technique or only a literary invention. Poetry from the late skaldic period first mentioned the blood eagle ritual. It's difficult to imagine anyone remaining conscious long enough for this to be completed, but if the Viking sagas are to be believed, then this technique has truly earned its spot as one of the most brutal, painful, and downright terrifying ways to die. The victim would lie in a prone position and be kept conscious as their back split open, their ribs separated from their spine, and their lungs placed through the opening to form a pair of bloody “wings."

2. Rat Torture

Rats have a tendency to gnaw through everything. It is therefore not shocking that in ancient times, people turned them into a means of torture. Usually, a tiny cage with a rat inside was pressed up to the victim's abdomen. The rat became restless because the cage was heated from the outside, either by hot coals, a blazing stick, or a candle. How then could it get away? by gnawing into human skin, the only soft surface that is accessible. The rat would chew its way into the victim's intestines very fast, causing excruciating pain along the way. This method effectively extracted information from the captives and messed with their minds, giving the torture a psychological component.

1. Molten Gold

The incredible technique of ingesting molten gold for execution. The Romans and the Spanish Inquisition may have done this more frequently than is known, particularly on both sides of the Atlantic. The method should go without saying: after the victim was restrained, hot gold would be poured down their throat, forcing their lips open. This would cause the lungs to scald and serious harm to the distal organs, which would end in instant death. One of real-life examples was from South America, where in 1599, Jivaro tribe of the Native Indians seized a Spanish governor and put him to death by pouring liquid gold down his throat.

World HistoryTriviaMedievalEventsCONTENT WARNINGAncient

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Erin Valle

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