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Top 10 Most Brutal Torture Techniques
of Medieval Times

By Sunny

Medieval torture techniques

During the Middle Ages, torture was considered a legitimate way to extract confessions, punish offenders, and perform executions. But the most unsettling fact about torture’s brutality isn’t its existence, but the way people have injected a perverted sense of creativity (and even pleasure) into the creation of devices designed to inflict pain. Unfortunately many people died when these devices were used, but the ones that didn't still suffered a great amount of pain and were scarred for life. The consequences of torture reach far beyond immediate pain. Victims suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, with symptoms such as flashbacks or intrusive thoughts, severe anxiety, insomnia, nightmares, depression and memory lapses.

10. The Coffin Torture :- The most preferred torture technique in the Middle Ages was known as coffin torture. This method involved placing the victim inside a metal cage roughly the size of the human body; hence the name. The torturers also forced overweight victims into smaller cages to heighten their discomfort as they hung from a tree or gallows. Generally, they would be left there until the crows came to feed on their remains.

Coffin torture technique

9. The Brazen Bull :- Also known as the Sicilian Bull, it was designed in ancient Greece. A solid piece of brass was cast with a door on the side that could be opened and latched. The victim would be placed inside the bull and a fire set underneath it until the metal became literally yellow as it was heated. The victim would then be slowly roasted to death all while screaming in agonizing pain. The bull was purposely designed to amplify these screams and make them sound like the bellowing of a bull.

The Brazen bull torture technique

8. Wooden Horse/Spanish Donkey :- One of the torture devices during the Spanish Inquisition and medieval ages, this is probably one of the most gruesome of them all. The victim is put astride, naked, on a donkey-like apparatus, which is actually a vertical wooden board with a sharp V-wedge on top of it. After that, the torturer would add varying weights to the victim’s feet until finally the wedge sliced through the victim’s body.

The wooden horse or spanish donkey

The Wooden Horse

7. Strappado :- Rope tortures are very common in medieval times since the ropes are easy to find and the executioner can think of several ways to inflict pain on their victims using a simple rope. They could hang the victims, let horses drag them, or they could simply tie them to a tree and wait for wild animals to eat the victims alive. Strappado is a form of torture wherein the victim's hands are tied behind his back and suspended by a rope attached to the wrists, typically resulting in dislocated shoulders. Weights may be added to the body to intensify the effect and increase the pain. This kind of torture would generally not last more than an hour, without rest, as it would likely result into death. Other names for strappado include "reverse hanging" and "Palestinian hanging" (although it is not used by the Palestinian Authority) It is best known for its use in the torture chambers of the medieval Inquisition.

The Strappado torture technique


6. Garrotte Torture :- The garrote was the principal device used for capital punishment in Spain for one and a half centuries until its abolition. In this method the condemned would sit down as he was tied to the Garrote device and then a metal collar was secured around his neck, the executioner or person carrying out the torture would then turn a handle that slowly tightened the collar around the victim, as the neck was slowly crushed, breathing became difficult and the victim would eventually die as the oxygen supply was cut off and he became asphyxiated.

The Garrote punishment technique

Garrote Torture

5. The Breaking Wheel :- Also known as the Catherine Wheel, this is a torture device use to slowly kill the victim. First, the victim’s limbs were tied to the spokes of a large wooden wheel which would then be slowly revolved as the torturer simultaneously smashed the victim’s limbs with an iron hammer to break them in numerous places. As the bones were broken, the victim would be left on the wheel to die or could be place on top of a tall pole so the birds could feed on their flesh while still alive. This was slow indeed since it could have taken days before the victims would die from dehydration. Sometimes, a coups de grace (blow of mercy) was employed by ordering the executioner to deal a fatal blow on the victim’s chest and stomach to end their agony.

The Breaking Wheel torture technique

The Breaking Wheel

4. Rat Torture :- One of the most sadistic of all torture techniques involved having a cage with one open side strapped against the victim’s body. It would then be filled with large rodents and a heating element which would be placed on the other side of the cage. The rodents’ natural instinct led them to flee the intense heat. In order to escape they would burrow through the victim’s body with fatal results.

The Rat torture

The Rat torture

3. Thumbscrews :- The thumbscrews or pilliwinks is a torture instrument which was first used in medieval Europe. Thumbscrews were also applied to crush prisoners' big toes. The crushing bars were sometimes lined with sharp metal points to puncture the nails and inflict greater pain in the nail beds. Larger, heavier devices based on the same design principle were applied to crush knees and elbows.

The Thumbscrews torture technique


2. The Rack Torture :- Designed to dislocate every joint of the victim’s body, it was believed to be the most painful form of medieval torture. This torture device was made out of a wooden frame with two ropes fixed to the bottom and the other two tied into the handle on top. Once the victim was bound and placed on top of the rack, the torturer would proceed to turn the handle. Eventually, the victim would be stretched till his limbs where dislocated. The torturers, however, (just to make sure those limbs where indeed dislocated) would continue to turn the wheel until the limbs where completely torn off the victim’s body.

The Rack torture technique

The Rack torture

1. The Chair :- Also known as the Judas Chair, it was a terrible, intimidating torture device that was added to dungeons in the Middle Ages. Made of iron, it can also contain spaces for heating elements beneath the seat This torture device was used extensively during the Middle Ages. Victims would be placed onto the chair — which featured 500 to 1500 sharp spikes — followed by the progressive tightening of iron restraints, forcing the spikes deep into the flesh.This could go on for hours, sometimes days. The spikes did not penetrate vital organs and blood loss was minimized — at least until the person was released from the chair. Death often followed. The Iron Chair was often used as a psychological instrument of torture; victims would often confess after being forced to watch other prisoners being tortured by the device.

The Iron Chair of Torture

The Iron Chair of Torture

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