It’s not exactly known where the concept of ‘the wheel’ came from in terms of torture, but it was used mainly during the Dark Ages throughout England, France and Germany. In this article, you will learn how the wheel would inflict pain on the body, as well as some of the other methods of medieval torture.
The wheel was a device comprised of a large piece of circular wood with spokes attached. Limbs were tied to the spokes and the wheel was slowly turned. Openings between the spokes allowed a torturer to hit the victim with an iron hammer to break bones. With broken bones, the victim was left to die on the wheel. If a victim was sentenced to die an extremely painful death, they were placed on a tall pole so that birds could finish off the body.
For small offenses, the victim was able to survive their torture, and would live to describe what they believed was the most painful torture device ever conceived. It was a torture method of choice to punish traitors, those against religion, homosexuals and spies.
Sometimes the wheel was used in conjunction with horses pulling the victim, which was pretty common. With feet tied with a rope, they were connected to a wild horse in a cage. Sometimes, the hands would be fastened to a wall. In some cases, using nails to imitate Jesus Christ created a religious meaning behind the torture. When the torturer was ready to begin, the horse would be ordered to ride at full speed. The victim’s bones would eventually break. If the victim was a large sized man or very strong, it was not uncommon to see two or three horses used during the torture.
It’s hard to believe, but the human body and skin could be very resistant to breakage. When the horses were ordered to run, they would move with all of their might and a victim could have their arms separated from the rest of their body.
Other victims were stretched on the wheel, as a torturer would turn a handle that caused their body to be increasingly pulled. In some cases, fire and nails attached to the floor were added to the torture equation.
During medieval times in Britain, the rack was used between 1154 and 1485. It was a torture device that was rectangular in shape and usually comprised of a wooden frame, a roller, and a fixed bar. A victim had their legs fastened to the bar and their hands were tied to the movable bar. A torturer turned the handle, which caused the ropes to pull at the arms of the victim. In time, the victim’s bones became dislocated with a loud crack, which caused the cartilage, ligaments, and bones to snap. If the contraption was turned even more, the limbs were completely ripped off in the end.
This form of torture was used to get confessions out of a person. If a victim refused to confess, the torturer would continue to stretch out the body. It was also a way to strike fear into the hearts of other victims, as they made them watch someone else going through the process. A group of people known in history to undergo this form of torture was many of the knights belonging to the Knights Templar , whose mission was to protect Pilgrims.