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Methods of Medieval Torture

Can you imagine feeling extreme pressure on your thumbs or hands until your bones were crushed? This is one of the ways torturers attempted to question the accused. In this article, you will learn other methods of medieval punishment, including one called the Iron Maiden.

The Thumbscrew

During the Middle Ages, the Inquisition was notorious in torturing people using the thumbscrew method. It was their way of getting the intimate details out of an individual that they deemed important. A victim’s hands were placed in a device and the torturer would slowly crush their fingers, which weren’t the only parts of the body subjected to pain. The device was also placed on toes and crushed in the same manner. Larger devices were also created to crush arms, knees, and even heads.

The Iron Maiden

Resembling a sarcophagus, the Iron Maiden was outfitted with tips inside the front door. When people were placed into the device, they died because the door was shut slowly to allow the tips to crush the person to death. A tube at the bottom enhanced the cruelty of the device as victims actually saw their own blood depart their body. You’d think that death would have come quickly, but in fact , it could take more than two days for them to succumb to the torture. With a history linked to Germany, it was thought that the device was strictly related to the Middle Ages, but it actually was invented a couple of centuries beforehand.

The Stocks

One of the most recognized methods of punishment (or torture) is the stocks , typically pictured in history books and seen in movies depicting the Middle Ages. The stocks were usually situated in a part of a town where the public easily had access to the sufferer. It was used as a humiliation tactic, where it was not uncommon for townsfolk to throw objects at an individual, such as rotten produce or rocks.

Victims placed their hands and feet into the open device, which is then closed onto the body. The number of days that a victim stayed in the stocks was determined by the severity of their crime. This could be days to weeks. The device was also used as a form of the death penalty, where a victim was left in the stocks until the sun and animals contributed to their end. The punishment was a sight to see and if anyone wanted to help the accused, they were also tortured by the same method.

Victims also had to deal with the people in town, who could be very cruel. A mild offense usually saw sentenced people endure hits to the face or urine being tossed at them. A more severe case led to harsher ridicule and bodily harm. Stoning was very common, which led to the death of some, while others were left with severe injuries. Cutting was another approach. Some villagers would take off body parts, such as a hand, in the most severe cases.