The Inquisition was the Roman Catholic’s method of discovering and punishing heresy. The accused were stripped of all rights and underwent severe questioning and tortuous tests. In this article, you will learn about some of the ways the Inquisition aimed to get the answers they sought after, including the Rack and the Iron Maiden.
Sessions of questioning that took place during the Inquisition used a variety of methods to extract “confessions” and gain answers to questions that had no true responses. The medieval times were saturated with a range of creative torture devices and methods that seem the stuff of legend. But sadly, people actually endured a host of horrific punishments that involved nails, spikes, rope and wood. Examples of these torturous devices include:
One of the most well known of medieval torture devices is the rack , a rectangular frame with rollers situated at one end or on both ends of the contraption. The hands and legs of a victim were tired to the ends of the rack, while someone slowly turned the handle to inflict increasing pressure on the victims’ body. When turned too much , the joints in the body became dislocated. During medieval times, the rack was a recognizable symbol, which has tortured many people, including revolutionary Guy Fawkes.
The Scavenger’s Daughter
Instead of stretching the limbs of a victim, the Scavenger’s Daughter worked in the opposite manner and compressed the body. This method of torture does not appear in many historical records and it is assumed that it wasn’t used as much as other devices. This form of torture was used during the reign of Henry VIII and was a favorite of Sir William Skevington (or William Skeffington), who held the position of Lieutenant of the Tower of London. An example of the Scavenger’s Daughter (also called the Spanish A-frame, iron shackle, the Stork, or Skevington’s gyres), can be found on display at the Tower of London museum.
Measuring about seven feet, the Iron Maiden was a box shaped like a body. The inside of the torture device was filled with sharp spikes and was equipped with a double door. When the victim was placed inside, a small opening that could be closed provided a way for the torturer to interrogate the victim. Knifes and nails could also be used during this method of torture , all while the victim was still standing inside of the contraption.
The Water Wheel
The water wheel was an invention that dates back to ancient days, but during the Inquisition, the tool used to convert water into energy also became a method of torture. A large wheel was placed in a pool of water and torturers would tie their victims to the rim and move the wheel around. This caused the victim to be dunked in the water, while having their muscles and joints stretched at the same time.
The Brodequin (The Boots)
This hand-worked device of torture was used to crush the legs. The Brodequin was tightened by hand or a mallet was used to knock in the wedges to smash bones until the bone marrow emerged. If a victim passed out from the pain, they were found guilty because it was believed at that time that losing consciousness was a trick of the Devil that was used to escape pain.