Nursery Rhymes

Middle Ages Torture

Middle Ages - Lords and Ladies

Definition of Torture

The definition of torture is the the deliberate, systematic, cruel and wanton infliction of physical or mental suffering by one or more torturers in an attempt to force another person to yield information or to make a confession or for any other reason. Devices or tools were used to inflict unbearable agony on a victim.

Objectives of Torture
The objectives of torture were to intimidate, deter, revenge or punish. Or as a tool or a method for the extraction of information or confessions.

Methods of Middle Ages Torture
There were many methods of torture which were practised during the Medieval era of the Middle Ages:

  • Ripping out teeth / nails
  • Beating
  • Blinding
  • Boiling
  • Bone breaking
  • Branding and Burning
  • Castration
  • Choking
  • Cutting
  • Disfigurement
  • Dislocation
  • Drowning
  • Flagellation, whipping and beating
  • Flaying
  • Roasting
  • Genital mutilation
  • Limb/finger removal
  • Starvation
  • Tongue removal

There was even a torture which used tickling as a method to inflict suffering. Other tortures included the compression of the limbs by special instruments, or by ropes, injection of water, vinegar, or oil, into the body of the accused, application of hot pitch, and starvation, were the processes used in tortures.

Instruments or devices of Middle Ages Torture
The instruments or devices used in Medieval torture of the Middle Ages included some of the following terrible tools or machines:

  • Boot or Spanish boot
  • Branding Irons
  • Brank
  • The Collar
  • Drunkards Cloak
  • Ducking stools
  • Foot press
  • Foot screw
  • The Gossip's Bridle or the Brank
  • Heretic's fork
  • The Maiden
  • Pillory
  • Rack
  • Scavenger's daughter
  • Scold's bridle
  • Stocks
  • Thumbscrew
  • The Wheel

Middle Ages Torture and Execution
A skilled torturer would use methods, devices and instruments to prolong life as long as possible whilst inflicting agonising pain. However, the customs of the Medieval period dictated that many prisoners were tortured before they were executed in order to obtain additional information about their crime or their accomplices. There were many forms of torture and execution. The execution method itself was part of the torture endured by prisoners. These final methods of torture and execution included the following methods:

  • Torture and execution by Fire
  • The Sword or the Axe
  • Mechanical force
  • Quartering
  • The Wheel
  • The Fork
  • The Gibbet
  • Spiking
  • Dismembering

Middle Ages Torture Chambers and Dungeons
The torture chambers were located in the lower parts of castles. The entrances to many torture chambers were accessed through winding passages which served to muffle the agonising cries of torture victims from the normal inhabitants of the castle.  internal government of prisons. Torture chambers and dungeons were often very small some measured only eleven feet long by seven feet wide in which from ten to twenty prisoners were often incarcerated at the same time.

Middle Ages Torture was condemned in 866
The barbarous custom of punishment by torture was on several occasions condemned by the Church. As early as 866, we find, from Pope Nicholas V's letter to the Bulgarians, that their custom of torturing the accused was considered contrary to divine as well as to human law: "For," says he, "a confession should be voluntary, and not forced. By means of the torture, an innocent man may suffer to the utmost without making any avowal; and, in such a case, what a crime for the judge! Or the person may be subdued by pain, and may acknowledge himself guilty, although he be not so, which throws an equally great sin upon the judge." Despite this, and other please, the practise of torturing victims continued. Medieval Torture was a freely accepted form of punishment in the Middle Ages and was only abolished in England in 1640.

Middle Ages Torture
The Medieval period of the Middle Ages was violent and blood thirsty. In barbarous times the cruel and pitiless feeling which induced legislators to increase the horrors of tortures, also contributed to the aggravation of the fate of prisoners. Torture chambers were included in many castles. Law or custom did not prescribe any fixed rules for the treatment of hapless prisoners who faced torture. Different types of torture were used depending on the victim's crime and social status. Torture was seen as a totally legitimate means for justice to extract confessions, or obtain the names of accomplices or other information about the crime. Torture was a legitimate way to obtain testimonies and confessions from suspects for use in legal inquiries and trials during the Middle Ages. Facts and information about various forms of tortures and executions can be accessed from the following links:

The Rack Torture
Savengers Daughter
The Brank or Scold's Bridle
Ducking Stool
Torture by Dislocation
Iron Balls Torture
Water Torture
The Boot Torture
Burned at the Stake
Branding and Burning Tortures
Execution by Quartering
Execution by the Wheel
Execution by Hanging
Hung, Drawn and Quartered

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