Medieval Torture

Shoebox Diorama of The Water Torture (Dunking)

In the Medieval days many different forms of torture were used to extract information out of people who weren’t willing to cooperate. These tortures were all very painful and usually left victims with permanent injuries if they were not killed. Torture was the most common way of extracting information and was so widely used during the middle ages that we have evidence of at least 33 different devices of torture. Medieval torture was at it’s peak during the Inquisition (from 1231-1542), in this time the torture devices used were usually smaller and portable like a saw, which was used in the Saw torture.

Here are some of the most gruesome and sadistic torture methods used in the Middle Ages:

The Judas Cradle was one of the most painful tortures used during the middle ages. It required the victim to be suspended by ropes or chains above the ground and then placed on top of a pyramid-shaped seat in which the point was forced up the victim’s anus. The torturers usually attached ropes to the victim and dangled weights from their body so that the torture would be more painful and speed up the rate of death. Sometimes this torture could last many days. To extract information from the victim the torturer usually rigged the ropes in such a way that by pulling them they could make them fall on the pyramid if the victim did not reveal what they needed to know.

The Judas Cradle

The Iron Maiden (The Virgin of Nuremberg) was probably the most painful of all tortures during the Middle Ages. The Iron maiden was a coffin-like structure that featured long metal spikes on all sides. These spike were placed in such a way to avoid the vital organs and prolong death. When the door was closed the victim could not see anything or hear anything but their own screaming reverberating through the Maiden. This greatly increased the psychological pain. Also, the torturers or anyone outside the Maiden could not hear the screams of the victim because it was sound-proof. Sometimes the torturers would open the door to ask a question and if the victim failed to answer they would shut the door, which in turn further opened the wounds.

The Iron Maiden

The Rack this torture was an equally painful torture as the Iron Maiden it consisted of a wooden frame with ropes tied to a rotating handle on both sides so that turning the handle would slowly pull the ropes away from each other. The victim was placed on top of the frame and his/her hands were tied to the ropes. When the torturer turned the handle, the victims joints were slowly dislocated and then broken with a loud CRACK! Sometimes the torturer would pull the limbs completely apart. This torture was widely used during the middle ages as it was cheaper and easier to make.

The Rack Torture

The Rat Torture used rats to torture victims. In this torture the victim was tied to a flat surface so that they could not move. The torturer would then take a container made from a hard substance (usually metal) and heated the container. This forced the rat to find a way out. The rat then proceeded to dig into the victims flesh and burrow it’s way out through the intestines. Usually after around three hours, the victim was already dead.

Dunking Water Torture (Diorama) could be performed several ways. One of the most popular ways to torture a victim using water was repeatedly dunking them in a nearby lake or river. If it looked like the victim was likely to faint, he could elevate the chair to allow them to breathe. This was useful when a victim would not co-operate with the torturer, he could just lower it again and they would suffocate until they told him. This method was used more frequently during the Spanish Inquisition and was used mainly for torturing supposed witches.


The Cauldron was an extremely painful torture that was very slow and certainly resulted in death. A pot was placed over a fire filled with cold water and then the victim was forced into the pot and slowly burned alive. This torture was different to most tortures during this time period because it was used for execution purposes rather than to extract confessions.

Boiled alive in 'The Cauldron'

The Head Crusher was a brutal torture that involved an instrument with a dome-shaped head piece with a screw to turn it and a neck brace at the bottom. The victim’s head was placed inside with the chin over the neck brace and the torturer would turn the screw to slowly crush the victim’s skull. Often times the victim’s eye balls would fall forwards out of their head, which led to a variation of this contraption sporting round cup like containers for the eyes as they fell out. If the torturer went too far and crushed the entire head, the victim’s brain was destroyed in the process and death resulted.

The Head Crusher

By Jake Kenner 8C



5 Comments on “Medieval Torture”

  1. jacksonbates says:

    Oh, that is grim. I am not going to be able to unlearn that! 😦

  2. swoonie says:

    LOL!!!! Mr. Kenner, how can you NOT know who Mr. Bates is?! hehehe!!! I hope Mr. Bates is okay after that.

    Thanks for the gruesome post. Felt a bit green. I’m surprised you are still sane after doing such a good research on a rather hideous subject matter. =))