Medieval justice (law and order)

How was the common law introduced?

You may be thinking “how was common law introduced?” It started in 1154 when numerous amounts of people were trialled to prove their innocence. This led to blistered skin or damaged bodies.

The ruler of this kingdom (King Henry II) decided to allow average community people to be a part of what was called the Royal Court. Citizens promised to be trusted and properly investigate and accuse only people for a legitimate reason. The group then reaches a verdict and decides whether or not the defendant is innocent or guilty. This is what we now call a “jury” and like every court-house the judge gets to make the final decision.

After the common law was introduced, King Henry II decided to decree that once in a while, all the judges of courts would come together in London to talk about the previous cases that they came across. This is just a rough idea of the introduction of the common law.

The justice system in the Middle Ages was the core of our justice system in Australia and England. The only difference between our justice system and theirs is that the medieval period had more gruelling punishment than ours here today.

What was witchcraft in the Middle Ages?

Witches in the middle ages were people who were thought to be followers of the devil.

Most of the people in the Medieval period greatly feared these people as they thought they were the cause of thing such as: accidents, bad luck, illness and death. All these things are associated as being black magic. Because of this phobia fear, towns people were randomly accusing people of being a witch. Even the sweetest old women can be accused of being a witch just because the towns people found her creepy in some way.

There has said to be over 110,000 witch trials during 1450-1750 AD and 25,000 of them were men. If you don’t know the ratio of this, it means for everyone five men that were accused, eleven women were trialled, also, out of all these people, half were found guilty and were killed. This means that 52,000 were dead all because of the towns people finding them creepy in some way.. Some of those people were not even witches. The justice system they had against witches were very pointless. most of the trials included torture and always ended up with a damaged body.

The people who hated witches the most were mainly church people. If you’ve learnt about the feudalism levels of importance, you will see that the church and the pope was the most important level of  medieval society. The influence the church brought to the witch hunt was massive. The whole town was turning against each other just because the church was afraid of a demon possessed person.

If it wasn’t for the church and their theory on witches, much more people would still be living in this world today because the search for witches would have been less serious and innocent lives would have been spared.

How bad was the punishment in the Middle ages?

When a person was found guilty of a certain crime, the person would be punished by experiencing torture. Torture in the middle ages was the penalty for a breaking medieval justice.

There were many different kinds of torture that provided a serious amount of pain, agony and humiliation. These range from small amounts of pain to death. The main point of torture was to scare and intimidate citizens into not breaking the law. It was also used for revenge and punishment. These treatments were designed to enforce their rules or to get the truth out of someone.

If you were wondering how bad the torture was, the truth is that the torture was inhumane and deadly in the Middle Ages. An example of this is the Iron Maiden. The victim is placed inside a coffin that is filled with sharp metal spikes that are designed to thrust in the person’s body and will miss the vital organs to prolonging the pain and agony of the victim. This is just one example of the heartless torture medieval folk would experience if they broke the law.

Compared to most civilizations during this time period, It was obvious to see that the punishment system that the medieval period had offered were very disgusting.

Medieval torture stopped in 1640, hundreds of years after two speeches from the pope complaining about the devilish ways the citizens used to get people to confess about the truth.

What were some of the laws in the middle ages?

The Medieval law was based around the rules in the bible. The church believed that the Lord was the governor of mankind and that all the rules he set out should be followed. The problem was that they took the laws of the bible and made it more serious than it should be.

       The main law in the middle ages was all the Ten Commandments whih are shown in the picture to the left. Any breach in these laws would have resulted in cruel torture that I’ve mentioned earlier in the previous questions. Other crimes consist of theft, witchcraft, murder, treason, working on Sundays and much more.

 The laws in our siciety today are much similar to the Middle ages but the only difference is that we don’t have all ten commandments as a law compared to the Medieval times when the ten commandments were the core of their justice system.

What were the worst tortures in Medieval history?

There are two tortures in the middle ages that were very dreaded and very humiliating. These tortures are called “the rack” and “the quartering horses”.

The rack is a torture device that is designed to dislocate every bone in your body. This machine works by placing the victim tied both ends of the rack and stretching the person until they hear a large crack from every ligament in their body.  The person who was giving the torture would have been standing next to a crank, which would allow him to turn it causing the stretching. Later in the middle ages, they decided to add in spikes so that the victim will be forced to lay on the table due to the penetration of the back by the strain of the spikes.

The other torture,”the quartering horses ” is very similar to the rack except for that each arm and leg is tied to a different horse. This torture was for the more serious crimes like trying to kill a noble. The horse riders then whip the horses making them gallop at totally different directions, stretching the bodym, trying to make every limb collapse. This torture was one of the most favoured out of all of the tortures.

Their are even worse tortures that were in the Middle Ages but they consist of nudity and cutting off parts of the anal region. So these were the worst crimes that consisted of none of those things.

What my diorama represents.

I have created a diorama representing some of the things that were in the Middle ages. There are four scenes in my diorama, each featuring something to do with Medieval justice.


 The first picture below is about a man in a boat accusing a woman of being a witch. This shows how many people got accused of being a witch because the person was either creepy in some way or seemed like they were practicing black magic. Trying to find witches all over town was known as the ‘Witch hunt.”

 Secondly, Below is a picture of another Medieval torture which consist of  square-shaped boulders being piled on a women until she dies. This is an example of some of the tortures that are extremely fatal, more examples include: Burning at stake, hanging and worst of all, the rack. These were the kind of torture that the town’s people feared the most. Tortures like these were the punishments were usually for the people who broke the most important laws like theft.


Thirdly, at the bottom is a picture of a woman experiencing something known in the Middle Ages as a “ducking-stool” Also known as the “chucking stool”, this device was used for multiple purposes such as punishment and used for trial of ordeal. This machine was specially made for women to punish the victim for either being a witch or any sexual beach in law. Victims were tied to this ducking-stool connected to a handle that the person giving the torture.  This was intended so that the person can be dunked in water as long as the torturer wanted.


Lastly is a picture of a man receiving another punishment called “the head crusher.” This device had a very strong reputation in the Middle Ages as it was made to crush the skull until the victim died. This is why it was also called “death by head.”Even today this machine is used in some Europe countries as punishment.

All these things that I have created were a joy to make and I hope that you’ve enjoyed looking at it.


Author unknown,, “Middle Ages torture” Unknown date of publishment.

Smith.R, Young.D. “Humanities Alive History 1”, Wiley(2006)

Lyn,N, “Medieval law”,Unknown date of publishment

Author unknown,”witchcraft in the middle ages”,

Unknown author,, “Description and History of the common law”, unknown date of publishment.

unknown author,”ten comandments” (June 18 2011)

Author unknown, (2008), “Most painful 20 tortures in history”

Unknown publisher, “Medieval Ducking Stool”, unknown date,