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Medieval Torture Devices

A research paper on Medieval torture devices could begin: During the Middle Ages and early modern period, confessions were sought through the application of torture. Modern sanctions against cruel and unusual punishment were unknown during the medieval era, also an age when public executions were popular forms of entertainment. While most medieval torture was cheap and easy (such as exposure or boiling), specific devices were invented. Some of the more prolific medieval torture devices were:

  • Judas Cradle
  • Chair of Torture
  • The Rack
  • Brazen Bull
  • Iron Maiden
  • Pear of Anguish
Medieval Torture Devices

England and Torture Devices

The most famous medieval torture device is perhaps the rack. The rack was introduced in England during the Plantagenet period (1154-1485) and consisted of a long wooden frame. At one end the legs were fastened, at the other the arms were attached to a roller. The torturer turned a handle, from which ropes were connected to the roller. The end result was that the person would be stretched until his joints were dislocated. Occasionally, the rack was employed until the arms and legs were ripped off.

Torture Devices For Witchcraft

A second form of torture device was the dunking chair. This form of torture was largely reserved for women suspected of witchcraft. The suspect was tied to a chair which was then suspended above a river or other body of water. A lever system allowed the chair to be lowered (or dunked) into the water, submerging the victim. The victim could then be lowered and raised as needed until a confession was had, or the person drowned. First introduced by King James I of England, dunking was used during the Salem Witch trials.

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