Medieval TortureIn the Middle Ages torture was used for a variety of reasons, to gain information, to purify heretics and to punish criminals. In this lesson of the Medieval Archives Podcast we are going to explore medieval torture and the devices used by medieval torturers.

Devices of pain, torment and mutilation used by the Church to punish heretics and blasphemers. You’ll even find out which Pope issued a papal bull condoning the use of torture! Join us on the dark side of the Middle Ages as we explore Medieval Torture.

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…inflicted on them unutterable tortures; for never were any martyrs so tortured as they were. Some they hanged up by the feet, and smoked them with foul smoke; and some by the thumbs, or by the head, and hung coats of mail on their feet. They tied knotted strings about their heads, and twisted them till the pain went to the brains.
~Anglo-Saxon Chronicles

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In this episode we discuss Medieval Torture devices like:

  • The Rack
  • Judas Cradle
  • The Pear of Anguish
  • Pillory
  • Iron Maiden
  • And more…

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Comments 1

  1. Nick says:

    A few observations ….

    (1) the Dark Ages refers generally to the period from the collapse of the Roman Empire (475 AD) to about the first millennium (1000 AD). It doesn’t cover the entire ‘medieval’ period (500 – 1500 AD)

    (2) The people who lived during the Middle Ages didn’t regard it as the ‘Middle Ages’ or themselves as ‘medieval’ – anymore than we regard ourselves as being in ‘the middle’ (‘medieval’) of anything or ‘between’ any stages of human history. They naturally regarded themselves as living in the modern world as much as we do.

    (3) the term ‘Medieval’ etc. was coined by renaissance era scholars to try and put a distance between what they regarded as their ‘more enlightened’ time, and what went before back to the Roman empire. Was it ‘more enlightened’? The jury’s out on that, just as it out on whether we live in a more ‘enlightened’ age ourselves. Technological, yes, ‘enlightened’? – maybe, maybe not.

    (4) Torture was used by all arms of the judiciary throughout the Middle Ages – and beyond – well into the 18th century, in fact. In some countries it is routinely practised even today, from ‘waterboarding’ & psychologicla torture in the US to more basic forms in China, North Korea and so on.

    The civil courts routinely used torture to extract confessions of guilt (forensics being a limited or unknown methodology) so it was not only the Church using it.

    (5) the illustration accompanying this article depicts a scene from the mid to late 17th century or perhaps even early 18th. The clothes / fashion are clearly not ‘medieval’. It was an image popularly used by Protestant reformers as anti-clerical propaganda, in the literal sense of the word.

    Just my tuppence, for what it’s worth, interesting podcast!