In Medieval times, they sought out ways to cut back on crime. Instead of letting the criminals sit in a jail cell, like today, they would use different torture devices. These devices came in all shapes and sizes and were meant to scare other would be criminals into not doing the crimes committed by the person being tortured. Let’s check these weird torture methods

The Brazen Bull

This device was designed in Greece by Perillos of Athens. He was a brass founder and he cast the shape of a hollow bull with a door on the side. This condemned person was shut in the bull. There was a fire lit underneath the device and because it was brass it became yellow hot, which would cause the person to roast to death. It was configured with tubes and stops, so when the person was screaming it would sound like the bull was raging.

the brazen bull


The Breaking Wheel

This wheel of torture was used to kill criminals and it did that very slowly. This device was a large wagon wheel. The criminal would be tied to the wheel, where the punisher would proceed to use a hammer to break the bones of the other person. Once that was completed, they were left there to die and even the birds would peck at their flesh until death was complete.

the breaking wheel


The Rack

This device is an oblong rectangle with a wooden frame. It was raised from the ground with a roller either at one end or at both ends. One end had a fixed bar, where the feet were locked onto it, and the other end had a moveable bar, where the hands were tied to it. It had a lever that was used as the interrogation progressed. It was on a lever and pulley system that would eventually cause the joints of the person being tortured to dislocate and then separate. Eventually, the muscle fibers userbin, ligaments, and cartilage would break separating the limbs from the body of the condemned.

the rack


Judas Cradle

This torture device is a pyramid shaped seat. The victim is placed on top of it, with the point inserted into an orifice, then they are very slowly lowered onto it. The condemned was usually naked in order to add to their humiliation. This device was thought to stretch the orifice or to slowly impale the person. The stretching of the orifice would cause pain, rips and tears, which would eventually cause death.

judas cradle


Coffin Torture

This device was used in the Middle Ages. The condemned would be placed in the metal coffin and left there for the appropriate amount of time. Depending on the crime, the person could be left in there to die, while animals ate their flesh or they would be placed on public display, which would cause their death. The people that would surround the person in the coffin would throw rocks and poke the person with objects until they finally became deceased.

coffin torture




Iron Maiden

This iron cabinet with a hinged front was made to be a tall upright cabinet that would enclose a human being. It would have a small opening, which was closeable, so the interrogator would be able to open and close it at their will. They would then poke the bodies of the person with a sharp object. They would use knives, spikes, or nails and the person inside was forced to remain standing in one position, ultimately causing their demise.

iron maiden


The Knee Splitter

The whole purpose of this device was to make a person’s knees useless. It was used in mainly during the Inquisitional period of time. This device was faceted with spikes, from three to twenty of them, and depending on the crime committed, depended on the number used. IT had a handle the torturer would use to close the device. The spikes would mutilate the skin and begin to crush the knee. They would also use the device on elbows, arms and the lower legs. There were even instances that they would heat the device to cause a maximum amount of pain. Death wasn’t a result of this device, but it the person refused to cooperate they would use other means.

the knee splitter


Heretic’s Fork

This device was used during the Spanish Inquisition. It has two forks at opposing ends of a metal rod. One of the forks would be placed under the chin, piercing the skin, and the other end would be piercing the flesh in the upper chest. It didn’t puncture any vital organs, so death would not take place during the use of this method, but it made talking and neck movements impossible. While wearing this device a person’s hands would be tied behind their backs, so they could not escape it. It would harm the person’s neck and, often times, spread diseases.

heretics fork


Saw Torture

This method was used to torture and kill the condemned person, which were typically accused of witchery, adultery, murder, blasphemy, or theft. The accused was hung upside down. This slowed down the blood loss by forcing the blood to the brain and it humiliated the person. This type of torture could last for several hours. Some of the victims would be cut completely in half, while some would only be cut up to their abdomen in order to prolong their deaths.

saw torture



This was used to get a confession from the offenders. The fingers of the person were placed in the device and crushed by the torturer turning the handle on the top. It could last for a very long time and it was very painful. This was also used to crush a person’s toes. They even made bigger versions of this device used to crush feet, knees, elbows and even heads.



Written by Harmony Stalter – Copyrighted ©

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Vlad the Impaler, commonly referred to as Dracula today, impaled thousands of persons during his reign. At the time, Vlad was known as a hero and a good ruler - the severity of his punishments made him famous and feared. During his reign, a thief could be impaled just for stealing bread - or even worse - Vlad impaled many thousands of captured soldiers to inspire fear upon his enemies.

The victim's hands would be tied to prevent any chance of escaping. The stick was fixed to the ground and it was too big for the victim's feet to reach the ground. Finally, it took many hours - or days even (depending on the victim's strength and weight) for the stick to reach a vital organ.

There is no much evidence of the impaling torture being common during the Dark Ages - as a matter of fact, it was considered as the "Cruelest torture ever designed by the human mind."

The most common way of impalement was through the anus - but variations existed. Vlad impaled people from the chest, legs, arms and; surprisingly, form the skull. Most of these were for decoration purposes, because, as noted above - Vlad impaled a whole army and his main purpose was to scare his enemies - he succeeded by leaving "A forest of rotting men."

In rare cases, the stick would go perfectly from the anus to the mouth - in other cases the stick would stay stuck with a bone - it would go out through the chest or, more commonly, through the neck.

Vlad was so cruel that he would sometimes impale children and then make their mothers eat them. At the same time, he would be having a feast while watching the victims be impaled right in front of him. For this reason and others, Vlad is known today as Dracula, the blood-thirsty vampire.
Just looking at the "chair" will make a person understand why medieval torture is so terrible. The unlucky victim would be forced to sit down on the chair. The stick that can be seen in the leg-level of the chair has a handle that was intended to push the victim's legs even harder against the tips. If this wasn't enough, a similar device can also be seen for the hands, back and feet.

Even though this torture gives a sense of a quick death; a person could last a day or more sitting on the chair. This way of torture was normally used to make a person confess anything. If he told the truth, he'd be given a quick death. If he refused, the torturer could turn the handle a little bit more, and the victim would feel an indescribable pain.

The victim would be alive until his blood slowly drained out of his body. This took a while because the tips themselves--and the pressure being exerted on the victim--would stop the blood from pouring out rapidly.

This torture wasn't used a lot. In fact, it was rarely used. But when a person was sentenced to it, he'd find a way to prevent it. There are records of people committing suicide before actually being subject to this torture.
The Dunk Stool was a torture commonly used to make witches confess their witchery and heresy. It consisted of a simple chair tied to a three or a stick.

The victim would be intermittently submerged in a river or pond. At the beginning, he or she would be submerged for less than a minute, but if the victim refused to reveal information or deny charges; the period of under water could increment dramatically; up to two minutes or more.

Eventually, the victim died. Nevertheless, death by the Dunk Stool was better than what would await a witch or sorcerer if proven guilty.




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Patchwork Merchant Mercenaries a Dept of, Ask For IT was started by artists and former military veterans, and sword fighters, representing over 100 artisans, one who made his living traveling from fair to festival vending medieval wares. The majority of his customers are re-enactors, SCAdians and the like, looking to build their kit with period clothing, feast gear, adornments, etc.

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After a festival's time of answering weighty questions such as these, I'd sleep like a log! Only a mad man could possibly remember the place and time for each piece of kitchen ware, weaponry, cloth, and chain within a span of 1,000 years!! Surely there must be an easier way, a place where he could post all this knowledge...

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