The medieval times of Europe, constituting 400 years, encases acts of torture that still make people’s toes curl. With technological developments like the compass, mechanical clock, vertical windmills, spectacles, and more, torture devices saw the light of day in the period. Hundreds of torture devices were conceived and created with the sole purpose of inflicting pain, and one of them is the famous Judas Cradle or the Judas Chair.
History of Cradle of Judah
Judas Cradle, or the guided chair, is an Italian invention purportedly used by the Spanish Inquisition. It was created to deal with heretics and was designed by Ippolito Marsilli. There were generally multiple torturers operating a Judas Cradle, with one person in charge and others assisting him. The device was invented in 16th-century Spain when the institution of the Inquisition was widespread. New and brutal techniques of torture were devised to aid the process of suffering. The torturers were given a stipend, and their main task was to extract the required information or confession from the victims. It was most commonly used during the late and towards the end of medieval times. Although primarily used for religious purposes to gain a confession, it was used against political opponents also.
How did the Judas Cradle operate?
The Judas Cradle was a wooden or metal pyramid-shaped ‘seat’ on which the victim was placed on top. Their hands and legs would be tied, so the weight could not be shifted. The victims’ feet were commonly tied with each other to increase pain whenever there was a movement of the feet. The pointed edge of the Pyramid was slowly inserted into the anus, v*gina, or scrotum of the victim resulting in excruciating pain. The torture could continue from a few hours to days, making the damage permanent. To make the process even more painful, weights would also be added to facilitate the effect, which often resulted in death by impalement. During the interrogations, If the victim refused to speak, the torturer would shake the victim, raising and dropping them on The Judas Cradle several times, moving their legs, and forcing different ways for the tip of the Pyramid to project. Eventually, when the victim could no longer hold the required position, the end of the Pyramid from The Judas Chair would start to impale his anus or v*gina. The victim’s hands and feet would be bound to prevent shifting weight to another location.
Torture expressed through the Judas Cradle Stories
Among the many Judas Cradle stories that passed on through the ages, one aspect that has emerged in common was the belief that it was the only way forward to grow as a community and filter out liars and heretics. The stories reveal that the purpose was to pave the way forward for religion and keep the Catholic faith away from impurities. Impurities like those governed by the Pope or people who had converted to Catholicism held no merit in the eyes of the law. They were known as heretics at best, not by their admission. Torture device such as Judas Cradle was meant to filter them out. However, rulers did not stop at religion but also used this gadget on their political opponents.
The device played an essential role in torturing the heretics. Holding the victim on the Pyramid for hours or hurrying the process along was up to the torturer. Weight was added to the legs or stomach of the victim, forcing their cavities to face the brunt of being thrust down on the wooden monster. It was unheard of if the man lived through the experience of being tortured on the device. Those who unfortunately survived the pain could not rejoice for longer than that because the infection would kill them later as the device was never sterilized.
Streaks of sadism crept in through the leaders when they started using the device in more creative ways than one, such as thrusting the victim down on it repeatedly. Each thrust increased the pain that would keep coming till they couldn’t stand it anymore. These Judas Cradle stories prove how inhumane the punishments and interrogations were during the medieval period.
If you believe Judas Chair was torturous and grotesque, you would be surprised that it was not the only torture device built. Apart from the Judas Cradle, many other devices were made in the medieval period, like ‘The Spanish Horse‘ and ‘Iron Maiden Torture Device‘, which make the cradle look humane.