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10 Most Terrifying Medieval Torture Devices

Isn’t it scary to even think about the pain medieval torture devices caused to the prisoners? Well, we can only imagine!

Torture was considered a legal way to punish offenders and extract confessions during the middle ages. And we have seen enough TV dramas and films to date that showed us how people in the medieval world loved torturing the offenders. The way those tortures have been shown to us on television was toned down, making them age-appropriate. If you haven’t seen the movies on TV, you can always watch historical documentaries online. But don’t forget about your safety! You can view it here.

However, we know enough; it’s not fair to say that we know everything. Medieval torture devices made these actual tortures way more horrifying and painful.

What were medieval torture devices?

During the Medieval period, from the 5th to 15th century, torture had no imposed limits by laws and local customs. The prisoners and offenders were tortured to the extent that it could be inflicted. Medieval torture methods were used depending on the gender, social status, and crime of the victim. Skilled torturers used the devices or instruments to inflict unbearable pain without offering instant death. These medieval times torture devices were essential because people started rebelling against their leaders. Torturing with special devices was not just fun for the torturers; it caused pain to the victim and psychologically feared the people who witnessed them.

Types of Medieval Torture Devices

These are the 10 most barbaric and brutal medieval torture devices. So strap yourself in because these medieval torture devices images could be painful!

1. The Wooden Horse

The Wooden Horse
The Wooden Horse, by Marie-Lan Nguyen, is licensed under CC BY 2.5

The wooden horse, also known as the Spanish donkey and wooden pony, was the most painful medieval torture tool used in history. It was a triangular wooden device with an angled shape. The top of this tool was so pointed that it could torture the victim immediately.

The victim was forced to straddle the wooden horse by adding more weights to their body. It forced the victim’s body to pull down while injuring their crotch. Some variants of these devices had a metal top, which could slice the victim’s body in half. This medieval torture tool mainly was used when the inquisitor questioned the victim and wanted him to confess.

2. The Brazen Bull

The Brazen Bull
The Brazen Bull, by Dimitris Kamaras, is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Brazen bull was a torture device in the medieval era in the actual bull shape. It was a hollow brass statue where the victim was placed after cutting their tongues. The door of this device was closed from the outside so that they couldn’t come out even with their whole force. Also, the fires were lit around this device, making the victim die from the heat. The screams heard during this kind of torture were very horrifying. However, it created amusement for some audiences because they couldn’t see the victims but only heard their sounds.
It is believed that this device was created by Perillus, a Greek, to torture victims. According to reports, this was one of the most torturous devices designed throughout medieval history.

3. Breast Ripper

Breast Ripper
Breast Ripper, by Flominator, is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Breast Ripper, one of the most horrific medieval torture devices for females, terrorized the masses in that era. Very few torturers followed different torturing techniques for women; however, who so ever used them had the goal to destroy some aspect of femininity.

Women were tied on the street naked, and torturers used the breast ripper, a metal claw, to rip off the breast’s flesh. It was so terrifying that women avoided performing any punishable activity.

4. Thumbscrews

Thumbscrews, by Anagoria, is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Thumbscrews are known to be the most insidious form of medieval torture methods. Victims didn’t die from this method, but it was used to create insufferable pain. It consisted of three metal bars facing upside, between which the victim’s thumbs were placed. TThe wooden bar was slid down with the metal bars, pressing the thumbs of the victim against the bottom. This crushing of thumbs used to cause extreme pain.

The Thumbscrews was the upgraded version of a device called the Pilliwinks. Pilliwinks was used for crushing all the fingers, causing more pain. The origin of the thumbscrews was in the Russian army, used for punishing the soldiers who used to misbehave. Then a Scottish man brought this device home and introduced it in Europe.

5. The Wheel

The Wheel
The Wheel, by Anguskirk, is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Wheels were the only medieval torture tools with various uses. Torturers started using it as a stretching rack, but it became far more torturous. People were tied to the large wooden wheel and then pushed down the hills. Later, the torturers started adding an A-shaped frame to the wheel, which led it to swing more freely. The victim was tied to the wheel and was ridden across fire or metal spikes. Some wheel designs were also found with spikes to cause pain from all directions.

In many cases, the wheel was turned on the axles (the spindles passing through the wheel’s centre). It is still considered the most horrifying medieval torture to date. It used to break the victim’s bones and shatter limbs. Another way the wheel was used was where it was attached to the top of a wooden pole and left swinging for days. It might not be used to kill the victim instantly but cause pain due to mangled arms and legs and then die due to no blood circulation.

6. The Pear of Anguish

The Pear of Anguish
The Pear of Anguish, by Klaus D. Peter, Wiehl, Germany, is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Pear Anguish was one of the medieval torture devices used in the most extreme cases. It was a pear-shaped device made up of four metal “leaves”. These leaves were joined on the top using the hinge and a crank at the end. Depending on the crime committed by the victim, the pear was inserted into the anus, throat, or vagina, causing an unexpected kind of pain.

The anal and vaginal pears were generally used on witches and homosexuals, and the oral device was used for heretics. It used to cause extreme internal damage.

7. The Stake

The Stake
The Stake, by Bob, is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

The stake was a large wooden or metal post that was used to burn the victim alive. It was the last stage of the torture. Here, a pile of dry wood was created with a stake, the victim was tied to it, and then it was lighted. And then you know what happened next- the fire does its work. Usually, it used to take about half to two hours for a person to burn and die.
In most cases, the victim was tortured with other medieval methods, so the victim lost consciousness much before death. Torturers in the Netherlands developed a crueller way to use stake- They used to tie the victim to the stake and sandwiched their tongues between iron plates.

8. The Scavenger’s Daughter

Scavenger’s Daughter
Scavenger’s Daughter, by Flominator, is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Scavenger’s Daughter was one of the medieval torture tools that got its name from Skevington, a Brit. Skevington was the inventor of this device. It was also called Skeffington’s gyves. It was an A-frame metal rack with an iron hoop on the top and hinges in the middle and lower ends. The victim’s head was forcefully strapped on the top of the A-frame, the hands in the middle, and the legs at the lower end. It was like a person was placed into a set of iron dentures.
This device was usually used to torture people who were accused of high treason during Queen Elizabeth I of England’s rule. It might crack the ribs and breastbone and dislocate the spine. Sometimes, the screws were tightened up to increase the torture, crushing the victim even more.

9. The Pillory

The Pillory
The Pillory, by Dimitris Kamaras, is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Pillory was the upgraded version of stake. In this medieval torture tool, two sets of parallel wooden boards were clasped together, putting the victim’s neck and arms through the holes. When the Pillory was closed, the victim got trapped. Then the device wouldn’t harm the victim a lot, but it made them uncomfortable.

This medieval torture device was placed in a public place so that victims could feel humiliated. Sometimes, the crowd would throw objects, like vegetables, rotten animals, dead animals, stones, or blunt objects at the victim. This torture was also accompanied by other punishments, such as flogging (a punishment where the victim was beaten with a whip or rod).

10. Iron Maiden

Iron Maiden, by Gary Todd, is licensed under CC0 1.0

Iron Maiden was one of the most terrifying medieval torture devices. It was so scary that people used to think that it was fictional. It was like an upside-down sarcophagus with nails inserted inside it. It had double doors on the front side, from which the victim was thrown inside, and the doors were closed. The spikes or nails were so sharp that they used to pierce the victim’s organs, causing bleeding. Due to bleeding for several hours, the victim would linger to death. In most designs, the spikes were positioned towards the eyes.

Medieval Torture Devices were one of the darkest sides of middle age, with the direct goal to inflict maximum pain on the people who had committed the crime. There are special medieval torture museums where you can find the models, images, and parts of these torture devices. You must visit them if you want to learn more about them.

What if we had these kinds of torturous methods for crimes now also? Would you dare to commit a crime? Share your views in the comment section.

One can argue that writing about such things for your history class is just another type of torture. If you are unsure whether this or a similar topic is worth your time and attention, simply delegate it to a professional essay service and let academic experts do research and writing. You need experienced online writers on your side as a Plan B for unpredicted errands and social engagements. Just remember — there are people ready to take essay writing torture off your shoulders.

If you liked reading about Medieval Torture Devices, you should definitely read about Medieval Siege Weapons!

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