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5 Most Terrifying Medieval Torture Methods

Humans can be very imaginative when it comes to defeating each other. During middle age, when extracting confessions, punishing offenders, or performing execution, was tough, humans invented some ruthless medieval torture methods.

Torture methods were used on victims to get information about their crimes. The laws and local customs didn’t limit torturing the victims. Different types of tortures were used for different kinds of crimes. Sometimes, skilled torturers were hired to use methods of agonizing pain during torture. Each of the medieval torture methods was very brutal.

Here is a list of the 5 most terrifying and worst torture methods used between the 5th to late 15th centuries.

Types of Medieval Torture Methods

1. Rat Torture:

Rat Torture
Rat Torture, by RightBrainPhotography, is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Do you know that in the medieval era, rats ate victims alive? Rat Torture is on top when it comes to the worst torture methods. Rats could eat anything; anything means humans too.

In the medieval world, rats were placed inside a small cage, positioned against the victim’s abdomen. Then the cage was heated from the outside using candles, hot coals, or flaming sticks. It used to make rats agitated. To escape the cage, the rats have to find their way outside. And the victim’s skin, being the soft surface, used to attract them. Rats would dig their way into the bowels of the victim. It was an excruciating and torturous method causing gruesome death.

2. Keelhauling:

Keelhauling, also known as Dragged Under, is another brutal medieval torture method. It originated in Old Greece and was reserved for sailors.

In this punishment, the sailor was tied, stripped, and suspended using a rope from the ship’s mast. Weights or chains were tied to their legs to add weight. Once the sailor was released, he used to drag under the keel. The death rate of this torturous method was 100 per cent. By chance, if the person managed not to drown, he used to suffer from severe head trauma from smacking.

3. Saw Torture:

This is another worst torture method in the medieval era that was used to dice the victim in half while hanging upside down—hanging the victim used to increase the blood flow to the head, causing a slow death and conserving blood. The victims were sawed in half vertically or horizontally or piece by piece.

This method was simple, cheap, and effective but equally torturous. It was mostly used by Romans, Greeks, and Chinese and had its mention in the Bible.

4. Live Burial:

Live Burial was used in Ancient Rome for women. Vestal Virgins were the priestesses of Vesta and the Goddess of hearth in Rome. They were regarded as paramount to security, purity, and sacred fire. If they ever violated their oaths of celibacy, they were punished with Live Burial, i.e. buried alive.

This method was accompanied by certain rituals, including carrying on through the town until reaching the ‘Evil Field’ or Campus Sceleratus. An underground chamber was created, where the victim was buried alive. You can imagine how torturous it must be to die in such a way.

5. Judas Cradle:

Judas Cradle
Judas Cradle, by Scott Clark, is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Judas Cradle, also known as Judas Chair, is the last on our list of terrifying medieval torture methods. It was an Italian invention and was very cruel.

In this method, the victim was tied to a pyramid-shaped seat using ropes, and the point was inserted into the anus or v*gina. The victim was tortured because of the intense pressure and stretching of the orifice, causing permanent damage to the internal organs. This method also ripped off the muscle tissues, which would later cause infection. In some cases, weight was added to the rope to increase the effect and cause death by impalement.


While medieval torture methods were no fun for victims, they can be morbidly entertaining for readers. Sometimes these methods were misused to manipulate accused witches and dissenters into confessing the crimes they didn’t commit. Glad we aren’t born in that dark age or medieval era and collectively moved past these evilest torture methods.

We hope you also found this ride to the list of worst methods to torture victims painful and amusing.

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

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