The Painful History of the Judas Cradle Torture

Warning: Content may not be Suitable for Young Children.

The medieval times of Europe, spanning almost 1000 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.

What was the Judas Cradle Torture Device?

Spanish Inquisition was known for its creative ways of torturing people, especially those whom they thought had done something wrong. Among many tools they developed to torture people, Judas Cradle gained a lot of popularity. 

However, what surprises me is that the Spanish thought it was not a very brutal device. But trust me, reading about it made me understand that it was equally brutal and gave enough pain to the victim as other similar devices did. 

The Judas Cradle was made in the shape of a wooden pyramid. It was set on the top of three legs, making it look like a stool. It looked very simple and unharming but it was made for very dangerous intentions

A nude person was suspended above it. His hands and feet were tied by ropes and connected to pulleys. Slowly, the person was lowered to the top of the pointed tip of the pyramid. Sometimes weights were added to increase the impact until the wooden pyramid tore through their pelvis. 

The lack of hygiene made the suffering even worse. Prisoners often died of infections from the unclean wooden pyramids stained with blood and faeces.

How did the Judas Cradle operate?

Judas Cradle Torture Device by Scott Clark is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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.

History of Cradle of Judah

Judas Cradle Torture Device by Charles Bray is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Judas Cradle is believed to have been designed by Ippolito Marsilli, an Italian who had a liking for torturing people. 

The Judas Cradle torture device gained popularity during the Spanish Inquisition of the 16th century. It was mainly used on people who didn’t abide by the religious rules

But it was also used against many others who were thought to have gone against the system. Political rebels, who would threaten the establishment, were among them.

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.

Variations of the Judas Cradle

The Judas Cradle had several variations, torturing people in different ways. One such variation was the Judas Chair. This tool was used until the late 1800s in Europe. 

Various versions of this chair were present, with different features like spikes covering the back, armrests, seat, leg rests, and footrests which were also present in the Judas Cradle. The number of spikes on these chairs ranged from 500 to 1,500. 

To stop the victim from moving, their wrists were often tied to the chair. In another version of this device, two bars were used to press the arms, forcing the spikes to go deeper into the flesh. 

Some other versions of the chair had holes below the seat. Burning coal would be placed right below the hole, causing severe burns while victims faced painful suffering as they sat alive on the device.

Another device resembling the Judas Cradle was used in Prussia. It was used to discipline rowdy soldiers. This device, simply known as the “horse,” was specifically crafted to inflict harm on the genitals.

Hippolytus De Marsiliis, The Architect Of The Judas Cradle

The mastermind behind the Judas Cradle was an Italian lawyer named Hippolytus De Marsiliis, also known as Ippolito Marsili. Marsili, who introduced water torture to the world, studied law in Bologna and gained a lot of fame in the field.

Even though he had a doctorate in civil and church law and held various teaching positions, Marsili became infamous for innovating horrifying torture methods. 

In addition to the Judas Cradle, Marsili devised forced vigil, pushing prisoners to stay awake for long hours. While he deemed some methods humane for avoiding burning or bone-breaking, the Judas Cradle, designed for sleep deprivation, mostly resulted in gruesome results. 

 He even documented different methods like water torture and sleep deprivation, in disturbing detail.


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.

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