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Iron Torture masks

Torture in the Middle Ages

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Torture was a commonplace form of punishment throughout Europe in the Middle Ages. It was mostly used to either extract or force victims into confessing a crime - regardless of whether they were actually guilty or innocent.

With no legal regulation, just about any type of torture was allowed and practiced, just take a look at some of these horrific examples of torture methods in the Middle Ages:

Rat Torture

To force confessions out of a victim a rat would be placed on their stomachs, covered by a pot. Heat would be applied to the pot, which would cause the rat to panic and begin to dig through the victim’s stomach.

Iron Chair

A popular torture device, the iron chair was a chair containing hundreds of sharp spikes. The victim would be strapped onto the chair, and as the straps were gradually tightened, the spikes would tear deeper into the flesh.

The Judas Cradle

Perhaps the goriest and most unpleasant of them all, the Judas cradle forced the victims anus or vagina onto a sharp spike, and increased pressure was added (sometimes with weights) to gradually tear the insides of the victim apart.


Much as it sounds, this small yet agonising torture device involved placing a screw through the victims thumb and turning.


Flogging was also commonplace. Beating the victim repeatedly, usually with a leather whip until they confessed or slipped into unconsciousness. Some people even flogged themselves, often as part of a religious ritual and form of self-punishment for committing “sins.”

The Cage

The cage was a metal cage just big enough to fit a human into but not big enough to move. The victim would be left there without food or water until a confession was admitted. If not, they would simply be left to die. This was also used as a Medieval execution method, where the victim would typically be hung in the cage in a public place and left to die.

Iron Maiden

The Iron Maiden was a metal chamber with holes in it. The victim would be locked inside and have metal poles prodded through. The interrogator would then ask questions through the holes and only stop prodding into the victim’s flesh once they felt a worthy confession had been given.