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Top 10 Most Feared Medieval Tortures

December 9, 2009 | 20 Comments » | Topics: List, main

medieval torture brazen bull

The Medieval period has to be one of the cruelest junctures in human history, judging by the creativity of their torture and their torture devices. Here are 10 of the most feared torture devices devised during the period.


10. The Brazen Bull

medieval torture brazen bull

The condemned were shut in the bull and a fire was set under it, heating the metal until it became yellow hot and causing the person inside to roast to death.


9. The Spanish Tickler

medieval torture spanish tickler

It’s a very simple instrument that was used to tear a victim’s skin apart. Due to its shape, neither bones nor muscles were spared. The victim was naked and tied making him or her completely defenseless. Then the torturers began the (sometimes public) act of mutilating the victim. They often began with the limbs and slowly moved into the chest, back, neck and finally the face.


8. The Spanish Chair

medieval torture spanish chair

There are many variants of the chair. They all have one thing in common: spikes cover the back, arm-rests, seat, leg-rests and foot-rests. The number of spikes in one of these chairs ranges from 500 to 1,500. To avoid movement, the victim’s wrists were tied to the chair or, in one version, two bars pushed the arms against arm-rests for the spikes to penetrate the flesh even further. In some versions, there were holes under the chair’s bottom where the torturer placed coal to cause severe burns while the victim still remained conscious.


7. The Head Crusher

medieval torture head crusher

The head crusher was widely used during most of the Middle Ages, especially the Inquisition. With the chin placed over the bottom bar and the head under the upper cap, the torturer slowly turned the screw pressing the bar against the cap. This resulted in the head being slowly compressed. First the teeth are shattered into the jaw; then the victim slowly died with agonizing pain, but not before his eyes were squeezed from his sockets.


6. The Pear Of Anguish

medieval torture the pear of anguish

A pear-shaped instrument was inserted into one of the victim’s orifices: the vagina for women, the anus for homosexuals and the mouth for liars and blasphemers.The instrument consisted of four leaves that slowly separated from each other as the torturer turned the screw at the top. It was the torturer’s decision to simply tear the skin or expand the “pear” to its maximum and mutilate the victim.


5. The Rack

medieval torture rack

The rack is a contraption designed to dislocate every single joint in its victim’s body. Tied across the device’s board by the ankles and wrists, the victim’s body is then pulled in opposite directions by turning rollers at either end of the board. Great way of relieving a bad back, if you ask me. Of course, the subsequent pain caused by the multiple dislocations is another story.


4. The Crocodile Tube

medieval torture crocodile tube

The victim was fixed inside a tube just big enough for the victim’s entrance. The tube, having crocodile teeth-like spikes, was slowly compressed leaving the victim totally immobilized. The torturer could only see his face and feet. With the help of carbon and fire underneath the tube, the torturer gradually heated the tube until he extracted a confession or killed the victim.


3. The Judas Cradle

medieval torture judas cradle

The Judas Cradle, a terrible medieval torture where the victim would be placed on top of a pyramid-like seat. The victim’s feet were tied to each other in a way that moving one leg would force the other to move as well – increasing pain. The triangular-shaped end of the judas cradle was inserted in the victim’s anus or vagina. This torture could last, depending on some factors discussed below, anywhere from a few hours to complete days.


2. The Spanish Donkey

medieval torture spanish donkey

A device which consisted of a main board cut with a wedge at the top fastened to two cross-beams. The naked victim was placed astride the main board as if riding a donkey, and various numbers of weights were attached to his or her feet. The agony could be ‘fine-tuned’ by using lighter or heavier weights


1. Flaying

medieval torture spanish chair

In one version of the Flaying Torture, the victim’s arms were tied to a pole above his head while his feet were tied below. His body was now completely exposed and the torturer, with the help of a small knife, peeled off the victim’s skin slowly. In most cases, the torturer peeled off his facial skin first, slowly working his way down to the victim’s feet. Most victims died before the torturer even reached their waist.


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  • John Tesh

    Except #10, these are the results of Christian minds.

    Also, 3/10 are from Spain, in the name of Christ.

  • Lucas

    great list, terrible, but great…

    but i think you forgot the iron maiden as one of the top… that device like a metal coffin with spikes.

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  • Tony

    These tortures were not the result of “Christian” minds. Only those persons influenced by the devil would devise such things. Just because something was done “by the Church” does not mean God had any hand in it.

  • kane

    just like Jesus said “let the one with the clearest of conscience cast the first stone”

    and these damn “people of the cloth” accused everyone as witches just because they are underweight.

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  • pixie

    i think its just sick!! how people behaved like savages!!

  • Wild Bill

    What, no waterboarding?

  • June

    Excuse me please, at least three of these were actually derived during antiquity (the brazen bull, the rack and flaying, the last one even playing a part in a quite widely known Greek myth about Apollo and Marsyas) and some are based on the same ideas as tortures used in the antique. People always were, are and will be creative in deriving ways to inflict pain and death upon other humans. It lies in our nature, even if we’d rather believe otherwise. To avoid misunderstandings: I’m not saying it excuses torture or murdering, just claiming we’re a twisted species (and fighting the image of Middle Ages as the darkest period in history. But that’s my pet peeve. Still, seriously, even only sticking to the subject at hand it wasn’t until modern times that torture became a thing shunned by the society… and even that didn’t stop it’s usage)

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  • Allaiyah

    For those of you who believe in god, just tell yourself that these are the reasons almost everyone was wiped out by the black plague: to stop that kind of shiet.

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  • Lother

    Humanity should end, there is no reason for it’s existence.

  • Yay

    Seriously… Humans have and always will have the urge to kill and torture other people.
    And I seriously believe, that if it wasn’t for the laws we have today, people torturing other people, even today, would not be that uncommon.

  • nookybear

    It is absolutely horrible what people do to one another even now. The sick thing is that between things like religions, money and power it isn’t ever going to stop! Greed ie the money and power bit is bad enough but religion is a good idea which should give hope and faith to all but has been poorly executed and thanks to mans/womans constant need to be ‘right’ and in some cases corruption and perversion people with an idea or belief different to your own will always be separated. It is a shame we can’t just bann religion and come up with a good set of laws as a guideline fo how to treat your fellow beings and let everyone get on with it. That way they could believe what they liked with no judgements and they can’t gang up on eachother either!

  • Maple

    Disgusting as all of this is, I can’t help but wonder how much serious crime there would be if the death sentence entailed stuff like this?

    Rape someone, you get the pear or the cradle.
    Kill someone for no reason, get the chair.

    PS: This has nothing to do with “what people did because they were Christian.” There have been numerous studies that all but prove that the more intellegent an animal is, the more violent they are (ex: dolphins, chimps, etc) Just look at what people will do for money, sex or drugs.

  • Think

    For the dullards past and present, religion is the purveyor of these horrors, and their justification thereof.

  • Koen_peeters51

    I would like to point out that first, the Inquisition was formed at the end of the Middle Ages and was only functional in the “New time”, after 1500 AD. So these tortures have nothing to do with the Middle Ages. Second, most of these tortures never happened, fancy machines were often inventions from the early 19th century by people who had lots of imagination and a good idea to gain cash. A bit like the 1000ths of fake relics that were “found” in the Middle Ages.

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