|Guide to the Middle Ages||
Medieval Punishment and Torture
The Medieval period was violent and blood thirsty. In these barbarous times the cruel and pitiless feeling which induced legislators to increase the horrors of tortures and punishment which contributed to the aggravation of the fate of prisoners. Torture chambers and dungeons were included in many castles of the era. Law or custom did not prescribe any fixed rules for the treatment of prisoners who faced torture and punishment. Different types of torture and punishment were used depending on the victim's crime and social status. Torture as a form of punishment was seen as a totally legitimate means for justice to extract confessions, or obtain the names of accomplices or other information about the crime. Torture was a legitimate way to obtain testimonies and confessions from suspects for use in legal inquiries and trials during the Middle Ages.
Definition of Torture
The definition of torture is the deliberate, systematic, cruel and wanton infliction of physical or mental suffering by one or more torturers in an attempt to force another person to yield information, to make a confession, as part of a punishment or for any other reason. Torture devices or tools are used to inflict unbearable agony on a victim. The objectives of torture were to intimidate, deter, revenge or punish. Or as a tool or a method for the extraction of information or confessions.
Definition of Punishment
The definition of punishment is to impose or inflict something unpleasant or aversive on a person in response to disobedient or morally wrong behavior. Punishment means to impose a penalty for a wrong committed.
Medieval Torture Chambers and Dungeons
The torture chambers were located in the lower parts of castles. The entrances to many torture chambers were accessed through winding passages which served to muffle the agonising cries of torture victims from the normal inhabitants of the castle. Torture chambers and dungeons were often very small some measured only eleven feet long by seven feet wide in which from ten to twenty prisoners were often incarcerated at the same time.
Medieval Torture was condemned in 866
The barbarous custom of punishment by torture was on several occasions condemned by the Church. As early as 866, we find, from Pope Nicholas V's letter to the Bulgarians, that their custom of torturing the accused was considered contrary to divine as well as to human law: "For," says he, "a confession should be voluntary, and not forced. By means of the torture, an innocent man may suffer to the utmost without making any avowal; and, in such a case, what a crime for the judge! Or the person may be subdued by pain, and may acknowledge himself guilty, although he be not so, which throws an equally great sin upon the judge." Despite this, and other pleas, the practise of torturing victims continued. Medieval Torture was a freely accepted form of punishment and was only abolished in England in 1640.
People were beheaded and limbs cut off, vagabonds were often whipped and chained in stocks.
People lived in a state of fear thinking they would be the next victim.
Even the Catholic Church used torture and imprisonment to obtain confessions from people regardless of whether they were guilty.
Torture and punishment has existed for thousands of years. Roman and Greek law stated that only slaves were allowed to be tortured, eventually the laws changed and free men were tortured and imprisoned for committing crimes.
People often had their right hand cut of for stealing, people were beaten, burned alive, stretched on a rack and women committing adultery were drowned.
Suffocating people in water was a common practice. People were boiled in oil, eyes were burned out with pincher's and fingers torn off. Mutilation and branding's were common place.
During Tudor times English laws was practically geared toward torture. Vagrancy was considered a crime and people were put in stocks so towns people could beat them.
It was the poorer classes that were discriminated against. Lords and high official's were exempt. Courts and judges did exist, but were bias and often judgements were known before the case was even heard, if a person did not turn up to court they were considered an outlaw and their property was seized and became the kings.
Outlaws banded together roaming the countryside and committing crime the most famous of these is of cause Robin Hood. The harsher the crime the more horrendous the punishment, If a man committed Rape, Manslaughter or Robbery they would be hung up in a cage so people could see their slow death.
On some occasions they were taken down just before their death and quartered (cut into four pieces) so that the pain would kill them, a most cruel way to die. Public displays of torture were common.
Hangings and Public torture would be announced by the kings men, people would come from far and wide often bring children with them, this was encouraged by rulers thinking it was a deterrent from committing crime, bringing fear to the towns people.
Crime and Punishment in the Middle Ages - Quartering
Medieval towns people had a very close understanding of how punishment happened, as they were often present during punishment. Although murderers were often executed, the majority of lesser medieval offences were punished by shaming the criminal publicly.
By today's standards people may think this was harsh however crime was not as widespread as in today's society.
People also took pity on those in jail and prisoners were often let out to beg for food. Medieval officials lacked the resources or money to build suitable jails and people often died from illness before there trial.
In today's society we do not use torture as a means of punishment, as history progressed torture became less prolific, it was only 100 years or so ago that this was considered a barbaric practice.
In many modern countries the killing of murders and rapist's is not permitted. In some cultures the practice of cutting off limbs for stealing is still condoned although not widely practised, people are still executed in some societies.
Torture and Punishment - Scavenger's Daughter
During the Medieval times inflicting pain and torture was an accepted form of punishment or interrogation. The cruel and pitiless torturers were induced to inflict the horrors of torture or punishment, including the Scavenger's Daughter, on the pitiful prisoners. Different types of torture or methods of punishment were inflicted, depending on the crime and the social status of the victim, using various methods and various types of devices or instruments.
The Law, Crime, Torture and Punishment - Scavenger's Daughter
There were no laws or rules to protect the treatment of prisoners who faced torture or punishment, such as the Scavenger's Daughter. No matter what the type of torture or punishment was used it was seen as a totally legitimate means for justice to extract confessions, obtain the names of accomplices, obtain testimonies or confessions or to impose a penalty, sanctioned by law for a wrong committed. The following description provides facts and information about the Scavenger's Daughter.
Facts and Information about the Scavenger's Daughter
The Scavengers Daughter was a device which was invented in England. This device was designed to have the opposite effect to that of the rack. The body was compressed as opposed to being stretched. This rack was invented by the Lieutenant of the Tower of London during the reign of King Henry VIII of England (1509-1547). The name of the Lieutenant of the Tower of London during this period was Leonard Skevington (aka Leonard Skeffington). A derivation of his name led to the device he initiated, or was the father of - the Scavengers Daughter although it was first referred to as Skeffington's Irons. The device consisted of one single iron bar that connected iron shackles closing round the victim's hands, feet and neck. This rack positioned the head to the knees of the victim in a sitting position. It compressed the body as to force the blood from the nose and ears.
Torture and Punishment - Instruments of Torture
During the Medieval times inflicting pain and torture was an accepted form of punishment or interrogation. The cruel and pitiless torturers were induced to inflict the horrors of torture or punishment, using a huge variety of Instruments of Torture, on the pitiful prisoners. Different types of torture or methods of punishment were inflicted, depending on the crime and the social status of the victim, using various methods and various types of devices or instruments.
The Instruments of Torture Description - Method, Instrument or Device
The instruments or devices used in Medieval torture included some of the following terrible tools or machines:
The length of time a prisoner might be tortured varied form less than one hour up to six hours. Vinegar was commonly used to bring a victim round if he passed out during torture. There were many methods of torture using various instruments of torture which were practised during the Medieval times of the Middle Ages which included some of the following:
The Law, Crime, Torture and Punishment - Instruments of Torture
There were no laws or rules to protect the treatment of prisoners who faced torture and horrific instruments of torture were used in the name of justice and the law. No matter what the type of torture or punishment was used it was seen as a totally legitimate means for justice to extract confessions, obtain the names of accomplices, obtain testimonies or confessions or to impose a penalty, sanctioned by law for a wrong committed.
Torture and Punishment - Burned at the Stake
During the Medieval times inflicting pain and torture was an accepted form of punishment or interrogation. The cruel and pitiless torturers were induced to inflict the horrors of torture or punishment, including being burned at the Stake, on the pitiful prisoners. Different types of torture or methods of punishment were inflicted, depending on the crime and the social status of the victim, using various methods and various types of devices or instruments.
The Law, Crime, Torture and Punishment - Burned at the Stake
There were no laws or rules to protect the treatment of prisoners who faced torture or punishment, such as being Burned at the Stake. No matter what the type of torture or punishment was used it was seen as a totally legitimate means for justice to extract confessions, obtain the names of accomplices, obtain testimonies or confessions or to impose a penalty, sanctioned by law for a wrong committed. The following description provides facts and information about the death sentence of being Burned at the Stake.
History Facts and Information about being Burned at the Stake
The punishment by fire, or being burned at the stake, was always inflicted in cases of heresy, or blasphemy. In France, in the beginning of the 14th century, fifty-nine Knights Templar were burned at the same time for the crimes of heresy and witchcraft. And three years later, on the 18th March, 1314, Jacques Molay, and a few other dignitaries of the Order of the Templars, also perished by being burned at the stakes at the end of the island of Notre Dame in Paris.
Burned at the Stake - Death Procession
Many executions were public. In France it was the custom for the condemned to take part in a Death procession. The victim in his shirt, barefooted, the rope round his neck, followed by the executioner, and holding in his hand a wax taper, with a weight, which was definitely specified in the sentence which had been passed upon him, but which was generally of two or four pounds, prostrated himself at the door of a church, where in a loud voice he had to confess his sin, and to beg the pardon of God and man.
zzzz - Method of Execution
When a victim had been condemned to be burned at the stake, a long pole called a stake was erected on the spot specially designed for the execution, and round it a pile was prepared, composed of alternate layers of straw and wood, and rising to about the height of a man. Care was taken to leave a free space round the stake for the victim, and also a passage by which to lead him to it. Having been stripped of his clothes, and dressed in a shirt smeared with sulphur, he had to walk to the centre of the pile through a narrow opening, and was then tightly bound to the stake with ropes and chains. After this, faggots and straw were thrown into the empty space through which he had passed to the stake, until he was entirely covered by them; the pile was then fired on all sides at once.
Burned at the Stake - At the mercy of the executioner
Sometimes the executioner, in order to shorten the sufferings of the condemned, whilst he prepared the pile, placed a large and pointed iron bar amongst the faggots and opposite the stake breast high, so that, directly the fire was lighted, the bar was quickly pushed against the victim, giving a mortal blow to the unfortunate wretch, who would otherwise have been slowly devoured by the flames. Other merciful method designed to reduce the suffering was to place gunpowder in the wood to ensure a quick death. If a condemned person was really fortunate he would be strangled to death before being chained to the stake.