Strappado Torture Device

The Strappado torture device was a device used during medieval times to torture heretics, witches, and various other kinds of victims. The mechanism of this device was relatively simple compared to more sophisticated torture devices of medieval times.

It was nonetheless very painful and at the very least, the limbs of the victim could be dislocated. The device is well known because of being extensively used during the Spanish Inquisition.

The Spanish Inquisition

Variants of the Strappado

There were three main variants of the Strappado torture device. The first one is the simplest type in which the victim’s arms are tied behind his or her back with a rope. The rope is then passed over a pulley and the victim is hung in the air by their arms. This could cause dislocation of the limbs and other kinds of physical injury.

In the second kind of Strappado torture device, the victim was released at intervals only to be stopped suddenly in mid-air, thus increasing the intensity of the torture.

Finally, in the third kind, a weight could be added to the feet of the victim, once again increasing the intensity of the torture.

Strappado Timeline

The Strappado torture device was used during different periods of medieval times. It was particularly prevalent during the era of the Spanish Inquisition when a variety of torture devices were used to extract confessions from supposed heretics and witches. The device itself was also used after medieval times in some instances.

How did the Strappado Work?

The mechanism of the Strappado torture device was simple,  the hands of the victim were tied behind their back and then the victim was hung using a pulley. This resulted in a very painful position in which the limbs could be dislocated and muscles and nerves damaged. Torture could be increased by tying weights to the feet of the victim.

Hans Spies being tortured on a Strappado

Who invented the Strappado?

The Strappado torture device was invented by the medieval Church during the Spanish Inquisition, although the name of the inventor is not known. It was a torture device specifically designed and built for the Inquisition.

A knight visits a Medieval Pope

How was a Strappado Made?

The Strappado torture device was relatively easy to make compared to some other torture devices of the medieval period. Its main components included a pulley over which a rope tied to the hands of the victim was passed over a beam or a hook on the roof. Various things could be attached as an additional weight to the feet of the victim.

Man suspended on a Strappado

Injuries caused by Strappado

Various injuries could be caused by the Strappado torture device. The most obvious one was the dislocation of the limbs and joints. Other than that, it could cause long-term damage to the nerves and muscles. Additionally, it could also result in paralysis or loss of sensation in the arms.

Strappado Summary

The Strappado torture device was a commonly used device during medieval times which was used to extract information out of supposed heretics, witches, and other victims. It was a relatively simple device in which the victim was hung by his or her hands tied to a rope. Weight could be attached to the feet of the victim to increase the intensity of torture.

Strappado Fast Facts

  • The Strappado was used to torture witches, heretics, political enemies, and traitors
  • The Strappado was a more basic medieval torture device that stretched and dislocated the limbs of the victim
  • To increase the stretching pain and make it more effective weights could be added to the strappado
  • Medieval torture was at its pinnacle during the period of the Inquisition when the strappado was commonly used

  • The strappado torture device dislocated limbs and damaged muscles, nerves, and fibers
  • The Strappado torture device was simple to make and a cost-effective way to torture medieval people
  • Ropes and pulleys were used to work the Strappado torture device
  • The Strappado form of torture was surprisingly devised by the medieval Catholic Church

Hans Spies being tortured on a Strappado

  • The Strappado was a favorite form of torture used to extract confessions from heretics
  • During the Spanish Inquisition, the Strappado torture device was regularly used to obtain confessions
  • The Strappado form of torture was invented for the purpose of the Inquisition by the Catholic Church

Man suspended on a Strappado

We hope you enjoyed reading this article on the strappado torture device, the torture methods used in medieval times were particularly gruesome and if you are not easily frightened please take a look at our other articles on medieval torture devices such as the ‘Torture Rack’ by following the links at the bottom of this page.