A medieval castle dungeon was the part of a medieval castle which was used to hold prisoners. It was customary to build a medieval castle dungeon in the form of an underground cell or room to increase the solitary nature of the confinement. It was also common to torture prisoners in the dungeons due to various political and religious reasons. Although dungeons were common during the late medieval times, they continued to be built during the Renaissance Era.
Purpose of Medieval Castle Dungeon
Among the medieval castle parts, dungeons were not important during the early and middle medieval times. During these times, prisoners were kept in the Gate Keep which was the most secure place of the medieval castle. However, medieval castle dungeons began to be built during the late medieval times and were mostly used to confine the political prisoners. This was because wars became increasingly common during the late medieval times, particularly after 1200s, and political prisoners were confined in the medieval castle dungeons.
Bamburgh Castle Medieval Castle Dungeons
Medieval Castle Dungeon Layout
Most of the medieval castle dungeons were simply single small rooms with a single access from outside in the form of a heavy door. Dungeons became important in medieval castle construction and were built under many medieval castles during the Plantagenet period, these medieval castles dungeons were mainly constructed between 1154 and 1485. Medieval castle Dungeons became increasingly common during this era and they were generally constructed underground. Sometimes secret passageways would lead to them. The layout of a medieval castle dungeon can be depicted by a claustrophobic cell called “oubliette” which was included in the castle parts of Warwick Castle. It was an extremely small room which made even turning around difficult.
Medieval Castle Dungeon Torture Devices
Various instruments of torture were used in medieval castle dungeons. A dungeon was usually reserved to investigate the prisoner and therefore housed the torture devices. Some of the torture devices used in the medieval castle dungeons included Branding Irons, Collar, Torture Rack, and others. Other forms of torture include whipping, boiling in water, and starvation etc. Other than political reasons, torture in a medieval castle dungeon could also be done for religious reasons. This latter use became increasingly common during the Spanish Inquisition.
Skull of Victim of Torture in a Medieval Castle Dungeon
Medieval Castle Dungeon: The Executioner
The role of the executioner was central to torture in a medieval castle dungeon. Most of the time, his role was confined to beheading the prisoners who were accused of serious crimes such as treason. He was presented with the warrant that authorised him to execute the required sentence. The executioner in a medieval castle dungeon also administered the torture, although he was mostly accompanied by several assistants. It was common for castles to employ executioners who acted in an official capacity.
Medieval Castle Dungeon Summary
Dungeons were not very important element of medieval castle parts during the early and middle medieval times. However, they were increasingly constructed during the late medieval times when the practice of taking political prisoners and holding them in cells became common. Dungeons had various instruments of torture which were used on the prisoners under the directions of the executioner. The main role of the executioner was beheading the accused, although he could also oversee the torture.