Castle Oubliette

An oubliette was an underground dungeon that was commonly found in the castles during the medieval times. It was used to hold political and other kinds of prisoners and was built particularly narrow and dark to increase the psychological damage. This kind of dungeon continued to exist after the end of the medieval times.

Oubliette definition

“Oubliette” is a French term derived from the verb “Oublier” which literally translates to “to forget”. This term was used because the victim once thrown into the Oubliette was considered forgotten by the outside world and remained within the dark confines of the dungeon. A single trap door at the top of the dungeon was the only entrance to Oubliette which was only accessible via a rope or a ladder.

Oubliettes from the side

This is a diagram of a Oubliettes from the side

Origins of the Oubliette

The idea of Oubliette is thought to have originated from the French castles of the middle medieval times. However, this kind of dungeon was also used in other countries, including England, during the middle and late medieval times. For instance, an Oubliette thought to be from middle medieval times has been found in a castle in Nottinghamshire, England.

Where was an Oubliette found?

Oubliette was a common feature of many castles during the medieval times. While the idea of Oubliette originated from France, it soon became prevalent throughout various countries of Europe during the late medieval times.

How was an Oubliette made?

The most common feature of an Oubliette, which distinguished it from other kinds of medieval dungeons, was that it did not have any exit door. Instead, it was accessible only from a hatch in a high ceiling. It could be constructed with the rest of the castle or separately.

  • An Oubliette was a small secluded underground dungeon found in many medieval castles
  • People were often thrown into a Oubliette and forgotten about or barely kept alive
  • The Oubliette dungeons were very small and claustrophobic and sent people crazy
  • The origins of the Oubliette dungeons are believed to be French and this is why they had a French name
  • The word Oubliette comes from the French word “Oublier” and literally means “to forget”
Deep Oubliettes Chateau Pierrefonds

Very Deep Oubliettes in Chateau Pierrefonds

Castles with an Oubliette

Various famous castles throughout the medieval times had Oubliette. Castles like Pembroke and Conwy in Wales had special dungeon towers whose certain portions were reserved for Oubliettes. In France, Oubliette at Pierrefords and Bastille were famous. Oubliettes with dark and lengthy passageways have been found in other places, such as the Black Tower at Rumeli Hisari in modern day Turkey.

Purpose of the Oubliette

The main purpose of the Oubliette was to confine the prisoners in a dark and narrow space and leave them in their solitude for psychological torture. Sometimes, additional form of torture was also used on political prisoners to extract information.

Being tortured in an Oubliette

While the main form of torture in an Oubliette was loneliness and limited space of movement, sometimes additional forms could also be used. Perhaps the most famous Oubliette with the reputation of torture and death existed in the Leap Castle of Ireland. It consisted of an Oubliette which had spikes coming up from the floor. Sometimes, water was let into the narrow ditch which made survival even more difficult.

Summary of the Oubliette

The Oubliette was a type of a medieval dungeon which was usually underground and was designed to isolate the prisoner completely from the outside world. It was usually a narrow vertical tunnel-like dungeon which had an opening only in the ceiling. Sometimes, additional forms of torture were also used to increase the suffering of the prisoner. Oubliettes from the medieval times have been found throughout Europe.

  • The Oubliette was originally found in medieval French castles and this is why the word is French
  • The Oubliette could be built into the Castle or added later and were common in French castles
  • Oubliette dungeons were very confined and did not have an exit door to stop the victim escaping
  • Oubliette dungeons were very deep and could only be accessed through a ceiling hatch
  • There was no way to escape from a Oubliette due to their depth and restriction of movement
  • The Oubliette dungeon was often used as a psychological form of torture and helped obtain confessions
  • Medieval enemies were often deliberately left to die or forgotten about in Oubliette Dungeons

We hope you enjoyed this article on Oubliette Castle dungeons. Oubliette Castle dungeons were particularly bad places to find yourself in as they were confined and offered no chance of escaping. Being in a Oubliette dungeon would literally send you crazy. If you’d like to learn more about other gruesome medieval torture devices like the Oubliette dungeon please look at the the links at the bottom of this page. Or click on the images on the main torture device page.



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