Medieval Torture

*Boiled in water, Oil or lead or taken for a ride on the 'Breaking Wheel' which would turn your bones to jelly - The medieval Dungeon and the Executioner were waiting with their tools of Torture!

11 Bloodcurdling Torture Devices

The Breaking Wheel was one of the most notorious and worst forms of medieval torture for persons sentenced to capital punishment Read more about the 11 Bloodcurdling Torture Devices >>

Branks Torture Device

Scolds Bradle also known as the Scolds Bradles and Gossip Bradle

The Branks' torture also called the Scold's Bridle and the Gossip's Bridle was used for minor crimes in cases where humiliation was the intended punishment. Read more about the Branks Torture Device >>

Brazen Bull Torture *Perillos of Athens

Brazen Bull Torture

The Brazen Bull torture device originated in Greece. The Brazen Bull was made of Bronze. Victims were heated alive inside the Brazen Bull. See Brazen Bull  images, learn Brazen Bull Facts and information.     Read more about the Brazen Bull Torture *Perillos of Athens >>

Burned Alive

Burned Alive

Burning people alive was one of the most common ways of punishing blasphemers, witches, and heretics in medieval Europe Read more about the Burned Alive >>

Burned at the Stake

Witch Being Burned at the Stake

During medieval times people accused of crimes were often burned at the stake, more so during the middle and late medieval periods. Read more about the Burned at the Stake >>

Catherine Wheel *Breaking Wheel

The Catherine wheel was also commonly known as the breaking wheel in medieval times. The Catherine wheel was used to break peoples bones and they would be "broken on the wheel". Read more about the Catherine Wheel *Breaking Wheel >>

Crime & Punishment

Medieval Crime and Punishment The Rack

Medieval Crime and Punishment was fairly inconsistent and quite severe compared to today. Minor medieval crimes were dealt with by humiliation whereas severe medieval crimes were punished by torture and death. Read more about the Crime & Punishment >>

Garrotte Torture Device

Torture of a man with Garotte Torture Device

The Garrotte device used to kill people is a more basic weapon than the Garrotte torture device that was made by the Spanish and used on Heretics during the Spanish inquisition. Read more about the Garrotte Torture Device >>

Iron Maiden – Torture Device

Medieval Iron Maiden torture device

The Iron Maiden has to rank as one of the nastiest pieces of medieval torture devices, The Iron Maiden had hundreds of spikes inside of it that entered your body as the doors closed. Read more about the Iron Maiden – Torture Device >>

Judas Cradle *Torture Device

Judas Cradle Torture Device

The Judas Cradle was invented  towards the end of the medieval period, it was a new brand of particularly gruesome medieval torture devices   Read more about the Judas Cradle *Torture Device >>

Medieval Witchcraft *Wicked Witches!

Medieval Witchcraft Burned at the Stake

Medieval witchcraft was not tolerated in some medieval times and was punished with a death sentence much of the time. Read more about the Medieval Witchcraft *Wicked Witches! >>

Pear of Anguish

The Pear Torture Device

Medieval Torture devices such as the Pear of Anguish were commonly used to obtain confessions from women who were accused of being witches Read more about the Pear of Anguish >>

Strappado Torture Device

Hans Spies being tortured on a Strappado

The strappado torture device was used extensively during the Spanish Inquisition. The strappado torture device was used to gain confessions from heretics. Read more about the Strappado Torture Device >>

The Scavenger’s Daughter

The Scavengers Daughter

The scavenger's daughter's torture device used compression to torture its victims. The scavenger's daughter can be traced back to Henry VIII's reign Read more about the The Scavenger’s Daughter >>

The Spanish Inquisition 1478

The Spanish Inquisition was a legal system used by Catholic Monarchs/Catholic Church to identify, suppress and punish non believers who were called heretics. Read more about the The Spanish Inquisition 1478 >>

The Stocks

A Medieval Stocks Torture Device was Used to Humiliate not kill the victim

The stocks torture device was used in medieval times to humiliate petty criminals, unlike the other medieval torture devices the stocks torture device purpose was not to kill the victim but to humiliate them. Read more about the The Stocks >>

Thumbscrew Torture


The thumbscrew was a particularly effective torture tool for gaining confessions. It was used to crush the fingers of the hand as well as the toes of the feet. Read more about the Thumbscrew Torture >>

Torture Rack

Torture rack device

The torture rack was a popular type of device used for medieval torture, this gruesome torture device would pull a persons joints clean out of their sockets. Read more about the Torture Rack >>

Vlad the Impaler *Torture, Death and Dracula! 1428 – 1477

Vlad the Impaler was probably one of the evil people in history and was nickmaned and famous for the way he impaled people on spikes! Read more about the Vlad the Impaler *Torture, Death and Dracula! 1428 – 1477 >>

Warning Some Content/Images may not be Suitable for Young Children

Punishments for crimes of any sort were brutal in medieval times, mainly to keep the peasants in their place at the bottom of the feudal system’ The nobility were scared of an uprising so fear was the name of the game!

Medieval Peasants Villeins

The nobility was well aware that they were seriously outnumbered and wanted to avoid a peasant’s revolt and keep the pitchforks firmly at the peasant’s small landholdings.

The punishments for most crimes were therefore extremely terrifying!

Medieval Executioner *Medieval Torture Devices

Medieval Executioner *Medieval Torture Devices

*Most medieval European countries used some form of torture as part of their country’s legal proceedings.

Medieval Torture *Shackles and Rope

Medieval Torture *Shackles and Rope

There were many different types of medieval torture devices developed during medieval times and people were often tortured in cases of hearsay as a way of extracting a confession from an accused person.

Medieval Torture Devices

Medieval torture devices were very gruesome and torture techniques advanced as the medieval period progressed. Burning, beating, and suffocating were very common techniques that were used in medieval torture methods, surprisingly, the Roman Catholic Church was heavily involved in medieval torture.

Brazen Bull Torture

Brazen Bull *Medieval Torture Device

Torture Devices *Medieval Dungeons

Medieval torture could have taken place anywhere in medieval times however most torture that took place during this period was in the many Castle dungeons across Europe.

Medieval Castle Dungeon Victim

Medieval Castle Dungeon *Medieval Torture

Dungeons were the ideal place to keep all the instruments of torture and torture devices used on medieval prisoners imprisoned in the castle. Instruments of torture used on medieval prisoners included nasty things such as Racks, Scavenger’s Daughter, and Collar.

The Spanish Inquisition Torture

A Heretic is being tortured during the Spanish Inquisition *Medieval Torture

People of medieval times could also be whipped, Boiled in water, oil, or even lead. Starvation and cutting off various items of the anatomy such as hands, ears, etc were also common, whatever would cause the most pain and distress was a viable option.

Bones Medieval Torture

13 Terrifying Medieval Torture Devices List

Torture Rack (1)

A popular medieval torture device was the infamous torture rack, which was very successful in extracting confessions from people. The victim was stretched out on a rack, tied by the ankles and wrists across a flat board that had rollers at both sides.

Medieval Rack Torture

Medieval Torture Rack

The torture rack operator would then turn the rollers on each side; immense pain was transmitted to the victim as the pulling mechanism of the torture device dislocated every joint in a person’s body.

The torture rack was a truly gruesome torture device; unbelievably the victim could also be subjected to additional forms of torture at the same time as being stretched on the torture rack.

One of the most famous and widely known uses of the torture rack was in the infamous Spanish Inquisition.

The Spanish Inquisition

The Stocks Torture (2)

The stocks became a very popular medieval torture device because confessions could be extracted from the person without them actually dying *The person being tortured had their feet put into the stocks two pieces of wood that were then clamped together.

The Stocks *Medieval Torture

The Stocks *Medieval Torture

The torturers could then burn the soles of their feet, which were blistered and fried by a medieval torture device called a blazing brazier!

The Pillory

The Pillory was similar to the Stocks but the person would be standing with arms and head exposed as shown*

Pillory *Medieval Torture Device

Pillory *Medieval Torture Device

A Medieval Stocks Torture Device was Used to Humiliate not kill the victim

The Pear of Anguish

The Pear of Anguish was another gruesome little torture device that was invented mainly to be used to torture women. It was basically a metal clamp-type device shaped like a pear that was inserted into the mouth or other open areas.

The Pear Torture Device

The torturer turned a screw to make the pear-shaped metal object expand by force inside the victim’s body, this was a very effective torture device that would rip the tissue flesh, and membranes inside a person’s body.

The Spanish Inquisition

This was another torture device used widely in the infamous Spanish Inquisition and was particularly effective in forcing women to confess to crimes that they had or had not committed such as being a witch or committing adultery.

The Branks (4)

The Branks also commonly known as the Scold’s bridle was a medieval torture device that you may have seen in medieval films, it was a metal facial mask of some description, usually, they had a spiked mouth depressor.

The Branks Torture Device

Branks *Scolds Bradle *Gossips Bradle *Medieval Torture Devices

The Branks were usually used in cases of misbehavior by a wife and could be used in most circumstances, even just disagreeing with her husband could mean that the husband would be able to use the Branks torture device on his wife.

An Iron Branks or Scolds Bridle

Iron Branks or Scolds Bradle *Medieval Torture

The victim could be humiliated as well if the husband felt it was necessary by being chained to a market Cross or paraded through the streets for public ridicule.


The Breaking Wheel (5)

The wheel or ‘Breaking Wheel’ was also called the execution wheel or Catherine wheel

It was another infamous medieval torture device that was particularly gruesome, one of the most popular and gruesome methods of torture used in the medieval period and that is saying something.

Catherine Wheel - Breaking Wheel

The Catherine Wheel or Breaking Wheel Torture Device

The Breaking Wheel was a giant wheel with spikes on it that was able to break bodies by virtually snapping them to pieces as it rolled forward, it caused a very slow and painful death to the victim that usually lasted a very long time.

The braided wheel was also used as a torture device in medieval times, the victim was tied to an execution Dock or platform and their limbs spread and then tied using iron rings were firmly implanted in the ground.

Catherine Wheel Torture Device

Catherine Wheel *Breaking Wheel *Medieval Torture

Sections of Wood were placed carefully under wrists, ankles, knees, hips, and elbows. Every joint would then be smashed to pieces using the edge of the wheel. The executioner however was careful not to kill the person outright, as they wanted them to suffer a long and painful death.

After the victim had been subjected to the bone-crushing effects of the wheel the body was like a lump of jelly and they were often then just hung up and left to die if they were still alive, literally tied up on the wheel.

Hanging Cage (6)

Hanging cages were used a lot during medieval times, these hanging cage torture devices were placed around the town usually outside important and popular buildings such as town halls and cathedrals.

Hanging Cage *Medieval Torture

Hanging Cage *Medieval Torture

Victims were usually mutilated before being put into the cages to scare other people and to stop them from committing crimes.

The victims were usually naked and exposed to the elements and they would usually either die from hunger or thirst also due to the weather, especially in winter if it was very cold when they would quickly die from frostbite.

The Garrotte (7)

The garrotte was another name for hanging in the Middle Ages during the middle Ages lawmakers were always looking for ways to improve punishment techniques and in the 18th century, the idea of slow strangulation was an idea that became popular amongst lawmakers.

Garotte Torture Device

Garotte Torture Device

The Head Crusher (8)

The head crusher was yet another gruesome medieval torture device that was made of metal and was a mechanism to crush the skull, the victim had their chin placed on a bar and the screw action of the head crusher forced pressure downwards on the head.

The head crusher would crush teeth and jaws and force eyes out of their sockets.

Burned at the Stake (9)

Being burned at the stake was not very good at all for victims as survival was pretty much non-existent, surprisingly being burned alive was something that people wanted to watch as it was deemed entertaining Being burned at the stake would give someone his or her five minutes of fame and it was considered quite entertaining.

Witch Being Burned at the Stake

The accused was tied to a stake and a fire was lit around them, as people cheered the person was set alight and burned to their death, quite a simple method really for medieval torture but also one of the Terrifying Medieval Torture Devices of the time.

Knights Templar Burned at The Stake

The Knights Templar were burned at the stake accused of being witches

The Iron Maiden or Virgin of Nuremberg (10)

The iron maiden was a torture device that was also known as the virgin of Nuremberg, it was basically like a giant coffin or container that had two doors that opened from the middle out, like a double door cupboard, and Inside the doors were talons similar to spikes.

The poor victim was forced inside the iron maiden and then the iron maidens’ doors were closed, as the doors closed the talons would enter the victim’s body all over, as you can imagine this was a very painful way to die.

However, it was made worse by the fact that the iron maidens’ talons were specifically designed to cut into the skin but not to kill the victim so that the victim was left to die slowly in excruciating pain.

Iron Maiden *Medieval Torture Device

Iron Maiden *Medieval Torture Device

If that was not enough some other, models of the iron maiden had two spikes positioned to stick through the eyes of the victim.

The Judas Cradle (11)

The Judas cradle was an iron pyramid with belts attached, the victim was usually naked and placed on top of the pyramid, hoisted above and then lowered.

Judas Cradle Torture Device

The Judas Cradle torture device that led to a slow painful death

The victim dropped down onto the pointed pyramid capstone after their legs had been stretched out over it and sometimes their legs had weights put on them so that the point of the pyramid would penetrate both orifices.

Obviously, due to the pain that the victims were in, they were unable to sleep or relax on the Judas Cradle

The Strappado (12)

The strappado was another stretching torture device where the victim would be hung from a sturdy rafter by their wrists with a rope and their arms would be bound behind their backs.

Hans Spies being tortured on a Strappado

The rope would be dropped from height after it had been tossed over the beam repeatedly. The Strappado method used was designed so that the victim’s arms and shoulders would be dislocated, this form of torture was practiced until around 1820.

Medieval Dungeons (13)

As we can see in medieval times, there was a lot of barbaric cruelty towards torture victims who in many cases were innocent of any crime.

Medieval Castle Dungeons Edinburgh Castle Dungeons

The torture devices that were invented were particularly sickening and it beggars belief that human beings could have used torture devices like this to inflict maximum pain on their fellow man.

Medieval Torture *Dungeon

Medieval Torture *Dungeon

The use of medieval torture devices is one of the darker aspects of medieval times although it is interesting to read about these 13 Terrifying Medieval Torture Devices.

Medieval Torture *Torture Chair

Medieval Torture *Torture Chair

Torture: Persuasion at its Most Gruesome Paperback