Worst Torture in Medieval Times

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

Medieval times were marked by the accumulation of most of the powers being in the hands of the authorities. The authorities included royalty, nobility, and the Church. In the absence of any actual police force or civic authorities, the aforementioned authorities were tasked with arresting, interrogating, and punishing criminals.

Medieval Nobility and Medieval Nobles


A key part of this process included torturing the person in question, sometimes for political reasons and at other times, simply as a punishment. Not only criminals but innocent people were also often tortured, as during the Spanish Inquisition.

horror gaae56613a 640

Under these circumstances, medieval Europe saw the invention of a number of extraordinary tools of torture.

Toture Chair *Medieval Torture

Torture Chair *Medieval Torture

Medieval Torture – The Horrific Saw (1)

The term “medieval” is sometimes applied to such practices which seem inhumane today. This easily refers to the torture methods of the medieval era. The saw was a prominent tool used in medieval torture.

Saw *Medieval Torture

Saw *Medieval Torture

The most common way of using a saw was to first tie the criminal in question upside down from the ceiling. The saw was then used to either dissect the criminal in two using a saw. For this purpose, two men positioned at each end of the saw pulled it, usually dissecting the criminal vertically.

halloween ge0c89b247 640

The Breaking Wheel (2)

The Breaking Wheel was one of the most notorious and worst forms of medieval torture for persons sentenced to capital punishment. It involved the use of a wagon wheel to which the criminal, or the victim, in question, was tied.

Breaking Wheel *Medieval Torture

Breaking Wheel *Medieval Torture

The limbs of the victim were then beaten into the gaps of the wheel so much that they were broken. After having the limbs broken, the criminal was left to suffer and die, a period which could extend from a few hours of excruciating pain to a few days.

The Iron Chair (3)

The Iron chair was a fairly common medieval torture technique. It involved the use of an iron chair studded with hundreds of spikes, on the seating area, back, and arm-rest of the chair.

The Iron Chair *Medieval Torture Device

The Iron Chair *Medieval Torture Device

The victim was seated on a chair and tortured gradually. The iron restraints of the seat were turned tighter and tighter until they pierced deeper and deeper into the flesh of the person.

The Iron Chair *Medieval Torture Device

The Iron Chair *Medieval Torture Device

This form of torture could go on for weeks without the person dying since the iron spikes plugged the blood flow from the wounds and delayed death. Only after the person was removed from the chair did they finally suffer death.

Torture Rack (4)

The rack was a special rectangular wooden frame often used in medieval interrogation and torture. The wooden frame was set up with rollers at both ends and chains attached to the rollers. The person to be tortured was laid flat on the frame and his ankles and wrists were tied to the chains at each end of the frame.

Medieval Crime and Punishment The Rack

Torture Rack *Medieval Torture

The rollers were then gradually rotated so that the chains became tighter and tighter until they yanked the muscles out of their places, broke the bones, dislocated the limbs, and finally, tore them away. Sometimes, even when the torture was stopped at muscle damage, the person tortured was scarred with permanent muscle dysfunction.

tombstone g8b5115b60 640

Rat Torture (5)

This was a fairly simple but nightmarish method of medieval torture. In this method, an iron bucket was wrapped around the stomach of the person. The bucket was strapped tightly so that a rat placed inside it had no way to escape.

rat gae0fb62a7 640

A fire was then lit at the end of the bucket, agitating the rat inside. As the bucket grew hotter, the rat became more and more agitated until it was forced to gnaw its way through the person’s intestines to escape the hot bucket.

death gc2922fdb7 640

Wooden Horse Torture (6)

This method was particularly associated with the Spanish Inquisition. The victim was placed on top of a wooden frame which was shaped like a donkey but had a sharp protruding angle on top making a wedge-shaped V.

Wooden Horse *Medieval Torture

Wooden Horse *Medieval Torture

Before being placed on the frame, the victim was stripped naked so that the groin was directly in contact with the edge of the wedge as the victim was made to sit astride. Weights were added to the feet so that the body of the victim pressed down into the wedge until the wedge sliced into the body.

Pear of Anguish Torture (7)

Pear of anguish was a pear-shaped iron tool that had a key at its bottom. When the key was turned, the spoon-shaped leaves of the tool slowly opened and expanded.

The Pear Torture Device

The Pear Torture Device *Medieval Torture

Typical torture using this tool involved placing the tool inside one of the orifices of the victim and then turning the key so that the tool opened its leaves and expanded inside the body of the victim.

cry g97b029fce 640

Breast Ripper torture * Iron Spider *The Spider (8)

The breast ripper was a tool that was used specifically to punish women, usually on the charges of adultery, heresy, blasphemy or abortion. The tool was circular and made of iron, and before the torture began it was heated to make it pierce the flesh easily.

Breast Ripper *Medieval Torture

Breast Ripper *Medieval Torture

During torture, it was used to circle and grasp the breast which was then slowly ripped off.

Hanged Drawn & Quartered (9)

This was a medieval torture practice which was notoriously common in medieval England. First the victim was hanged by the neck just before the moment he would actually die. He was then laid on a wooden frame and was castrated.

Jeremiah Brandreths head

Jeremiah Brandreth *Last Person to be Hanged Drawn & Quartered in England

Finally, both his arms and his legs were tied with ropes to four different horses who were whipped to run into four different directions, literally tearing apart the victim.

Hanged, Drawn & Quartered *Medieval Torture

Hanged, Drawn & Quartered *Medieval Torture

The Iron Maiden (10)

Iron maiden referred to a medieval torture cabinet made of iron. The interior of this cabinet was spacious enough to accommodate an adult person and it was thoroughly set with iron spikes.

Medieval Iron Maiden torture device

As soon as the victim was placed inside and the door of the cabinet closed, the spikes on the interior of the cabinet pierced through the victim’s body.

Iron Maiden Torture DEvice

The Iron Maiden *Medieval Torture

Knee Spliter Torture (11)

The Knee splitter was a popular tool used in the tortures of the Spanish Inquisition.

The Spanish Inquisition

It is comprised of two spiked wooden blocks fitted together with large screws. The victim’s knee was placed between the two spiked blocks and the screws were slowly tightened so that the spikes crushed the knee.

Knee Spliter Torture *Medieval Torture

Pain *Medieval Torture