Torture was commonly used as a forerunner to the
execution. There were no laws or rules to protect the treatment of
prisoners who faced torture and execution. No matter what the type of torture or form of
was used it was seen as a totally legitimate means for
justice to extract confessions, obtain the names of accomplices, obtain
testimonies or confessions or to impose a penalty, sanctioned by law for a wrong committed.Public executions were common place acting as a deterrent to anyone
witnessing the execution.
Punishment - Execution Methods
Execution is defined as to put to
death as punishment. Imposing a "Death penalty" or "death sentence".
Execution of criminals, religious and political opponents was used to
punish crime and to suppress religious or political dissent. Medieval
execution methods were often barbaric, designed to inflict the most
agonising pain and some executions methods were designed to prolong the
execution as long as possible. Using various execution methods were the
punishment for many serious crimes such as treason, murder and
A skilled torturer would use torture methods, devices and instruments to prolong
life as long as possible whilst inflicting agonising pain on a prisoner
awaiting execution. The
customs of the Medieval period dictated that many prisoners were
tortured before they were executed in order to obtain additional
information about their crime or their accomplices. Torture was also
seen as a preliminary to the punishment of death by execution. There were many
forms and types of Medieval execution methods. The torture and
execution methods included the following methods:
Breaking Wheel or Catherine Wheel
Hanging - the Gibbet
Burning - Execution by Fire
Boiled to death
Decapitation - The Sword or the
Hung, drawn and
Methods - The Wheel
The Wheel or Breaking Wheel where the unfortunate victim had his limbs
systematically broken. Catherine wheel or breaking wheel, an instrument
of execution often associated with
Saint Catherine of Alexandria and adopted as one of the European
Methods - Quartering
Quartering where the legs and arms were separately tied to four horses
and as each horse moved away the body would be torn to bits.
Methods - Hanging
Prisoners were hung at the gibbet and died either by breaking their
necks or by choking to death.
Methods - Burning
Prisoners were chained to a stake surrounded by wood and faggots which
were set alight at the point of execution and the person suffered the
agonising pain of being burnt to death.
Methods - Pressing
Prisoners were crushed to death as heavy objects were slowly loaded on
top of their bodies.
Methods - Decapitation
Prisoners were sentenced to having their head struck off their body. The
axe was used for this purpose which resulted in the head often being
roughly hacked off the victim, requiring several blows. When clemency
was granted a sword was used which removed the head by one swift cut.
Methods - Hung, drawn and
One of the most terrible methods of execution ever invented and used
extensively in England as the punishment for traitors. The condemned was hanged till they were half dead,
and then taken down, and quartered alive. After that, their members and
bowels were cut from their bodies, and thrown into a fire, while they
were still alive. They would finally be killed by decapitation.
Methods - Boiling to death
Prisoners were boiled to death in a huge cauldron. This punishment was
often reserved for poisoners.
Methods Description - Impalement
Impalement was frequently practiced
in Asia and Europe throughout the Middle Ages.