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Medieval Torture and Punishment

Medieval life and Times

Medieval Punishment and Torture
The Medieval period was violent and blood thirsty. In these barbarous times the cruel and pitiless feeling which induced legislators to increase the horrors of tortures and punishment which contributed to the aggravation of the fate of prisoners. Torture chambers and dungeons were included in many castles of the era. Law or custom did not prescribe any fixed rules for the treatment of prisoners who faced torture and punishment.

Different types of torture and punishment were used depending on the victim's crime and social status. Torture as a form of punishment was seen as a totally legitimate means for justice to extract confessions, or obtain the names of accomplices or other information about the crime. Torture was a legitimate way to obtain testimonies and confessions from suspects for use in legal inquiries and trials during the Middle Ages. Facts and information about various forms of tortures, punishments executions can be accessed from the following links:

Instruments of Torture
Medieval Inquisition Torture
Execution Methods
Torture Devices
Hung, Drawn and Quartered
Burned at the Stake
Death by Quartering
Stretched on the Rack
Scavenger's Daughter
Scold's Bridle
The Boot
Ducking Stool
Women Stretched on the Rack
Death by Hanging
Balls Torture
Catherine Wheel
The Stocks
Water Torture

Definition of Torture
The definition of torture is the deliberate, systematic, cruel and wanton infliction of physical or mental suffering by one or more torturers in an attempt to force another person to yield information, to make a confession, as part of a punishment or for any other reason. Torture devices or tools are used to inflict unbearable agony on a victim. The objectives of torture were to intimidate, deter, revenge or punish. Or as a tool or a method for the extraction of information or confessions.

Definition of Punishment
The definition of punishment is to impose or inflict something unpleasant or aversive on a person in response to disobedient or morally wrong behavior. Punishment means to impose a penalty for a wrong committed.

Medieval Torture Chambers and Dungeons
The torture chambers were located in the lower parts of castles. The entrances to many torture chambers were accessed through winding passages which served to muffle the agonising cries of torture victims from the normal inhabitants of the castle.  Torture chambers and dungeons were often very small some measured only eleven feet long by seven feet wide in which from ten to twenty prisoners were often incarcerated at the same time.

Medieval Torture was condemned in 866
The barbarous custom of punishment by torture was on several occasions condemned by the Church. As early as 866, we find, from Pope Nicholas V's letter to the Bulgarians, that their custom of torturing the accused was considered contrary to divine as well as to human law: "For," says he, "a confession should be voluntary, and not forced. By means of the torture, an innocent man may suffer to the utmost without making any avowal; and, in such a case, what a crime for the judge! Or the person may be subdued by pain, and may acknowledge himself guilty, although he be not so, which throws an equally great sin upon the judge." Despite this, and other pleas, the practise of torturing victims continued. Medieval Torture was a freely accepted form of punishment and was only abolished in England in 1640.

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