Methods of torture in previous centuries in Europe

We will review some more sophisticated instruments of torture that were used in previous centuries in Europe

Oct 27, 2020 - 03:47
Oct 27, 2020 - 03:49
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Methods of torture in previous centuries in Europe
Methods of torture in previous centuries in Europe

We will review some more sophisticated instruments of torture that were used in previous centuries in Europe. I see these images and descriptions and it seems to be a surreal lie that at some point in human history these actions were real just because someone did not agree with a specific religious dogma or made a mistake.


Weapons for jailers are distinguished from military weapons in that they are not suitable for warfare, as the enemies are armed and armoured, but they are very useful in controlling the mob of half-naked, obviously unarmed prisoners. In the "neck-grip" (on the left) you can see the ring with the trap-shaped opening at one end of a two-meter-long pole. A prisoner, or any fugitive who tries to escape from a bailiff by hiding in the crowd, is easily caught: once the neck is clinging to the trap, there is no other possibility than to follow the captor. The "neck-grip" is still used in hundreds of prisons and is often part of the equipment of the anti-riot forces. Modern versions include, in some cases, the use of electricity.


There is a great variety of whips. Among them, there are two, three and up to eight chains provided with abundant stars or/and cutting steel blades that were used and are used to flagellate the human body. Whips of very different sizes were used for skinning; giants like "the nine-tailed cat", which could cripple an arm and a shoulder with a single blow, or thin and perfidious, like the "bull's nerve", which with two or three strokes could cut the flesh of buttocks until reaching the pelvis. The skinning whip was soaked in a solution of salt and sulfur dissolved in water before use, which together with its stars made it a destructive and very useful tool for the tortured. The meat, when struck, turned into pulp, exposing different internal organs. Whips are still used today. Included in this photograph are: a whip of chains made up of flat, oval links, sharp as blades shaped blades; another double chain with four heavy iron stars at the tip; and a fragment of a whip from the 14th century, called the crown of thorns.


Tweezers, pincers, shears were used "red hot", but also cold to lacerate or tear off any member of the human body, and they were another basic element among the tools of every executioner. The pincers were used preferably burning for the noses, fingers and toes and nipples. The elongated clamps were used to tear or burn the penis. As explained in the oral, rectal and vaginal part of the pear, the male genitalia has always enjoyed a kind of immunity. However, throughout the long series of torture, there are also rare cases of castration, removal of the penis and even amputation of the entire triad. The severed parts were often burned inside the victim's fist. These punishments were not applied for acts of violence against women as one might think, but rather for attempted violence or conspiracies against rulers or princes.

 The Masks

These contraptions, which existed in a great profusion of fanciful forms, from 1500 to 1800, were imposed on those who had imprudently expressed their discontent with the order, against current conventions, against the arrogance of power or, in any way, against the state of affairs. Through the centuries, millions of women, considered conflictual due to their exhaustion from domestic slavery and continuous pregnancies, were humiliated and tormented.
The vast majority of the victims were women. Many masks incorporated iron mouthpieces, some of which permanently mutilated the tongue with sharp spikes and cutting blades.
The victims locked in the masks and exposed in the public square, were also mistreated by the crowd. Painful bumps, being smeared with urine and excrement, and serious injuries (sometimes fatal, especially to the breasts and pubis).


Until the end of the 18th century, in the urban landscapes of Europe, it was not uncommon to find abundant iron and wooden cages attached to the exterior of municipal buildings, ducal or justice palaces, cathedrals, city walls or on high poles near crosses of roads. It is something that you have seen in the movies and that you may not have noticed, but that existed. Many examples remain today, such as in the palace of Mantúa or in the apse of the Cathedral of Münster (Switzerland). In Venice, the origin of the cell cage, the cages were hung on the Bridge of Sighs, and more Often on the walls of the Arsenal. A family tradition tells that this cage was taken down in 1750-52, years in which the second Lorraine Grand Duke of Tuscany, Prieto Leopoldo, destroyed all the elements of torture and execution, and since then it has been preserved in the family palace. The victims, naked or semi-naked, were locked in the cages and hung. They died of hunger and thirst; from bad weather and cold in winter; and from the heat and sunburn in summer. Often, they had previously been tortured and mutilated for further punishment. Normally the corpses were left to decompose until the bones were detached, although they were sometimes covered hermetically with pine resin, in order to delay the effects of decomposition, and were wrapped around with straps to prevent the limbs from detaching. In this way, they were used as a moral lesson. 


Stretching or dismemberment by means of longitudinal tension was used in ancient Egypt and Babylon. In Europe, together with the pendulum, they were fundamental elements in any dungeon from the Roman Republic until the "disappearance" of torture towards the end of the 18th century. In many countries outside Europe, both subsist today. The victim is literally elongated by the force of the winch. Ancient testimonies assure that the stretch was up to 30 cm, an inconceivable length that comes from the dislocation and distortion of each joint of the arms and legs, from the dismemberment of the spine and, of course, from the tearing of the muscles of the extremities, thorax and abdomen these of course lethal. This torture normally consisted of three degrees. In the first, the victim suffered a dislocation of the shoulders due to the stretching of the arms backwards and upwards, as well as intense pain in the thighs when tearing like any fibre subjected to excessive tension. In the second grade, the knees, hips, and elbows begin to dislodge; in the third they noisily separate. Already in the second grade, the person being interrogated is disabled for life, after the third grade, they are paralyzed and gradually dismember. Vital functions cease as the hours and days go by.


The purpose of this plea is similar to some of those already seen, but in this case, the sides and armpits were scorched by a torch composed of seven spark plugs. If the victim, already paralyzed, shattered shoulders and dying from infections caused by burns, still did not confess, the court was obliged, as always in such a case, to acknowledge his innocence.


There are many types of restraints that bind people to inhuman weights: anklets (the classic "ball" worn by prisoners in the drawings), wristbands, belts, necklaces. The condemned man had to carry these loads with him for a long time: weeks, months, years, or even a lifetime. The block in the photograph has a chain with a neck ring at the end. The forty-pound stone was held in the hands, anytime, anywhere. The victim suffered a fatal exertion, and the abrasion of the neck and shoulders, with the consequent infection and gangrene, which were not usually fatal in the first months.


The instruments provided with spikes inside were, and in certain environments still are, the favourite of religious who mortify themselves. Logically, the same instruments were also used for inquisitorial and punitive torture. It worked as follows: it wrapped itself around the victim and rapidly began to wound and lacerate the flesh with every little movement, with every breath. Then came the infection, rot, and gangrene. Not infrequently, the executioner added carnivorous worms in the fleshless part that they gnawed into the interior of the abdomen.


This is another of the torture instruments that at first glance does not attest to the suffering it is capable of creating because its mission is not only to immobilize the victim. Within a few minutes of its use on the person, he or she suffers great cramps, first in the abdominal and rectal muscles, then in the pectoral, cervical and extremities. Over the hours, these cramps lead to continuous and excruciating pain in the abdomen and rectum. In such a situation, the victim was often beaten, kicked, burned and mutilated at will.


The torture instruments made in the shape of a trumpet, trombone, flute, sweet, oboe are made of wood, bronze or iron. They are probably of Dutch origin and are mainly associated with the 17th and 18th centuries, although some earlier and later examples are known. The iron collar was closed behind the victim's neck, and his fingers positioned like those of musician garlic the cuts of the gag were squeezed at the will of the executioner and could come to the crushing of meat, bones and joints. This torture was, above all, a form of the pillory of exposure to public shame, with all the usual painful and sometimes fatal consequences that marked the fate of those thus exposed. It was imposed to punish minor crimes: conflict, blasphemy in the first degree, profanity, disruption of public order, etc. In Italy, according to references from Roman, Neapolitan, Parmesan and Bolognese archives, it was often applied to those who partied and caused a ruckus in front of the church during mass. In the Venetian Republic, heavy iron flutes were applied to those who abused anonymous denunciation against others, "driven by malice, anger or envy".


Simple and very effective, crushing the knuckles, phalanges and nails is one of the oldest forms of torture. The results, in terms of pain inflicted in relation to the effort made and the time consumed, are highly "satisfactory". This was one of the many instruments used in what is known as "the painful questions", which consisted of the extraction of confessions through torture described and illustrated with scientific precision, down to the smallest details: the thickness of the strings, the number of chain links, the length of nails and screws, the degrees of permanent mutilation allowed for different degrees of accusations, etc. In the year 1629 in Prossneck, Germany.


Fundamental torture, sometimes merely a preparation of the victim for further torture, was the dislocation of the shoulders by violently rotating the arms back and up. The torture of the pendulum is (like so many other tortures) pendulum cheap and efficient. You don't need complicated equipment. The victim's wrists were tied behind the back, and a rope was added to that tie and hoisted. Immediately, the humerus disarticulates along with the scapula and clavicle. Such dislocation produced horrible deformations, often permanent. Agony could be stimulated by weights progressively added to the feet until at last, the skeleton dismembered. In the end, the victim, paralyzed, died.


It was a kind of a public shame that applied mostly to drunkards. There were two kinds of "barrel picks": those that had the bottom closed, in which the victim was placed inside, with urine and manure or simply with rotten water, and those that were open for the victims to walk through the streets of the city. with them in tow, which caused them great pain due to their great weight.

Among the instruments of public derision, we must also highlight the necklaces for lazy and thugs. They consisted of heavy wooden or stone "bottles", or thick iron "coins" that were hung around the neck of drunkards, the former and dishonest merchants, the latter. Poachers were tied to chains with the corpses of poached animals until they rotted and detached (especially effective punishment in summer). The collars were around eight or nine kilos, so their application for nights and days whole, it caused wounds and infections and, in extreme cases, even gangrene.


The victim's chin was placed on the lower bar, and the cap was pushed down by the screw. The effects of this process are evident. First, the dental alveoli are smashed, then the jaws, and then the brain drains through the eye socket and between the skull fragments. Today it is no longer used as capital punishment but is highly regarded for use as interrogations in much of the world. Currently, the cap and crusher bottom bar are covered with a soft material that does not leave marks on the victim. There are some instruments with a similar purpose called "skull breakers", which, as their name indicates, differed from the "head crusher" in that instead of crushing the skull they broke it.


It was the most common playing instrument in Germanic Europe, after the gallows, from the late Middle Ages to the early 18th century. In Latin Europe, chipping was carried out with massive iron bars and shod maces instead of wheels. The victim, naked, was stretched out on his back on the ground or on the gallows, with his limbs extended to the maximum and tied to stakes or iron rings. Pieces of wood were placed under the wrists, elbows, knees and hips. The executioner, striking violent blows with the shod-rimmed wheel, crushed bone after bone and joint after joint trying not to land fatal blows. The victim was transformed, according to an anonymous seventeenth-century German chronicler, "into a kind of great howling puppet writhing, like a giant four-tentacled octopus, between streams of blood, raw, vicious and amorphous meat mixed with splinters of bones. broken ". Then it was untied and inserted between the spokes of the great horizontal wheel at the end of a post that was later raised. Crows and other animals tore strips of meat and emptied the victim's eyes until death came. As you can see, it was one of the longest and most agonizing torture that could be inflicted. Along with the bonfire and the dismemberment, this was one of the most popular shows among the many similar ones that took place in the squares of Europe. Crowds of commoners and nobles flocked to feast on a "good" butcher, preferably one or more women in a row.


It is provided with skewers on all sides. The instrument in the photograph weighed more than five kilos, closed around the victim's neck, and often became a means of execution: erosion to the bone of the flesh of the neck, shoulders and jaw, progressive gangrene, Febrile infection and the eventual erosion of the bones, especially of the emaciated vertebrae, lead to certain, excruciating and rapid death. Apart from this, the necklace had the advantage of saving time and money: its function is passive and does not require the effort, and therefore the payment, of an executioner; He "works" by himself, day and night, without rest, without problems and without maintenance. For this reason, it is still used by the police in many parts, not only in the Third World.


The traditional view of the chastity belt is that it was used to guarantee the fidelity of wives during long periods of absence from husbands, and especially from women of the Crusaders who left for the Holy Land. Perhaps once, although not as normal use, "fidelity" was thus "assured" for short periods of a few hours or a couple of days, never for a longer time. It couldn't be like that, because a woman locked in this way would soon lose her chastity belt life from infections caused by unremoved toxic buildup, abrasions, and lacerations caused by mere contact with iron. Likewise, the possibility of an ongoing pregnancy must be taken into account. In reality, the main use of the belt was very different: it constituted a barrier against rape, a fragile barrier but sufficient on certain occasions, for example, during times when soldiers were garrisoned in cities, during overnight stays in inns, during travel. We know from many testimonies that women wore their belts on their own initiative, a fact that some old Sicilian and Spanish women still remember today. 


Cold or burning, the four prongs of the "breast ripper" tore into shapeless masses the breasts of thousands of women convicted of heresy, blasphemy, adultery, and many other "libidinous acts"; induced abortion, erotic white magic and other. 
In various places and at different times, a "bite" with the red-hot tips was applied to a breast of single mothers, often while their children wriggled on the ground, spattered with their mothers' blood. In addition to the punitive function, the tearing of the breasts also served as an inquisitorial and judicial procedure.


There are two basic versions of this instrument: -The typically Spanish one, in which the screw forces the iron collar back, killing the victim by suffocation. We are talking about the Inquisition, and yet this type of was used in Spain until 1975 when capital punishment was abolished. The Catalan, in which a punch ofscrewIron penetrates and ruptures the cervical vertebrae while pushing the entire neck forward crushing the trachea against the fixed collar, thus killing by suffocation or slow destruction of the spinal cord. The presence of the tip at the back not only does not cause a quick death, but it increases the chances of prolonged agony. It was used until the beginning of this century in Catalonia and in some Latin American countries. It is still used in the New World, mostly for police torture but also for executions.


The screams and screams of the victims came from the bull's mouth, making the figure appear to be bellowing. However, there is no evidence. On the contrary, Falaris was considered by almost contemporary writers a cultured and just ruler. The Falaris bull was present in numerous torture rooms of the Inquisition of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.


Its size was around that of a person's four fingers. Mounted on top of a handle and was used to cut the victim's flesh into strips and extract it from the bones in any part of the body: face, abdomen, back, extremities, breasts.


This was an instrument of torture used mainly for confessions. The victim is hoisted as shown in the illustration, and once lifted, released on the tip of the pyramid in such a way that its weight rests on the anus, vagina, under the scrotum or under the coccyx. According to the indications of the interrogators, the executioner varies the pressure from nothing to the entire weight of the body. The victim can also be shaken or repeatedly dropped onto the tip. The "cradle of Judas" receives the same name in Italian, German and English, denominating in French "la veille" ("the vigil"). At present, this is a method widely used by Latin American governments, with very few variations with respect to that used by the inquisitors, and these are mainly the "improvement" of belts and the incorporation of electricity.


There are many torture instruments in the shape of an anthropomorphic sarcophagus with two doors and nails inside which penetrate the victim's body when they are closed. The nails were removable, with which they could be moved, in order to have a wide range of possible mutilations and wounds that resulted in a more or less prolonged death, always between great suffering.


As can be seen in the photograph, the "heretic's fork" was made up of four extremely sharp points that penetrated deep into the flesh, under the chin and on the sternum. The hairpin prevented any movement of the head, but allowed the victim to hairpin1murmur, his voice almost muffled (what was known as "abiuro", a word that is engraved on one side of the hairpin). If he refused to confess, the heretic, considered "unrepentant", was dressed in the characteristic costume and led to the stake, under the condition of Extreme Unction, in the case of the Spanish Inquisition. If the inquisitor was Roman, the heretic was hanged or burned.


These instruments were used and are still used in oral and rectal formats. They were stuffed into the victim's mouth, rectum or vagina, and there they were deployed by means of a screw to their maximum opening. The interior of the cavity was irreparably damaged. The tips protruding from the end of each segment served to better tear the back of the throat, rectum, or cervix of the uterus. The oral pear was normally applied to heretical preachers, but also to secular convicts of anti-Orthodox tendencies. The vaginal pear, on the other hand, was intended for women guilty of having sex with Satan or one of his relatives, and the rectal one for passive homosexuals.


The technique of this method was to tie the defendant's hands behind his back and then pass a long stick (called Strappardo) through the knot of the wrists, which, with an ingenious pulley mechanism, lifted the condemned man a few meters. To inflict even more pain, they used to tie large weights to the feet or testicles of the victims. Generally, this was enough to achieve their ends, although, in extreme cases, the pulleys would suddenly come loose, with which the condemned person literally fell to the ground driven by his own weight plus the additional load tied to his feet or testicles. A few inches from the ground, they suddenly slowed the fall. This system of releasing the condemned man, stopping him abruptly in his fall was called "Squassation" and very often what caused the dislocation of the victims' arms.


In this cruel method of torture, the victim was placed on a stool in front of a large closed wooden door. His arms were raised vertically above his head. On the one hand, the wrist was tied between the ulna and the radius and on the other to the door. Also, the feet were conveniently tied between the first and second metatarsals. The inquisitors, then and simultaneously, suddenly opened the door and removed the victim's point of support (the stool) with which the condemned person was literally crucified at the door, inflicting more or less pain depending on the force with which they opened and closed. the door, regardless of the added tortures, less sophisticated such as whipping or heat, applied during the crucifixion. This, regardless of other possible ones.

The immersion stool

Normally it was a very nasty punishment usually given to women. The victim was tied to a chair that was hung at the end of a free-moving arm, plunged into the most suitable river or pond. It was the arm operators who decided how long the victim should be underwater, many older women died from fear of cold water or drowned. It was used in the US and Great Britain to punish child molesters, prostitutes and grumpy women.








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