10 Brutal Judicial Punishments from the Middle Ages

by admin on October 25, 2010

It’s a sad fact that humans can come up with endless disturbing methods for causing pain, but it is, nonetheless, a fact. These days, we worry about poor treatment of prisoners and deal with things like how much food they get, the sort of health care they get, their housing, etc. — but things used to be very different. People accused of crimes just a few hundred years ago didn’t go through anything we’d call a court by today’s standards, and they certainly weren’t punished by anything so meager as “time served.” These are the 10 cruelest and most unusual punishments from the Middle Ages and some are so gruesome that they’re more likely to show up in a horror movie than a history book.


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Easily the simplest method of torture, exposure is still carried out today in some harsher parts of the world (and sometimes Arizona). Usually, it entailed something as simple as relegation to the stocks, where some poor sap would sit, immobilized by wood planks and chains, until either the sun, the cold, hunger, dehydration, or wild animals would finally put an end to his misery. If he was lucky, a guy sentenced to exposure might be given the opportunity to live after surviving a week or so — if he made it that long. This method’s high visibility also helped ensure that the rest of the population knew the consequences of crossing the local magistrate.

Rat Torture

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Rats, cute as they may be, aren’t exactly the nicest little creatures when they feel cornered. Medieval sadists were well aware of that when they placed one in a metal cage, which they then placed on the exposed belly of a condemned man. The floor of the cage would be removed, and the top would be heated by flame — it didn’t take long for the rat to realize the only way out was through the soft flesh of the poor bastard he was sitting on. You can figure out the rest.

The Breast Ripper

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While being condemned was no picnic for men, it was especially brutal for women. The breast ripper, aptly named, was about as brutal as it was simple. The guy who created the thing was obviously one hell of a misogynist, too, since its sole purpose was to literally tear the breasts of a woman off her chest. Usually, for a woman to get this specific device used her, she’d have to have been accused of something like adultery, or forced miscarriage. If the local torturers weren’t keen on actually using the hand-held version, there was also a variant called the spider, which was basically a set of claws chained to a wall. The woman would be pulled away from the wall by one or two burly men until the claws did their job, which was to the same end as the breast ripper.

The Pear of Anguish

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Something shaped like a pear and meant for torture can only be horribly wrong in every way. The pear of anguish, as it was called, was actually a bit like an ancient predecessor to the modern speculum — only much more disturbing and painful. It would be inserted in any one of three orifices depending on the crime; for crimes of gossip or blasphemy, it was the mouth. Men suspected of homosexuality got it in the anus, while adulterous women got it in the vagina. Unfortunately, it didn’t stop at simple insertion, because the pear was built to expand as a screw was turned. It was meant to keep expanding until something ripped.

The Knee Splitter

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This rather simple, though menacing-looking device was used on much more than the knee. Torturers would use it on any limb, with joints especially, to slowly clamp down and cause excruciating pain as spikes were driven into flesh. Steady pressure would break bones or dislocate joints, but wouldn’t often kill the condemned individual outright. Either infection, or further torture afterward, would take care of that. This was a handy tool during the Spanish Inquisition.

The Rack

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The infamous rack — a torture device that was meant to not only cause severe physical damage, but also the maximum amount of pain and psychological trauma for any victims allowed to survive. The condemned would be laid out on the rack, with arms tied above the head and feet tied at the bottom. Left wide open and vulnerable, he would be stretched to the breaking point by the torturer, who would turn a wheel beneath the table that caused the ropes to pull tighter. If the torturer kept tightening, the shoulders of the victim would dislocate, and after time his arms would begin to be ripped off — slowly.

Toe Wedging

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If fingernails on chalkboard bothers you, then you probably wouldn’t like the thought of toe wedging very much. It’s exactly what it sounds like; taking sharp wooden or metallic wedges and hammering them into toes underneath toenails, so as to cause them to violently rip off. This particular torture is an ancient one, and was also known to have been used on fingers.


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Like a tiny little version of the knee splitter, only without the spikes — thumbscrews were meant to cause excruciating pain that could last for hours without killing the accused. It was nearly always used as a method for extracting a confession, since it was so unlikely to be lethal on its own. It could be used on thumbs, fingers, or toes, and was rarely the only thing used on a person.

Foot Roasting

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This one may be named more literally than any other on the list, because foot roasting was quite simply the horrid act of cooking somebody’s feet off. Torturers would tie a person down on a slab of wood or metal, and secure them so that they couldn’t move their feet. They would then set a fire beneath the feet, and use a screen to temporarily stop the flames when they wanted to interrogate further, or simply to tease the condemned for a few moments before allowing the roast to continue. They could stop the fire and begin the process over again the next day, if they wanted to really make it last. Death would almost always occur at some point, usually from infection.

Heretic’s Fork

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This one wasn’t really meant to do any serious physical damage, but it was so sneaky that it belongs on the list. The heretic’s fork was double-sided fork with sharp tips that was placed between the sternum and the chin, and strapped at the neck of the individual who was to be put through this demeaning and tiring game. It may not be as grisly as something like the rack, or even as direct as thumbscrews, but the point of its use was based on the long-term. A guy could be strapped with one of these things and left to rot, hands tied behind his back, for days. We take for granted how long we can hold our heads up, and these things often caused horrible infections at the puncture sites.

  • Pusan1818

    How many of these contraptions did the Bush/Cheney regime utilize?

  • Rundgren15

    That is getting old…especially since the current regime hasn’t seen the need to stop it.

  • OneRandomGuy

    This should actually serve as an pretty clear indicator that certain persons spouting off about “torture” in the modern age clearly don’t have a fucking clue what actual torture is. Hacking TERRORISTS to pieces to get confessions/information is torture. Simulating the sensation of drowning in a CONTROLLED environment to break a TERRORIST’S will/training is not torture. Extreme? Yes. Torture? No. The answer to your question Pusan is “None of the above” with an assignment to Google “Saddam Torture Methods” so you have a clue what brutality really looks like.

  • Sourabh Convonix

    Thanks to democracy humans have become lesser brutal

  • bieberfan

    this is soo sad

  • Gabbie

    Scary Stuff

  • guest

    sick b@$t@rds! 

  • Maureen fifita

    all of dis is yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck
           da people r crazy

  • Onekinnocent

    good thing were not in those times “I like curry And da vegimit

  • Guest

    This was so fucking disturbing :(

  • Rich_chick Xo

    this is ferreal to the max! fck how can someone be so cruel , ew . 

  • Surf Org


  • Sonic the rapest


  • Berry Shirayuki


  • Willkelley08

    Fye!! all i can say on this topic

  • rapist killa

    so rudee.

  • Srelu

    The heretic’s fork is a bullsh… Is enough to turn your head aside to make it lose the vertical position.

  • LovesStupidPeople

    Well aren’t you the stupid ignorant $h!t for brains in the room. Might want to get that false superiority complex checked out by a doctor. Might get you hurt one of these days. Wouldn’t want that now would we? Feel the love.

  • guest

    that is the worst form of punishment that i have ever seen, it will give me nightmrare! xxx

  • hitler!

    I LOVE THESE PUNISHMENTS!!! we should so use these today!!
    Eepecially the pear of anguish!! i love it! feels so good!!!!!!

  • hitler!

    But So Hot!



  • Thomas


  • steffany eileen lee

    that is absoulutly horrible and disgusting i feelso sorry for them people in those days so happy u get prison now :(





  • penisheadmotherucker

    fucking cunts

  • Zach Mcclure

    everyone that these should be used or think of these in any positive way is a sicko, go see a psychiatrist.

  • willyBumBum

    omg if you read this your manly english teacher will lick ur vagina bald ( miss davies )

  • Lol14gurl

    WTF?!?! O.o umm.. howwwww would you know what this feels like?!?!?!

  • Lol14gurl

    so says “rapist killa” -.-

  • Rebecca

    yous are all cunts xxx Much love Rebecca !!

  • rebecca


  • Amy

    I am glad those methods arn’t around today!!!
    I would be scared s*^t to do anything wrong!!
    Witch i guess is a good thing!

  • ZoltanFibonacci

    How? They’re performed by CIA agents, ordered by Cheney-Bush. They called it “Black Ops.”

  • ZoltanFibonacci

     As many as they could get. Cheney, the fat bastard, called it “Black Ops.”

  • ZoltanFibonacci

     Wake up. Saddam had nothing to do with the U.S.
    George “WMD” Bush wanted Saddam killed to make his daddy proud. George didn’t care how many U.S. troops died in the process.

  • http://www.stormfront.org/forum/t951457/#post11027361 Jew anti-racist leader wanted for rape of little girls – Stormfront

    [...] Re: Jew anti-racist leader wanted for rape of little girls This type of individuals can be properly treated only by the application of early medieval punishments which I am not going to describe here because I wish to keep the moderators of this thread out of the issue. If you are a strong individual you can take a look at these links: Top 10 Gruesome Medieval Torture Devices – Listverse Middle Ages Torture 10 Brutal Judicial Punishments from the Middle Ages | Raw Justice [...]

  • You

    How sad :(

  • Hayley Breezy


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  • http://laurenlynam.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/work-cited/ work cited | laurenlynam

    [...] “ Crime and Punishment in the Middle Ages”.  Tim Nash, n.d. Web. 11 September. 2013. <http://rawjustice.com/2010/10/25/10-brutal-judicial-punishments-from-the-middle-ages/&gt;. [...]

  • Anonymous

    you do realize that for a long time it has been known that most of these lovely items existed only in drawings.

  • Don Kare

    that is disguisting

  • DEath


  • http://www.kailarogers.org/story-cover-project-argd-200/ Story Cover Project (ARGD 200) | Kaila Rogers
  • adolf mitler

    yo this is so cool #thepear

  • hi

    oh no

  • hi


  • hi

    i see u

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  • hi

    i see u l


    a wise bag of doritos told me this once

  • hi

    i seeeeeee uuoi

  • person

    ewwwwwww!!!!! thank god I don’t live like this

  • hitler

    ya 7mar

  • hitler

    6eezkom gomor

  • fordingbridge

    Fucking CONdem UK regime supporters of all things American and anti-humanitarian

  • Brian L.

    Well, I think we’ve just gone to the other extreme now, honestly.

    When some murderers who rob people’s lives can get out of prison in a few years on parole, or might can get out of jail on account of some stupid technicality, we’re inflicting a different kind of brutality upon society: Leniency.

    When some guy can kill some child and get out in like 15 or so years, or some rich celebrity who’s undeniably abused someone or killed someone with drunk driving can get off light with the best lawyers, I can’t help but wonder if we’ve really advanced in justice at all.

    Acts of the most extreme torture or a complete lack of justice–neither serves society well.

  • jamie

    I agree that they should be used for crime like murder because If you take someone’s life yours should be taken to

  • jamie

    I agree that they should be used for crime like murder because If you take someone’s life yours should be taken to

  • zac darcy

    Wtf Hitler is so gay

  • zac darcy

    I would be like this guy

  • zac darcy


  • tristan

    this is wrong since it would kill people it is despicable i thought people evolved from hurting people and think its fun i guess i was wrong this time in human history makes me sick-Tristan

  • Leigh

    But what if someone innocent was accused of murder? These methods are for longterm suffering, which may or may not lead to death. We should the system as is, only firmly enforce the death penalty.

  • rekt


  • anonymous

    you have been hacked

  • anonymous

    you fucking freak meet me tonight at 6

  • my ass

    ye we should

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    ur a bully

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    nigger is a bad word

  • my ass

    no its not

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    hi beccy

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  • Ewan Johnson


  • Nathan.S (Campbell Highschool


  • Nathan.S (Campbell Highschool


  • Nathan.S (Campbell Highschool


  • fart

    i am a potato

  • fart

    hip dog

  • Jack

    my mum said that if i poo in my bed again she will do one of these to me (hope it is banish, fingers crossed

  • Jack


  • Johno


  • Johno


  • Johno

    crack my neck my back lick my pus and crack

  • Johno

    You need to see my nipple hair, OMG you should see it lactate

  • Johno

    The milk taste sooo good from me nips

  • Johno


  • Tayzsausage

    i <3 poo

  • Tayzsausage


  • Tayzsausage

    am a big sausage
    i ate so much sausage i tuned into one

  • Tayzsausage

    i just finished a massive sausage

  • Tayzsausage

    then i shat it out againt

  • bsausage


  • bsausage

    we know tay

  • Tayzsausage

    we pray for you

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    obama is my friendzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  • idke

    omg these are cool but srsly abnormal ways :(

  • dantheman

    o dang bresssssss f dat stuff

  • dantheman

    so my ass isn’t as bad penis face

  • dantheman

    fuck you ffffffffffing cunt cock

  • yeoman

    i really fucking hate these punishments. these r so brutal. my so has already heard these punishments in school and he has been asking me whats vagina

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