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Introduction to Medieval Torture (Main)

Torture was frequently employed during the Middle Ages to punish criminals and extract confessions. Hundreds of devices were used including The Rack and The Chair.

Even though thousands died in unimaginably painful ways, torture wasn't as frequent as most of us believe. During the Inquisition only 1 or 2 percent of the heretics or criminals were subject to long periods of torture - the rest were simply incarcerated or punished in other ways.

Most medieval towns had a council to determine a person's guilt. Only in the most severe of cases, such as murder or treason, was the victim tortured. In the majority of cases he was incarcerated or simply vanished from the town and never allowed back.

In bigger cities such as London the law was more harshly enforced. Many castles had torture chambers, usually located in the dungeon or tallest tower, where many could be tortured at the same time. Burning at the stake and other methods were not the Sunday spectacle we think. When they happened, they often occurred inside the castle - away from the population. When a town was becoming rebellious, open acts of torture frequently occurred.

The Middle Ages were not a period one would like to live in, but they were not extremely unfair and bloodthirsty either. Many towns never tortured a person, resorting to banishment instead. On the contrary, many leaders used torture extremely frequently such as Vlad the Impaler.

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