December 08, 2004

*Medieval Torture--The Rack

Who can talk about medieval torture devices and not at least mention the rack? It's probably the most well-known...the one torture device that represents all torture devices.

The rack dates back to Ancient Greece, but was only occasionally employed until the Spanish Inquisition brought it front and center in Europe. In 1447, Constable John Holland, the Duke of Exeter, introduced the rack into the Tower of London. It came to be the most popular torture device in England, and was nicknamed the "Duke of Exeter's daughter".

Now, some people might think the rack can't be all that bad. It stretches you out, and surely we can all use a good back-stretching now and then. But the rack stretched you out far enough to raise you off the ground and dislocate your joints. Your feet were tied to a fixed bar, and your arms were tied to a movable bar. The movable bar was rolled farther away by a series of pulleys and levers until eventually you were a few inches off the ground and all your body weight was up there with you.

After you finally confessed to whatever they wanted you to confess to, you'd probably be too crippled to get on the witness stand or even raise your right hand to swear to tell the truth. Then you'd be found guilty and they'd burn you at the stake or hang you or provide some other form of capital punishment. If you didn't confess, your limbs would be ripped off and you'd die anyway.

The rack was used to its fullest potential in England for about 150 years before it was deemed too cruel. It fell out of fashion in the 1590s, and was outlawed in 1628.

Posted by Jennifer at December 8, 2004 09:48 AM