A visual peek at both the Topsham and the Axe…
It’s amazing when you think about it, how really cruel we were to one another in times gone by. The level of invention and lust to see the most painful tortures meted out is both staggering and disturbing in equal measures. Being in the wrong, or being on the wrong side could be seriously bad for your health. Here we examine a range of the torture techniques employed in the medieval era (those of a squeamish nature should leave this page now!).
The Intestine Crank
The painting looks almost like they’ve gone out for a bit of fresh air, the nonchalant faces peering down and the calm face of the torture recipient belie the absolute horror of this punishment (photo above left).
The basic design involved cutting through the abdomen, grabbing a bit of intestine and tying it onto the shaft of the crank, which was then wound slowly by a couple of assistants so that the entrails were removed, bit by bit. It must have been one of the most agonizing, horrible executions of the mediaeval era. What’s disturbing is that someone’s gone to the trouble of creating a painting depicting this torture – the painting was probably used as a means to broadcast a message about this crime to all and sundry, particularly useful when much of the population would have been illiterate.
The Wooden Cage
A devilishly cunning invention, someone must have got a hefty pat on the back for this device! (photo above right).
The prisoner would have been put into the cage and hauled up outside town halls and other prominent places. There is a twist – you may have noticed that the bottom of the cage has no floor. The prisoner was required to hold on continuously to the frame, if they did not wish to fall down, that is. Of course, exhaustion would inevitable mean the prisoner would eventually lose their grip and fall to their death.
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