The medieval people had a reputation of having a brutal nature, and a few pieces of evidence are sitting in the museums around the world. There are countless torture instruments of the Middle Ages, and Iron Maiden is one of the most popular and notorious torture devices, amongst other tools. But the question is, Are they even real?
So the answer is partial, yes and no.
About the iron maidens
The 18th-century myth is the widespread usage of iron maidens by the people of the Middle Ages. The usage of torture devices gave a general perception to the people of the Middle Ages as the people of the most uncivilized era. However, the idea of tools like the iron-maiden type was around for over a thousand years, but there are no clear pieces of evidence.
The iron maidens were basically, a human-sized box with the interiors of spikes. The victim would be forcefully sent inside the box, and the door of the box would shut to drive the spikes into the body of the victim. The spikes were designed in a way that they would not immediately kill the victim but would make them bleed entirely out over time.
References from the past
However, there are no proofs of it being true. But there are specific incidents mentioned from the past that can prove the usage of the iron maiden.
- It is a reference from the late 1700s. A German philosopher, Johann Philipp Siebenkees mentioned the alleged execution of the coin-forger by an iron maiden in the year 1515.
- Another Latin book of Christian – “The City of God” of the fifth century, mentioned a tale of the torture over a Roman general – Marcus Atilius Regulus. He was locked in the nail-studded box; he didn’t die of blood loss but died of sleep deprivation as he was forced to stay awake.
It is difficult to tell that any above story is true, as ancient historians are likely known to exaggerate. However, the iron maiden was not originated in the Middle Ages. The period is otherwise associated with other elaborated torture devices.
Why did the Middle Age use torture devices?
Torture was indeed used as a means to extract confessions from the guilty in the Middle Ages, but it is not true that it all started in the medieval age. The people used this method because, under a lot of punishment, people generally tend to tell the truth. But the torture was not too much elaborated that it could take someone’s life. The most common torture used by the people was to bind the guilty with the rope. But it is a myth that they used over-engineered ways to provide pain and punishment to the people.
Time Magazine reported in the year 2003 that a real iron maiden was discovered in the Iraqi National Olympic Committee compound in Baghdad. Uday Hussein, son of Saddam Hussein, was reported to humiliate, beat, and torture the underperformers of his soccer team. He misused his powers of being the head of the committee of the country’s soccer federation. It was also noticed that the iron maiden was worn entirely out of use; thus, it meant that it was in use for a very long time.