Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Criminal Museum of Rothenburg pt. 1


This museum completely engaged me. The Criminal Museum is composed of 4 floors that showcases a range of items from the medieval period. Shame masks, torture devises, documents of everyday life, customary dress, etc are on display.


Here is the dunking stool on display on the side of the building. This was used to punish bakers whose bread was too lite or not up to standards. Dishonest bakers were dipped into the well found in the market place (the same well shown in my previous post).

You very well can't pass a pillory on display without posing your loved ones for a picture!! I always thought these were called "stocks,"but research has taught me otherwise. Stocks differ b/c the feet are locked in the wooden part and the criminal is in a seated postion. The stocks are also a lesser punishment. Generally, when a criminal is put in a pillory, he is on display in marketplaces or crossroads to show his guilt for a petty crime. There is generally a card displaying the card and the criminal is on display for a few hours. The pillory is more dangerous than the stocks too, as it leaves the person standing and exposed. He cannot protect himself from flying objects, like rotten fruits/vegetables, stones, etc. While in the pillory, the criminal can also be subjected to further sentencing like shaving of all the hair (humiliation), or regular corporal punishment like flagellation, birching, caning, or permanent mutilation from branding or having an ear cut off.

Some of the torture devices:

Torture was used during the Middle Ages for three reasons:

1) To Force confessions or secret information from those accused

2) To discorage dessent and intellectual freedom

3) To Persuade Jews, Muslims, and other non-believers to accept Christianity


The painting of the cut off hand serves as a warning. It is the penalty for false witness and perjury. The picture above, as well as the illustration, shows an iron tie. It is used for simulaneously bonding the neck, hand, and ankles. The subject had to stay in this postion for a specified period of time.

Originally used as a bondage device in order to transport prisoners between two buildings, this device also caused painful cramping - most often in the abdomen and rectum. The neck was placed inside the hoop, the hands placed through the smaller loops, and the legs stuck between the bars with the feet locked into the bottom stirrups. This placed the prisoner into a painful foetal position with the knees and hands drawn up to the chin. Any kind of significant movement was painfully impossible.
Variations existed which allowed the torturer to slowly compress the distance between the knees and chin. This resulted in broken bones throughout the ribcage and spine.

This is a drawing of an example of water torture. During this type of torture, the victim's nose was pinched and a fluid was forced down his throat. Sometimes holy water was used...sometimes it was vinegar, urine, or a combination of diarrhea and urine were used.


I believe this is a device used for what is called "squassation." The victim's hands are bound and then he is hung from this. Weights are added to his feet, ranging from 50 to 500 lbs. Obviously, the greater the weight, the more bones would be dislocated.

The criminal had to wear these Iron Shoes while walking through town. The attached bells would notify the townsfolk of who was coming and it added disdainfullness and embarassment to the criminal.
An example of a neck violin, which is sort of a portable pillory. It's used as an instrument of humiliation for women and girls. The large hole is designated for the neck and the smaller ones for the hands. In this way the person could be easily directed and pulled along. Some examples were chained together near the 'neck' of the violin (near the farthest hand), and shown below, one long 'standing pillory' of two fiddles joined neck to neck by a solid piece of wood.

Click on the photo to read the explanation of a Double Neck Violin.




The "Boots" consisted of wedges that fitted the legs from ankles to knees. The torturer used a large, heavy hammer to pound the wedges, driving them closer together. At each strike, the inquisitor repeated the question. The wedges lacerated flesh and crushed bone, sometimes so thoroughly that marrow gushed out and the legs were rendered useless.
This is the Chair of Spikes. Majority of the time, it was used more as a warning. When it was used, the victim was placed in the chair and weights were applied, forcing the spikes into his body.
You can click on the photo above to read an explanation about the Iron Maiden.

Below are some photos of a doll display, portraying scenes from the Medieval period and how the tortures/humilations were carried out.


The Rack was a very simple and popular means of extricating confession. The victim was tied across a board by his ankles and wrists. Rollers at either end of the board were turned, pulling the body in opposite directions until dislocation of every joint occurred

Example of the baker's cage being dunked into water.



Example of a "Barrel Pillory." This was a kind of pillory that was used mostly on those disposed to drink. The barrel fit over the entire body, with the head sticking out from the hole in the top. There were two kinds - the enclosed barrel which forced the victim to kneel in his or her own filth, or the open barrel which allowed the victim to roam about town, open to ridicule and scorn.


Humiliation wasn't reserved for adults. School children were subject to strict rules regarding proper behavior. Here a school child is forced to wear donkey ears, publicly humilating him for acting silly in class. The dunce cap was also used in this era, as well as making a child stand in the corner for inappropriate behaviour.
An executioner's mask.
Chastity Belts:
The use of a chasity belt was not to inflict pain, but more of a protective barrier that wives wore while their husbands were gone for extended periods of time. Some belts are made of metal, so they cannot be worn for extended periods of time. There were two forms of the belt - the 'partial pudenda' which surrounded only the vagina with outwardly pointing teeth (sometimes spring-loaded), and the 'full pudenda' (the one pictured), which prevented both front and rear entry.
I believe this is a traditional wedding headpiece.



Click the photo above this one to see the explanation of the Tally Stick. If this was implemented today, I know a bunch of people who would be in trouble financially!!!
Pt. 2 Shame Masks coming soon!

12 comments:

**melissa lee** said...

WOW! That was EXTREMELY interesting, Jessica. YOu are really making me want to visit Germany! Love all the pictures and descriptions. Could you imagine if they implemented those kind of punishments today? I think the world would be a totally different place!

Can't wait to see the next part.

Marie said...

OMG! THis is so freakin awesome! I wanna come visit!! LMAO! I love history and all that stuff is soo freakin cool and interesting! Man u lucky girl! THanks for sharing all those great pics!!!

Brandi said...

I stumbled across your blog from scrapbook.com, I love your work, have such a cute little family!! :)
... I absolutely LOVE your pics and descriptions from the museum, I felt like I was in school again all engaged in what you were saying, what a wonderful experience! Have fun in Germany!

Michelle said...

This was an interesting post. I hate the idea that people came up with such horrible devices. Thanks for sharing. I certainly learned a lot.

Misty said...

I am so glad that you went to Germany instead of Alabama. I am learning so much from your blogs. I look forward to learning all about Germany through you.

Boriquaz said...

I love stuff like this, keep em coming! So jealous still of course!

[...T...] said...

A really interesting post!
I am from Germany and always wanted to see this museum, but never had the chance!
Thank you for sharing!

Rene said...

Hi. I came across your blog when looking for information about the Rothenburg Criminal Museum, and it was such a great post that (I hope you don't mind) I put up a link to it in my own little blog.

http://thesporadicpost.blogspot.com/

Anyway, as a fellow Texan living abroad, I hope you and your family have a great international experience.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...
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