The Inquisition

One of the places I visited during my recent holiday to Carcassonne was the ‘museum of torture’.  It came highly recommended by a group of New Zealanders who were staying in my hotel.

The museum explained the history of torture in the Middle Ages and highlighted different groups that were subjected to this treatment; witches, heretics, devil worshippers, bad musicians, shrewish women, drunkards and many more.  It graphically displayed the different types of torture and the devices that were used during the medieval times.

I won’t go into all the gory details about the methods of torture or the ways of using the instruments that were displayed in the museum, but, for those of you who are interested, the Medieval Warfare website has a very good page that explains the instruments and puts them in to their historical context.

The devices and methods displayed within the museum include the following; iron chair, burning alive, breaking wheel, gibbet, sawing, hanging, pear of anguish, stocks, flails, thumb screws, shrew’s fiddle.  There was even a chastity belt on display which according to the information provided was to protect ladies from rape whilst they were travelling rather than the more popularly promoted view that husbands enforced wives to wear one so she didn’t stray.

In the Languedoc region of France, where Carcassonne, is situated the biggest group of people to be tortured and sentenced to death were the Albigensians, more commonly known as the Cathars.  They were declared heretics by the Roman Catholic Church which initiated crusades to locate them and then to try them by inquisition.  Those that refused to renounce their faith were publicly burned at the stake or humiliated and tortured in other ways.  In one case, all the followers had their eyes gouged out and their noses and lips cut off.  One of them was left with one eye so that he could guide the others away from what had been their home.

You might have noticed the lack of edged weapons in the choice of torture implements; this is because the Catholic Church prohibited the spilling of blood.  It was also thought that by burning the heretics there would be no body to resurrect in the afterlife.

I will leave you with the thought provoking comment that was placed on the wall near the museum exit:

You have just visited the museum of torture.  Do you think all this belongs in the past; alas such things are still used today in several countries, with more modern and evil refinements.

It is an inevitable result wherever intolerance and fanaticism thrive.

In every human being there is good and evil.  Arrogance spreads evil.  Wherever it is found it must be fought by the good.  You have just seen the consequences of failure.

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4 thoughts on “The Inquisition

  1. This is enough to make anyone want to vomit, Cherry…and I’m not talking about the means or instruments of torture. More often than not such atrocities are done in the name of religion and by those of highest ranking. And who has the guts (sorry) to try to stop it! Interestingly, throughout my youth my greatest fear and nightmare was being raped…worse than any other torture I could imagine. I shudder at how such torture now is a “way of life” for women all over the world.

    You have written this so matter-of-factly, as though we are all detached from this kind of history. But by ending with that bomb-shell quote, you have brought this evil into our own hearts where, if left unchecked, would make us “one of them.”
    July 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGinnie

    Arrogance and ignorance – added up and combined together – bring out the worst in humankind. What amazes me most – is that they’ve actually dedicated a ‘museum’ to ‘honor’ or ‘commemorate’ or ‘remember’ these horrific acts. But then again – without the reminder – people would forget.

    I just can’t imagine….and thank-you for bringing me here. I would have never known anything about this…
    July 8, 2012 | Registered CommenterMarcie

    Look to Africa to see that such torture still continues, also to some South American countries. The difference now is that there are guns to put the victim out of their misery and suffering when the perpetrator has had their “fun”. Museums like this (and the Holocaust Museum) serve a useful purpose, I think, in showing people just how inhuman people can be. They shock people into thinking about their own behaviour, and thinking about what is actually still going on in the world today. Which brings me back to Africa, where anyone who wants to know can read and see what is happening there today. But when you look make sure you have the tissues to hand.
    July 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSheila

    Speechless. I can’t begin to express how today’s post has brought to my awareness such horrific issues. Your closing quote – powerful.
    July 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSue

    every time i visit the holocaust museum in washington, dc, i think about this. thank you for the important reminder.
    July 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterhoney

    One of the details in your post that gave me pause was the list of people who were subject to such treatment. Whatever we might think of their tactics, it’s at least comprehensiible that “devil worshippers” and “heretics” might be singled out. But to include “shrewish women, bad musicians (bad musicians?!) and drunkards” in this list suggests that no one was ensuring the safety or cohesion of a community. They just were settling scores, in the most horrific ways possible.

    There’s a headline in the news today about an Afghan woman who was shot nine times, while the men around shouted “God is great!” Human trafficking is rampant in the States. People away from the Mexico/US border simply don’t understand what the drug cartels are doing to entire communities there. Our methods differ, but the torture continues.
    July 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda

    This reminds me of a very similar museum in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany, which I visited with friends from – New Zealand. So I do know what kind of museaum the one in Carcassone is and it just makes me shudder. And so often done “in the name of God”. Yes, still very much alive today. We don’t even have to go very far.
    July 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarola

    It’s horrific to think that so many of these barbaric practices are still alive and well and in practice today. A thought provoking post indeed.
    July 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarie

    I’m shocked and speechless… Great post and thought provoking quote. Thanks for sharing.
    July 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSil

    An amazing post and to think this still happens today in other countries…would’ve loved to have visited this museum while visiting Carcassonne, but unfortunately the schedule didn’t allow…next time! Thank you for bringing attention to a topic that I would’ve never given any thought to!
    July 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGotham Girl aka Robin

    Isn’t it amazing and awful what people would do to each other . Now and then.
    July 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPetra

    This just breaks my heart. I have been to the Holocaust Museum and I have never forgotten that visit. (And never will.) I think we do need to be reminded of our inhumanity, we need to learn from the past and strive for something much, much better.
    July 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkelly

    I have watched movies and read books that were placed in that time period. The things that were done by the church in the name of God never stops horrifying and confusing me. I cannot wrap my brain around what leads a person to think this is okay no matter how often it’s explained how we can dehumanized someone, distance ourselves from them, go along to protect ourselves or just be so utterly power hungry and arrogant. I feel guilty when I turn on the shower and see a spider was in there and I’ve drowned it. How could you not relate to another persons pain?

    This in the name of God thing appears to be so destructive that anyone using that reasoning should immediately question their thoughts and actions.
    July 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaery Rose

    Yikes! The consequences for failure seems quite high, and painful! My husband can’t do these types of museums. It scares him;)
    July 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPun

  2. It must be quite a special museum to visit, the “highlights” of the Christian Church so to speak. Unfortunately the torture hasn’t stop by the fact that we are no longer in the mediaeval times. The last comment is indeed thought provoking, but I think it’s words of wisdom. I don’ think some people are evil and others not. Evil exists in all as does good. It’s circumstances, education and conscious development that makes the difference. I believe.

  3. I don’ think some people are evil and others not. Evil exists in all as does good. It’s circumstances, education and conscious development that makes the difference. I believe.

    I agree, everything has an opposite – for example good-evil, female-male, positive-negative, inner-outer and life-death

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