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.