The Judas Cradle: A Medieval Torture Device

The Cradle of Judas
The Cradle of Judas – Medieval torment practices


Humanity’s dichotomy has always fascinated behavioural experts and historians alike. As a species, we are capable of incredible acts of bravery, altruism and kindness. And yet, we are just as capable of committing unspeakable atrocities to and on one another. Not just killing, but revelling in the pain that we inflict on others. Torturing them for hours, sometimes days or even years.

There is no other period in history that truly encapsulates the acts of unimaginable evil that we are capable of inflicting on our fellow humans than the Middle Ages. A four-hundred-year period where the darkest of humanity’s soul came to light. A period of fabulous accomplishments and discoveries and tremendous feats of engineering that were put to the most horrific uses.

Hundreds of medieval torture devices were conceived and created with the sole purpose of inflicting pain. Today, we are going to review one of those devices known as the Judas Cradle.

Judas Torture Chair
Judas Torture Chair -Medieval torment practices

The Judas Chair

The Judas Chair was also known as the Judas Cradle or the ‘guided chair’. An Italian invention purportedly used by the Spanish Inquisition that was particularly cruel. The Judas Chair was a wooden or metal pyramid-shaped ‘seat’ on which the victim was placed on top. Using ropes, the victim would be lowered into the device, which was placed into the victim’s anus, vagina or scrotum, stretching them grotesquely as intense pressure was applied to their orifices, resulting in permanent damage. Weights would also be added to facilitate the effect, often resulting in death by impalement. Other times, oil was put on the device, which made it more slippery and impossible to avoid if trying to twist and turn.

The Judas Cradle - Medieval Torture Device
The Judas Cradle – Medieval Torture Device

If the victim refused to speak, the torturer would shake the victim, raising and dropping them on The Judas Cradle several times, moving their legs, and forcing different ways for the tip of the pyramid to project. Eventually, the victim would no longer be able to hold the required position, and the tip of the Pyramid from The Judas Chair would start to impale his anus or vagina. The victim’s hands and feet would be bound to prevent shifting weight to another location.

Judas Chair or cradle at the torture museum in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
Judas Chair or cradle at the torture museum in Freiburg in Breisgau, Germany

More often than not, the individual would not bleed very heavily as the Wooden or Metal Pyramid plugged the wound of the victim until the person was removed. Oftentimes, the victim would succumb to rips in the muscle tissue that would later become infected. These infections could be deadly, since the pyramid was never washed, meaning blood, tissue, germs, and other bodily fluids from the previous occupant would be passed on to the next victim.

The Judas Cradle was a particularly horrifying, yet simple mechanical device that was extremely effective for torturing individuals.

The Spanish Horse Torture Device

A similar medieval torture device called the Spanish Horse, or The Spanish Donkey, achieved a similar effect. The prisoners were straddled and bounded in the triangular wooden ‘horse’ and forced to place their full body weight on their crotch, which rested on the point of the angle.

Spanish Horse- Medieval Torture Device
Spanish Horse- Medieval Torture Device

The Spanish Horse was used mainly to torture women while they ‘rode’ the horse naked. Sometimes the ‘donkey’ was covered in spikes. The idea was to ‘cut a woman in half’ through her genitals.

It is said that a similar torture device was used on Confederates during the American Civil War. It was used both on men and women until they passed out from the pain, often leaving them cripple afterwards.

The Spanish Horse is still widely used within sub-cultures of the BDSM community that enjoy sadomasochism.

Spanish Horse - Medieval Torture Device
Spanish Horse – Medieval Torture Device

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