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22 October 2014

Torture devices: the iconic Iron Maiden


As anticipated in my very old post on my trip to Germany in June, while I was staying in Rothenburg ob der Tauber I had the chance to visit the Mittelalterliches Kriminal Museum aka Criminal Museum of the Middle Ages and there I saw her, without even knowing she was kept there, the one and only IRON MAIDEN , which is the most famous torture device in the world!



The most famous iron maiden was that of Nuremberg, first displayed possibly as far back as 1802. The original was lost in the Allied bombing of Nuremberg in 1944. A copy "from the Royal Castle of Nuremberg," crafted for public display, was sold through J. Ichenhauser of London to the Earl of Shrewsbury in 1890 along with other torture devices, and, after being displayed at the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893, was taken on an American tour. This copy was auctioned in the early 1960s and is now on display at the Medieval Crime Museum, Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

Historians have ascertained that Johann Philipp Siebenkees created the history of it as a hoax in 1793. According to Siebenkees' colportage, it was first used on August 14, 1515, to execute a coin forger.

It was built in the 19th century as a probable misinterpretation of a medieval "Schandmantel" ("mantle of shame"), which was made of wood and tin but without spikes.

It was anthropomorphic, probably styled after primitive "Gothic" representations of Mary, the mother of Jesus, with a cast likeness of her on the face. It was about 7 feet (2.1 m) tall and 3 feet (0.91 m) wide, had double doors, and was big enough to contain an adult man. Inside the tomb-sized container it had dozens of sharp spikes.

A crude copy was supposedly found among the palace effects of Uday Hussein in Iraq.

Several 19th-century iron maidens are on display in museums around the world, but it is unlikely that they were ever employed.




Inspiration for the iron maiden may come from the Carthaginian execution of Marcus Atilius Regulus as recorded in Tertullian's "To the Martyrs" (Chapter 4) and Augustine of Hippo's The City of God (I.15), in which the Carthaginians "packed him into a tight wooden box, spiked with sharp nails on all sides so that he could not lean in any direction without being pierced," or by the account of Nabis of Sparta's deadly statue of his wife, the Apega.


British heavy metal band Iron Maiden got their name from the torture device.


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