Severe medieval justice knew many ways to punish a citizen for a crime: impressive fines, sophisticated torture and many cruel varieties of the death penalty. In the latter case, the type of punishment often depended on the personality and position of the convict. We tell you why in the Middle Ages they were put to the pillory and why the poor were hanged, and the rich and noble were beheaded.
Shameful signs: stone, cap, board
To expose the offender to the ridicule of the crowd – this was one of the most humiliating medieval punishments. Various means were used: for example, the name, address and description of the crime were put on the pillory, and the perpetrator of the incident was forced to put on a huge ridiculous cap. In Germany, unfaithful spouses, blasphemers, and swindlers were required to wear a weighty stone of shame around their necks. ru/sized/f550x700/20/yc/20yc0xju5q00kwow8844ow0o4.jpg” media=”(max-width: 549px)”>
A popular punishment in medieval Europe was the pillory – it was most often sentenced for violations of public order: drunkenness, fights, fierce arguments.
Another popular punishment in medieval Europe was the pillory – it was most often sentenced for violations of public order: drunkenness, fights, fierce arguments. The pillar was installed in the center of the settlement, and the head and hands of the convict were fixed with the help of two boards, leaving him to the amusement of the crowd for several hours, or even days. Everyone could insult the unfortunate person, spit at him, throw rotten vegetables at him, or stone him to death. In the UK, the pillory was abolished only under Queen Victoria, in 1837
One of the most common crimes in the Middle Ages was theft, which was most often punishable by fines, especially if it was petty theft. Sometimes the fine was equal to the value of the stolen thing, and sometimes it was completely disproportionate to the crime – in England, a thief who stole money had to pay an amount 80 times the amount of the stolen thing. Often the punishment was even more severe: thieves were publicly flogged with whips, their hand was cut off, and sometimes even sentenced to death. In Prussia, citizens were fined for violating the rules of cleanliness, fire safety and grazing. A third of the fine money went to the court, the rest was spent on public needs – for example, they bought fire hoses.
Those accused of treason were deprived of their lives in the most merciless and painful way – they were quartered, burned at the stake …
Treason was considered perhaps the most terrible crime in the Middle Ages: this is how they qualified a conspiracy against the king, organizing a rebellion or conspiracy with foreigners. Those accused of treason were deprived of their lives in the most merciless and painful way – quartered, burned at the stake in the city square, or skinned alive.
For general intimidation, executions were carried out in public, and it was important for persons of noble birth to save face. If the poor and hardened criminals were expected to be hanged, and the witches were to be burned, then the aristocrats were humanely beheaded with a sword or an ax. Such a death was considered easy, because it was quick, almost instantaneous, and for quality work, the condemned man himself or his relatives paid the executioner in gold. And only the invention of the guillotine equalized the rights of commoners and kings.
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