Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Catholic Torture: Carcassone's Inspiring History

Drawing of woman being
tortured on "Judas Cradle."
 Image by Oocities.org
Carcassone, France. Photo by France This Way Castles
 On a recent tour of southern France, i brought a student group to Carcassone, the castle town said to have inspired Sleeping Beauty, and where Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves was filmed.   

Judas Cradle torture device, in
The Museum of Torture, Carcassone, France
When i do tours like this, i am supposed to give commentary and introductions on the various sites i bring clients too. Writing this material is my responsibility, but the agency often gives suggestions for content. For Carcassone, they recommended that i explain the Albigensian Crusade, as this town was one of the main sites of this tragedy. Also this, i think, will inspire another, more detailed blogpost soon. What you need to know for now though, is that the Albigensian Crusade was a Holy War declared by the Pope against the Albigensians (later called the Cathars) and that then paved the way for The Holy Inquisition. That is, it is a story of the Pope mustering military might and employing shocking torture devices against fellow Christians, for the purpose of avoiding what he saw as subversive philosophies among that rival sect. 
Confession Chair/ Interrogation Chair,
Museum of Torture, Carcassone, France

 The pictures and pieces were truly disturbing as they make clear the profound and vast amount of depraved thought that went into creating physical pain on other human beings, specifically other Christians. The Judas Cradle was meant to puncture the victim's anus, vagina or scrotum, as the interrogator (a Catholic monk commissioned either by the Pope or someone under the Pope's hierarchy) would then adjust the pressure by attaching weights to the hands and feet of the victim. 

The Confession Chair, used during Crusader and Inquisition interrogations against the heretical Cathar Christians, was covered in iron spikes to torture the victim during their questioning. 

The Iron Maiden would close around this wrong-believing Christian and slowly drain their blood.

The Wheel was designed just as a place to hold the victim, while the priest systematically broke each bone in their body, and then left them there hanging, waiting for their not-soon-enough death.

The Iron Maiden,
Torture Museum,
Carcassone, France
Drawing of The Wheel,
Torture Museum,
Carcassone, France

Lethal torture device, Torture Museum,
Carcassone, France

And this device was designed to simply hold the victim immobile until cramps and lack of blood flow drove them crazy until death. 

And as the French re-taught with the guillotine during their revolution, once you start using torture and violence, you can expect it to both continue and to start consuming victims entirely unrelated to their original purpose. 

Drawings of various forms of Scold's Bridles,
Torture Museum, Carcassone, France

In southern France, Papal (and other) powers employed devices such as the Scold's Bridle, a steal mask in various forms forced over the face and mouth of women for the crime of talking too much, especially in church or in the presence of a man.

The Saw was used to literally saw people in half for the crime of homosexuality.

One form of Scold's Bridle,
Torture Museum,
Carcassone, France

While gathering the group to leave Carcassone, several students who had visited The Torture Museum were discussing its truly stomach-turning quality. A 14year old girl among them, that had not gone to this museum, asked if it could really be as bad as Al Qaeda torture devices used today. In fact, some quick research revealed to me that the American military has made discoveries indicating Al Qaeda may employ torture devices such as blowtorching the skin, removal of eyes, meat cleavers, whips and others. 

Drawing of The Saw,
Torture Museum,
Carcassone, France
At the time i didn't say much in response, as these kids were on vacation, not at school. But part of the reason for this blog is to keep things in perspective. We could compare this girl's fear of Al Qaeda tortures militarily to what goes on in Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay. But the far more relevant comparison for me is to remember that there's nobody torturing today that's doing much that wasn't done by the Pope (literally all of those Al Qaeda examples were employed by Papal forces in southern France 700years ago, to the best of their technological ability at that time) a very long time ago. Everything comes from somewhere, and i encourage us all to hesitate before casting the first stone.

"Those who ignore history are bound to repeat it," so i've heard, and this one chapter i sure hope we can avoid coming back round to. 

All photos by the author unless otherwise noted.


  1. wow! Thank you for your prospective,amore!

  2. only religion is capable of this much cruelty

    1. Well let's not be rash, it's not JUST religion - it's just anything that can convince us to do something that we obviously believe is wrong, anything that convinces us to not listen to our own inner voice and morality. Politics, religion, racism or classism, or anything else that requires faith in outside entities, any of these things i think (and can show evidence that) can cause such cruelty.

  3. Wow very nice post its all information is really helpful for all users.

    Ayahuasca Reviews


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...