The Spanish Inquisition was carried out under the order of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain in 1478. The purpose of the Inquisition was to squash any opposing religious factions (first Judaism and later Islam) and to establish the complete dominance of Catholicism. Jews were cast out (over 160,000) and converts were heavily scrutinized and accused of practicing their former faiths in secret.
People who were deemed heretics during the Spanish Inquisition were held as prisoners in dark and poorly ventilated dungeons during tribunals throughout the country. Inquisitors brutally tortured these inmates, both physically and mentally, to extract a confession.
Spanish Inquisition torture methods were disturbing and some of the tools, very elaborate. Often times, the victim died during the process. Inmates convicted of serious charges of heresy had a public execution after an auto-de-fé (a public confession). Say what you will about the Inquisitors, they certainly knew how to get... creative.
The Judas cradle was a profoundly gruesome device. A naked victim was forced to sit on top of sharp-pointed pyramid seat. The pointy end penetrated the anus, vagina or scrotum of the victim. Oh, it gets worse. The Inquisitors would then pull ropes attached to the victim’s limbs to slowly force the point deeper into the person’s orifice.
If this was kept up for several hours, the victim would end up impaled by the device.
Spanish Inquisitors called waterboarding “tormente de toca.” The “toca” referred to the piece of cloth that covered the victim’s face. The victim would be tied down on an inclined board and water would be poured over the cloth. This would make the suspected heretic feel as though they were drowning.
“The patient strangled and gasped and suffocated and, at intervals, the toca was withdrawn and he was adjured to tell the truth. The severity of the infliction was measured by the number of jars [of water] consumed, sometimes reaching to six or eight,” Henry Charles Lea wrote in A History of the Inquisition of Spain.
For the Spanish, waterboarding was basically dubbed, "oh, not so bad." Historian Ed Peters told NPR that waterboarding was considered as commonplace as a modern cross-examination and that Inquisitors were "professionals" at this method.
This headless, gut-wrenching donkey was the worst ride in town. Deceptively innocent in appearance, the device was used throughout the Inquisition as a means of torture. Victims would be forced to sit on a wooden wedge, sometimes covered in spikes, with their feet left dangling on either side of the “saddle.” Sometimes, weights would be added to the victim’s feet, causing open wounds, blood loss, and after a long period of time, death.
The strappado was a very popular torture method during the Inquisition, primarily because it was so easy to do. It involved tying a person’s hands behind his or her back and suspending the person's full weight by the wrists using a pulley system.
Oftentimes, weights were added to the victim's feet to increase the level of pain and to guarantee dislocation of the extremities.