10 Horrifyingly Cruel Torture Methods Used During The Spanish Inquisition

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 were very elaborate. The victim often 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, but they certainly knew how to get... creative.   

Photo: Metaweb / CC-BY

  • The Judas Cradle Would Literally Rip You A New Butthole

    The Judas Cradle Would Literally Rip You A New Butthole
    Photo: Flominator / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    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

  • They Honed The Process Of Waterboarding Down To A Science 

    They Honed The Process Of Waterboarding Down To A Science 
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    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    “The patient strangled and gasped and suffocated and, at intervals, the toca was withdrawn and he was adjured to tell the truth.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.

  • The Spanish Donkey Would NOT Be A Fun Ride

    The Spanish Donkey Would NOT Be A Fun Ride
    Photo: Wisniowy / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

    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.

  • They Would Leave You Hanging With The Strappado

    They Would Leave You Hanging With The Strappado
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    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. 

  • The Water Cure Would Make You Violently Ill

    The Water Cure Would Make You Violently Ill
    Photo: J. Damhoudere / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Everybody says that drinking lots of water is good for you. Well, remember that there can always be too much of a good thing. Drinking copious amounts of water in a short period of time can lead to a condition known as hyponatremia, or water intoxication. It causes a drastic drop in sodium levels in the blood, causing your cells to swell and leading to inflammation of the brain.

    The water cure was first documented during the Spanish Inquisition. Victims of the water cure were strapped down and had water funneled into their mouths - up to 30 pints in one sitting. The water cure was different from waterboarding in that the victim was actually imbibing all that water instead of having it poured over the face.  

  • You'll Need More Than A Few Advil After The Head Crusher

    The name of this torture device says it all. The victim’s head was placed in a vice. The top cap portion went over the victim’s skull while the victim’s chin was positioned on top of a metal bar.

    To begin the torture, the inquisitor would tighten a screw at the top of the device, slowly crushing the victim's skull. As the skull was compressed, the victim’s teeth were shattered.  In extreme cases, the eyeballs would pop out of the skull, causing certain death.