Everything That Happens To The Human Body On A Stretching Rack
The Middle Ages were a time filled with pain and misery: poverty, disease, and torture were just some of the trials that faced people during the medieval period. Numerous forms of torture were popular in the Middle Ages, but none so feared as being stretched on a rack. In this form of torture, a person would be placed on the rack with their limbs tied up by a rope, then stretched until their joints often dislocated. The rack caused untold suffering throughout Europe, and many people, including those from the ranks of the Knights Templar, were maimed using this device.
In the list below, we'll examine how and why the stretching rack was used as well as what ultimately happened to some of its victims.
Limbs Would Be Stretched Until They DislocatedPhoto: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
Once a victim was tied to the rack, rollers would be turned to tighten the ropes tied to each limb, pulling them further and further apart. If the victim didn't confess to the crime or give the information needed during the interrogation, their limbs would eventually dislocate, with bones popping out of their joints. The dislocating joints would produce loud cracking noises and it would be nearly impossible for the individual to move after that point.
Limbs Could Be Torn From The BodyPhoto: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
While it was a common practice to dislocate the limbs of someone on the rack, things could get much, much worse for those being tortured. Typically, rack torture was a drawn-out affair. Eventually, it could get so bad that limbs would be completely torn from their sockets. In other words, arms and legs would be completely ripped off of the victim's torso. At that point, it would be unlikely to get the necessary information from the person and they would be left to bleed out.
It Was Possible That The Person's Nails Would Be Torn OutPhoto: Lokilech / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
In the majority of cases, racks were used when torturers wanted to get something from the victim. It could be information, a confession, or conversion to Catholicism as it was used during the Spanish Inquisition, but torturers would do everything they could to achieve their goals. That could include implementing additional forms of torture to what was already an excruciating experience. Such additions included tearing out the victim's fingernails and toenails while they were being stretched on the rack among others.
A Person Could Be Burned Or Whipped On A Rack In RussiaPhoto: Wellcome Images / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 4.0
Russia had its own version of the rack where the victims were hanged by their shackled hands. The suspension allowed for the person to be stretched out, while also being whipped and having lit torches and candles applied to different parts of their body.
This type of rack was also used sometimes during the Inquisition. However, there was an excruciating addition of violently dropping and raising the victim until their joints shattered.
Spikes Would Dig Into The SpinePhoto: Diether / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
The rack was essentially a system of ropes and pulleys, but modifications to the rack were made over the centuries throughout Europe. During the medieval period in France, spikes were added to the racks to increase the victim's suffering. As the person was racked, the spikes would dig into their back and spinal cord while the limbs were also stretched out.
If Someone Survived The Rack, They Would Be Maimed For LifePhoto: Flominator / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
Even if a victim's joints weren't dislocated or torn from their sockets, the individual would be maimed and sometimes paralyzed for the rest of their life. The reason being was that even if they weren't fully stretched out on the rack, the person's muscles and nerves would have been torn apart, permanently disabling them.