The Iron Maiden is a torture device widely believed to have been used in Europe during the Middle Ages. This notorious contraption is known by other names, such as the Virgin (a reference to the Virgin Mary), and Jungfer (German for spinster). The Iron Maiden is described as being a human-sized box laden with spikes on the inside. A victim would be forced inside the Iron Maiden and would be impaled by the spikes when the torture device was shut.
Was the Iron Maiden Used in the Middle Ages?
Although the Iron Maiden is commonly associated with the Middle Ages, there is no account of it being used during that period, thus calling into question the claim that it was actually used as a torture device back then. Torture devices similar to the iron maiden, however, have been described in texts written prior to this period. As an example, in Saint Augustine of Hippo’s City of God , there is an account of Marcus Atilius Regulus, a Roman general who was tortured to death by the Carthaginians. In his work, Saint Augustine wrote that Regulus was locked in a box with nails in it. The nails, however, did not pierce the general unless he fell asleep. Therefore, Regulus kept himself awake and finally died of sleep deprivation.
The earliest account that we have of the iron maiden dates to the 18th century and was written by the historian Johann Philipp Siebenkees. In a guide book to the German city of Nuremberg, the historian claimed that a criminal was executed using an iron maiden in 1515. Siebenkees also noted that the spikes inside the device were deliberately made in such a way that they were not long enough to kill him. Therefore, he continued suffering for two days before dying.
Read more: Ancient Origins