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First Impression
A. Singel 449, Amsterdam
B. Permanent
C. No, it had just a small box office and it looked kind of amateurish. It seemed very small with just a few rooms, although the surroundings in the first room impressed me, you step into a different darker and gloomier world.
D. The area is very dark and has been given a creepy tone. The building was an ordinary old terraced house, but it was made to look like a dark dungeon with torches and other characterizations.
E. By posters sticking on walls through the whole town (photo on page 11)
F. Yes, there’s a chilling sculpture in front of the building, which shows an explanation of the museum.
Main questions
1. It’s a museum that shows the horrible attributes that were used to persecute heretics, witches and other people in medieval times, and explains all these shameful or corporal punishments.
2. Educational. The purpose of this exhibition is to inform people about the way ‘wrong’ people were dealt with by people of (usually) a higher class. I don’t think it’s meant to be some funny thing that people can laugh at. People who will enter the museum must be somehow fascinated by torture devices, because otherwise they’ll think it’s horrible.
3. It’s not meant for children, because some instruments are extremely cruel, and this is not something that a child should see, even though he won’t really understand it. The exhibition is meant for adults who want to know more about the ways people treated in these days. By the frightening tools you understand that it’s not meant for under aged people, and the explanations are sometimes too complex for children to understand. All the rooms were only slightly lightened, but gave enough light to see everything and to create a creepy ambiance. There were always more instruments in one room, there was not one instrument that was given the most attention, even though the inquisition chair was in a striking spot. The map and further explanation is on page 6.
4. Explanation and map on page 7.
Instruments and ways of torture
Pillories: wooden instrument on a post with holes for the neck and hands, offenders were locked in and so exposed to other people, it was an ordinary element of the streetscene
Neck violin: A burden around your neck used to lock two quarrelling women together until they made up.
Spanish Horse: large sharp wedge shaped device on which the person was forced to sit, one leg on each side, the weight of the victim would cause great pain and discomfort.
Whips: legal, instrument with a handle and a flexible lash.
Executioner: Also called ‘master of high works’, a person who punishes someone.
Flute of shame: Made for bad musician, the fingers would get suck and the screws were tightened.
Heretic fork: A fork with sharp points pressed against the hollow of somebody’s chin.
Garrotte: Used for witches, strangulation with rope or an iron ring.
The rack: Victims would be tied to the rack and stretched until all of their joints and limbs were dislocated.
Thumb screws: Commonest and cheapest way of torture, used for quick confession. A device which slowly tightened on the victim’s thumbs or toes by turning the screw with the aim to crush them.
Ladders: People were tightened to ladders and tortured with chords.
Masts: Mouths who insulted the royal house or uttered blasphemous words were stopped with iron gags.
Chastity belt: Medieval women wore chastity belts when their men were away on crusades
The inquisition chair: People believed that the whole body was subjected to the devil, so the whole body would be tortured.
The pear: One of the most painful, and often resulted in death. The pear was forced into an opening such as the mouth and slowly expanded by twisting the handle.
Gallows: They were used in every town (only for men), it was a very dishonourable punishment.
Iron Maiden: Device of torture consisting of a hollow iron frame shaped like the human body and lined with spikes to impale the victim.
Wheel: It outstretched the hands and feet and would eventually crush the victim’s limbs.
Hanging cages: they hung from city towers, and it were mostly Jews who were hung there.
The scavenger’s daughter: The person was squeezed into a submissive posture and the victim would be crazed by muscle cramps.
Stake fire: Most common method for executing women during the Middle Ages. The accused person would be tied to a stake and set one fire.
Drum: Revolving the accused on sharp points or through flames.
Grill: The person would be tied down to a red hot grid and sprinkled with cool water.
Sling: Clergymen were not allowed to shed blood, so they would use this method which would let the body disjoint itself.
Skull cracker: Enabled the ‘demoniac mind’ of the victim to be excruciated.
Judas cradle: Pyramid-shaped seat on which the victim was placed, with the point inserted into their butt.
The claw: This served to brand the sinner for life, claw which was heated.
Drowning: It wasn’t a matter of torture, but it was a magic manner of providing proof. It the person would float it would be a sign of guilt.
Quartering: Anyone who was personally of the King’s blood had to pay for his crime, he would be torn apart by 4 horses.
Decapitation by sword or axe: It was seen as honourable, and only noblemen would be killed by this.
The saw: At public executions, the judges would try to make sure that the stock would not exceed the intended effect to keep the appearance of clemency
Guillotine: Instrument of execution that consist of a weighted blade between two poles, used for beheading people. Every citizen had the right for a painless decapitation.
About a week ago, I went to a medieval exhibition in Amsterdam in the Torture Museum. The exhibition had collected a lot of torture attributes that were used a long time ago to extract confessions from people. When I arrived, there was grumpy man that gave me my ticket to get in, which was only €5,- . I appeared to be the only one in the whole museum. Of course this isn’t a museum that many people want to go to, but at least it’s not as regular as all the other museums which all leave the same impression to me. The first thing I saw when I got in was a pillory, an instrument that everyone has seen once, and is only used to make somebody look like a fool and not to torture him or her. When I was walking through the museum, which consisted of about 7 different rooms which were all connected to each other, I saw some instruments I had never seen before. A lot of them were very cruel and inhuman and insulted the victim on an extremely harsh way. There were gruesome attributes which led the person bleed to death, having no chance to survive. There were attributes that didn’t even want the unfortunate to stay alive, because it was so painful. The pain was created by spikes, blades, straps or weights and the pressure could be extremely hurtful. The main goal of the instruments was to let the person confess something. Sometimes the instrument was just shown to the person, and then it would already confess. Of course we (the visitors) were only allowed to watch, and not try it. To every instrument (some of them probably just replicas) there was a woodcut drawing of the procedure. This old illustration showed the proper use and care of the device. There were explanations in 6 different languages, which gives many people the opportunity to enter the museum and even understand it. With every instrument they also gave the history of it and a lot of data. Famous people who had died by the instrument were mentioned and to every instrument they gave an example. The information they gave was very clear. Everywhere in the museum you heard the same scary music. In my opinion the exhibition was done very well, and gave me a good impression. It’s just a few euros and you’ll see a great collection of torture devices that were used throughout Europe. If you really want to know what is was like in the medieval times, this museum is sure worth the visit!


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