Medieval Criminal and Torture Museum

Holiday Travel Guide
Museum of Torture showing interior views

This intriguing museum highlights the callousness of humans via displays of authentic and gruesome torture devices from around the world.

Glimpse into the ghastly criminal activities and torture methods of the Middle Ages at the Museum of Torture (Museo della Tortura). Discover a collection of around 100 machines and tools, complete with life-like human models, which were once used to inflict pain and death on felons. The Museum of Torture highlights the atrocities of human nature while presenting a compassionate insight into the differing beliefs of a bygone era and modern democracy.

The museum holds valuable artifacts from the 16th to 18th centuries in addition to recreations of medieval-era apparatus. These artifacts take you on a journey through the history of the mercilessness of humankind. With many of the exhibits you’ll find information signs and diagrams that explain how the devices were used. Note how some were simple and others both imaginative and complex.

Gaze in amazement at the Heretic’s Fork, popularized during the time of the Spanish Inquisition. The two forks, facing in opposite directions, would cause simultaneous and long-lasting suffering to the victims chin and chest. Shiver at the thought of being locked inside the Iron Maiden, an iron sarcophagus with spikes fixed to its interior.

Other terrifying objects include the Mask of Infamy, used to humiliate wrongdoers. Torturers would attach the mask to the victims face and then chain them to a post for members of the general public to abuse them. Severe pain came from the Cradle, a pointed pyramid over which victims were lowered until sensitive areas of the body were penetrated.

The museum has displays of more common torture methods, too. Among these are the garrote and guillotine.

The Museum of Torture sits at the southern entrance to San Gimignano’s walled old town. It’s a short walk from popular town attractions such as Piazza della Cisterna and Piazza Duomo.

You can visit the museum daily in summer and on weekends in winter. The museum’s admission fee includes entry to the Museum of the Death Penalty (Museo della Pena di Morte).

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La Cisterna
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