She’s a Witch!!: Cruel Punishments in the Middle Ages

She’s a Witch! a Witch! may we burn her??

Not your typical opening sentence I grant you but this may have been a regular phrase spoken in the Middle Ages. Burn her? bit severe don’t you think? Yet the Middle Ages was a time of incredibly harsh prosecutions. You didn’t have to be a witch to be prosecuted, many people were penalized for many different reasons. Here we will have a look at the crafty ways a person would have been punished. Note: Some are not for the faint hearted!

Crime & Punishment in the Middle Ages

Throughout the medieval period it was believed that the only way to keep order was to make sure that the people were scared of the punishments given for crimes committed. For this reason all crimes from stealing to murder had harsh punishments.

Although there were gaols, they were generally used to hold a prisoner awaiting trial rather than as a means of punishment. Fines, shaming (being placed in stocks), mutilation (cutting off a part of the body) or death were the most common forms of punishment.

There was no police force in the Medieval period so law-enforcement was in the hands of the community.

It should be said that even for selling faulty produce during this time had its consequences!

And what else can you burn apart from witches?

more witches



Stocks were wooden blocks with a hole for the head and the hands. They were used for smaller punishments like stealing. Most peasants were the thieves because they didn’t have enough money to but their own things. The offender was locked in the stock and put on public display just to humiliate them in front of the whole village. Occasionally an enemy of the person locked in the stocks would come by and cut off a hand and there was nothing the victim could do because they could hardy move in the stocks. Eventually if they had their hand cut off they would die from loss of blood.

Pulled apart

There is no proper name for this punishment but i think you can understand what it is just from that title. This punishment was used for murderers and large crimes like that. The offender would me strapped to horses (one arm or leg to one horse) and then on command the horses would start running and that would rip the offenders arms and legs off. The person would die quickly and painfully through blood and limb loss.


In medieval times a hanging was very common. It was used for crimes that were very common such as attempted murder or murder. Hanging is still a type of punishment today but DEFINITELY not as common as in the medieval times. Now death penalties are only rarely done. There is a trap door under the hanging spot that the person that did the hanging takes the victim once he or possibly even she is dead.

Burnt at the Stake

Medieval people believed in evil sorcerers such as witches who were believed to be evil and dangerous. Of course there really isn’t such thing as witches (yet…) but if someone was believed to be a witch they would immediately be sentenced to be burnt at the stake. The victim was tied to the stake and then burnt alive in front of the whole village and kingdom.


If the king liked someone enough and they did a crime they wouldn’t have to have a painful punishment. Instead they were banished from the kingdom and they were never allowed to come back. The person who was banished thought it was a bad punishment because they could never see their king again but that isn’t so bad compared to other punishments.
the_stake.jpg–Stake Stocks.jpg—Stocks—Stocks1.jpg

Have a look at these links for more information on torture techniques. I recommend “The Boot”

Information about Medieval Torture and Punishment

Instruments of Torture
Medieval Inquisition Torture
Execution Methods
Torture Devices
Hung, Drawn and Quartered
Burned at the Stake
Death by Quartering
Stretched on the Rack
Scavenger’s Daughter
Scold’s Bridle
The Boot


Ducking Stool
Women Stretched on the Rack
Death by Hanging
Balls Torture
Catherine Wheel
The Stocks
Water Torture

Information about Medieval Torture and Punishment

The King’s Court (Trial by Ordeal)

Serious crimes were heard by the King’s court. The accused had to face trial by ordeal to decide whether they were guilty or not guilty.

Ordeal by Fire

The accused had to pick up a red hot iron bar and hold it while they walked three or four paces. Their hand was then bandaged. After three days they had to return to the court where the bandages were removed. If the wound was beginning to heal they were innocent but if the wound showed no sign of healing then they were pronounced Guilty.

Ordeal by Water

The accused had their hands and feet tied together. They were then thrown into water. If they floated they were guilty but if they sank they were innocent.

Ordeal by Combat

Noblemen would fight (usually to the death) in combat with their accuser. The winner of the battle would be considered to be in the right.

After 1215 Trial by Ordeal was replaced by Trial by Jury

Wouldn’t be a show trial without some humour! Take a peek!

For all things medievally(not a real word!) check out my other blogs in the 1st Year section “Middle Ages”


2 thoughts on “She’s a Witch!!: Cruel Punishments in the Middle Ages

  1. Even they were be a witch,from their history why we have a doctors now, even its in scientifical explanations they exist , why they exist ? Others tells that it’s a legendary story but still they exist until the age of mellinial,how come others not believe on to them but some do believe on it. It’s our choices the prove this thing in our own self . And I think they don’t need to be burn , I believe it’s no doctors now if they not in our cevilize before . It means they entered , but some always find a scientifical proven. The world is beautiful, sorroundings is in we’re we at all now, it’s many things we like to have an answer ! But also we think in a right time. But I think it’s always have an answer in science bcuz of their studies .”science is systematize body of knowledge base from the fact, truth,observations, and principle .thats what only I remembered . In witching ,,, we live in early aged before and we try to create medicine for curing, but aside from it bcuz of low of justice we also create our own weapon.


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