Prague … finding pleasure in the Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments

When in Prague, if you have half-an-hour and 110 CZK (2012) to spare (approximately £4/€6/$9), the Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments is not a bad way to spend both.

This little museum tucked away in the middle of a rather garish arcade of tacky souvenir shops by the entrance to Charles Bridge (Old Town side), is far from gory and gruesome (but may be a bit kinky to some). It is in fact a rather fascinating albeit small exhibition of artefacts that at first glance seems rather ordinary and too simplistic to cause any harm. But, taking stock of the Medieval cartoon-like illustrations accompanying each piece, one doesn’t need to speak Czech to understand just how dangerous these pieces actually were.

I think I get the point

The Medieval definition of ‘doing the splits’

Some pieces were surprisingly comical like the masks of shame, put on offenders to emphasise their crimes e.g. gluttony, greed and nagging (of one’s husband), before being paraded through the town for all to ridicule.

I’d be happy to wear this one just for fun. Love those ears

Ridiculed for looking sad

The mask that inspired ‘Kiss’ frontman Gene Simmons

Other items had an ironic beauty about them, like these chastity belts. Apparently, when accompanying their warrior husbands on visits to front-line camps, women of nobility actually chose to wear chastity belts to protect their modesty overnight from sex-starved soldiers.

This one looks more like a handbag

From the shape of that opening, I guess this is the back view

And yes, it wasn’t just women who apparently wore such belts in times gone by (the museum explained that this one was probably designed for pleasure rather than pain)

A fair number of the items on display seemed to be designed solely to curtail the behaviour of wives, usually deemed punishable by their hen-pecked husbands.

The drawing on the left illustrates a ‘Godmother’s Violin’ punishing two wives accused of excessive nagging. (The drawing on the right was just too disturbing to be displayed)

Other items were clearly designed to maximise the infliction of pain, like the Rack, the Iron Maiden (not the rock band but a spike-lined upstanding coffin) and the Gridiron:

The Gridiron may look kinky to some (and no doubt there are basements in Soho and Westminster where these can be found helping their dominatrix owners to earn a nice, steady income from), but in Medieval times once an offender was trusted up within one, a fire was started underneath.

A really fascinating exhibition which considering the subject matter, I rather enjoyed … or should I really be admitting to that? I’ll stop now.

Opened daily between 10am and 10pm, Krizovnicke nam. 194/1 PHA 1, just 30m from Charles Bridge (no dedicated website available).



Carmilla, the main character in Sheridan Le Fanu's 1872 novel of the same name, believed to be based on ancient Hebrew myths and legends where vampires were depicted as sensual yet evil women

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