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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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).
Trying not to find pleasure inside the Museum of Torture, and trying not to laugh inside the Museum of Vampires. Alternative tourist activities in San Marino
Why Prague should really be called Pra-haha-gue