Iron Maiden

From Academic Kids

Missing image
The infamous Iron Maiden of Nuremberg
For information about the heavy metal band, see Iron Maiden (band)

The Iron Maiden was a torture and execution device once used in Nuremberg, Germany. The first person executed by it was a coin forger, on August 14, 1515. There was only one Iron Maiden ever created and used in medieval times.



The Iron Maiden of Nuremberg was anthropomorphic. It was most likely styled after the Madonna, with a carved likeness of her on the face. The Maiden was about 7 feet tall and 3 feet wide, had double doors, and was big enough to contain a full grown man. The condemned prisoner had to pass through seven rooms with seven doors before his scheduled execution. At the end of a long corridor he found himself looking into the face of an iron wardrobe that vaguely resembled a female form. On the outside, the Maiden appeared harmless and unthreatening, yet inside were hidden spikes of iron that were not designed to kill quickly, only to torture slowly. The point of this deadly object was to impale the victim and inflict major pain and punishment.

Features of the Iron Maiden

Defined as both a torture and a death device, the Iron Maiden had four primary features.


The first was the fact that inside the tomb-sized container, the Iron Maiden was fitted with dozens of sharp, rusty spikes. They were designed so that when the doors were shut, the spikes skewered the victim, missing vital organs and permitting the victim to remain alive and upright.

Confined space

Secondly, the condemned man was kept in an extremely confined space to maximize his level of suffering.


The third aspect of the torture device was that the iron doors of the Maiden could be opened and closed one at a time, without letting the victim get away. This was always helpful when checking on the injured party to be sure that he was sufficiently suffering.


The fourth characteristic concerned the thickness of the doors of the Maiden. They were specially designed to ensure that the screams of the victim could not be heard unless one or both of the doors were open.


The doors of the Maiden were shut slowly, so that the very sharp points penetrated a mans arms, and his legs in several places, along with his belly and chest, bladder, eyes, shoulders, and his buttocks, but not enough to kill him; and so he remained making great cry and lament for two days, after which he died. Although this has not been proven, historical experts have theorized that the spikes on the inside of the doors were probably moveable. They were thought to have been able to be repositioned and/or relocated depending on the individual requirements of the persons crime. Also, the overall result would be more or less lethal and mutilating depending upon where the spikes were currently located.


In the past there have been many misconceptions about the Iron Maiden of Nuremberg, the most common one being the impression that there was more than one Maiden constructed. This is false; there was only one Iron Maiden. It was found in Nuremberg Castle and was a popular execution method during the 1600s, becoming less used in the 18th century as torture methods slowly became less fashionable. The exact history of this torture device is not 100% clear because the Iron Maiden of Nuremberg was destroyed in the air raids of 1944 near Nuremberg, Germany. In recent times, replicas of the Iron Maiden have been manufactured; one example was found during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, in the palace of Uday Hussein, the son of Saddam Jungfrau fr:Vierge de fer ja:鉄の処女 pl:Żelazna dziewica ru:Железная дева


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