Amsterdam is a city that stands out for being at the forefront of freedom. It is an oasis within a fairly conservative country. For this reason, many of its visitors long to visit its Red Light District or immerse themselves in one of its famous coffee shopsbut the Dutch capital has other attractions, such as the Museum of Torture.
Establishments such as the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum or the Rembrandt Museum are very famous. Nevertheless, outside the circuits of these great museums there are others less famous, but no less interesting for that.
Some of them are difficult to find in all the cities of the world due to their transgressive nature. For example, there is the Sex Museum, the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum or the Vrolik Museum. Next, we are going to talk about one of these museums in Amsterdam, the Museum of Torture, an exhibition that shows us one of the darkest parts of the human being.
Torture in the Middle Ages, an exemplary spectacle
With the emergence of complex societies, the human being saw the need to establish laws to maintain a certain social order. Those who broke these laws were penalized, and the cruelty of the punishments varied according to the seriousness of the crime.. This still happens today, but with some differences compared to how it was done in the past.
The Middle Ages is a time that is associated with cruelty and it is not surprising, since those who broke the law or were accused of heresy or witchcraft risked suffering terrible physical abuse to extract a confession.
In addition, many of the sentences were carried out in public, through an act that had a sobering function. Look what will happen to you if you commit a crime! It also had an entertainment function, it was a show that broke with the daily routine.
When we think about these forms of bodily abuse today, our hair stands on end. This does not mean that we should not know what these practices were like in the past, and therefore museums have been created that tell us about it in many European cities.
One of them is the one we are going to talk about next, the Amsterdam Torture Museum. Do you dare to undertake a journey to the darkest part of the human being?
What to see in the Amsterdam Torture Museum?
In the Torture Museum in Amsterdam, you can admire the international exhibition called “Penalties and Convictions in the Middle Ages”. In it, you will have the opportunity to see with your own eyes up to 40 instruments created to inflict terrible pain on the human body.
Some of these instruments are the pendulum, the colt, the skullcrusher, the thumbscrews, the Judas cradle or the better known Vile Garrote. Just to give you an idea of the terrible pain that these tools could inflict, we are going to make a brief description of the usefulness of some of them.
How did these instruments work?
For example, the pendulum is a very simple instrument that had the function of dislocating the shoulders of the tortured. The victim was hung by the hands, which had previously been tied behind her back. When she fell, the body’s own weight disarticulated the humeri along with the scapula and clavicle.
Meanwhile, the colt was a kind of stretcher that was connected to a lathe. The feet and hands of the victim were tied to the feet and head of the stretcher and the winch was rolled. With this movement, the limbs were tensed in the opposite direction. The result was their dislocation, or even dismemberment.
In the museum, the instruments are accompanied by old engravings that describe how they worked. As we see, the genius of the human being can be perverted to the point of creating such devices to attack their peers.
Torture should be a museum thing
The Torture Museum is not one of the best museums you can visit in Amsterdam. This is what the critics of those who visit it affirm, but even so, it is advisable to visit it, not because of its museographic quality, but because of the message it wants to convey.
The museum was created in 1988 in order to promote the idea that torture and the death penalty should disappear and that there should only be evidence of these practices in museums.
And it is that torture is not a practice that was only implemented in past times. Recent history has shown that it is still being implemented. What’s more, some of the grotesque instruments described above were updated in the 20th century and came to be used in interrogation rooms.
For example, electric current was incorporated into the cradle of Judas and was used in many of the Hispanic-American dictatorial regimes of the 1970s and 1980s.
The message that this museum wants to transmit is very important, and for this reason all visitors receive information about Amnesty International’s initiatives and the Human Rights Conventions. If you decide to visit Amsterdam, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Museum of Torture and become aware of the worst in the history of mankind.