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In Medieval-Castles.org, we are proud to have launched our new site, The Medieval Times which contains more up-to-date information about the Middle Ages. It contains information about the Crusades, medieval warfare, medieval life, the most important castles and much more.
When a victim refused to reveal sensitive information, he or she would be subject to the thumbscrew. The victim's hands were placed in the device (see below) and the torturer would crush the victim's fingers slowly.
Another common application of the thumbscrew was to crush a victim's toes. A (bigger) variant of this torture was used to crush knees, arms and even heads.
This torture was sometimes used in the West, for it did not damage the skin nor kill the victim.
The victim's feet were creatively fixed to the ground. Sometimes with ropes, sometimes with nails and sometimes they were not fixed at all. The coffin was placed vertically on top of a fire where it was left for many hours until the brass turned "red hot".
According to some historians including Herodotus, the Heat Torture was the most common torture in Greece. As years passed, the Brazen Bull became more painful and amusing for those outside. At one point, the most sophisticated device had a complex set of tubes so the victim's screams could be heard as an "infuriated ox". Apparently, this amused certain rulers such as the Roman Emperor Hadrian who, according to legend, burnt entire families with the device.
This is another picture of the same castle.
Image of a chappel in Tuscany, Italy.
Another picture of the same chappel.
I thank David Bellos for submitting these great images.
Copyright David Bellos, 2006.
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Those who were confined in an underground dungeon, usually stayed there for their whole lifetime. Whilst the space in the high tower was limited and prisoners in a tower would be either executed or set free.
Castles, having been built so resistant, were frequently turned into prisons. Both the French Bastille and the English Tower of London served for that purpose over the years.
Dungeons were frequently host to many torture devices in which inmates would be either killed or heavily tortured. This was especially frequent after the XII century and even more during the inquisition.
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In the year 1393, the castle was built by the Ottoman emperor Bayesid. His main intention in building it was to besiege Constantinople and cut off its supplies coming from the Black Sea.
Years later, another castle was built in the other side of the strait called the "Roumeli Hissar" the intention of the castles was mainly to guard that very important spot known as the Bosporus.
The Bosporus is a strait which separates the Turkish part of Europe with Asia. This strait connects the sea of Marmara with the Black Sea which has made this strait an strategic position ever since the Greek Times.
The Bosporus is 30 kilometers long with a width varying from 750 meters in it's narrowest spot - to as much as 3,5000 in the Northern part of the strait.
The name Bosporus comes from Greek Mythology in which Zeus turned lo into an ox for her protection. Additionally, according to another Greek myth, the Bosporus crushed any ship attempting to pass through until the Hero Jason finally tricked it whereupon the rocks became fixed and Greece's passage to the Black Sea opened.
The Bosporus had two castles protecting it during the Middle Ages - each on one side. This was so both could attack an incoming ship and in case of a siege, one could aid the other. The first castle built by the Ottoman empire to lay siege to Constantinople was the Anadoluhisari Castle which was built in the year 1393. Almost a century later, its counterpart built in the other side of the strait was the Roumeli Hissar.
However, it wasn't until the year 1095 when the pope Urban II launched a full-scale attack against the Muslims. His belief was that no Muslim could ever possess the center of the world, as featured in most medieval maps. Henceforth, he offered all loyal warriors who fought for Jerusalem a full redemption of their sins. This, of course, caused much enthusiasm in Europe which led more than 100,000 crusaders to fight for what they believed in - the Holy Land.
Urban II planned the departure of the First Crusade for August 15, 1096. However, without his consent, an army led by Peter the Hermit marched toward Jerusalem as an attempt to be the first Crusader army to reach the Holy City.
Peter's army was undisciplined and faced many problems. The most remarkable was its lack of food and water which was often scarce in the area. Afterward, his army marched to the Danube in which he hoped to have support from the local villages by providing food and water for his army - or at least selling it at a reasonable price. Since most of the time the locals refused to offer such commodities for the foreigners, many pillages ensued.
After a long march, Peter's army finally arrived at Constantinople where he was met by another early crusader army consisting of Italians and the French. When they acknowledged Alexius of their arrival, Alexius became desperate because he was skeptical about the Crusader's intentions. Such was his desire to get rid of them that he ferried them "free" of charge across the Bosporus.
When the crusaders arrived to Asia Minor, they promptly divided their army in two and were defeated by the Turks who were more experienced and had a vast knowledge of the land. Peter did survive to the massacre which killed thousands of crusaders making this first attempt to reach Jerusalem before the main Crusader army an utter failure - reason for which this first Crusade is now called "The People's Crusade." as it was mostly disorganized.
Two months after this event, all the main armies of Europe congregated outside the walls of Constantinople to ask Alexius for aid to reach Jerusalem and to be provided with food and water. Alexius, suspicious of this, asked for every noble to swear loyalty to him which did happen. Alexius sent a Byzantine army to escort the Crusaders with the condition that any lands recovered from the Turks were to be given to him. The Crusaders agreed and a full army of thousands of knights, warriors, peasants, women and children marched toward Jerusalem.
When a Crusader soldier wrote an entry to his diary, he mentioned that he thought it would only take the complete army two months to reach the Holy Land - but unfortunately, he found that it was much more lengthy since many cities and forts had to be besieged first. It took two years for the Crusaders to reach the Holy Land - and in the way Nicaea, capital of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum, was besieged and finally captured.
After many battles including the Battle of Darylaeum the Crusader army reached Jerusalem on May 7, 1099. Due to the lack of water in Jerusalem's surroundings, many soldiers died. A close estimate reveals that out of the 7,500 knights who marched to Jerusalem, only 1,500 survived.
Peter Desiderius had a divine vision in which he swore that provided the Crusader army starved and marched around Jerusalem, the city would fall within 9 days. Such was the enthusiasm for this that many siege weapons were built and the Crusaders marched around the city and in the seventh day, the Crusaders finally entered Jerusalem killing everyone in their path.
Everyone was massacred by the Crusaders including children and women. Many accounts claimed that there was so much blood on the street that it could reach a warrior's ankles.
The First Crusade was the only Crusade to achieve its intended goals. It successfully took control of the Holy Land which even though lasted for less that two hundred years, was still a major European victory which had much influence in the Western World including in architecture, entertainment and ways of life. Additionally, the medieval crossbow is an invention owed to the Crusades, which was the time when it was finally implemented into warfare.
-English Castles - Features English castles such as the Tower of London, Windsor Castle and more.
-French Castles - Among its castles are the Foix Castle, the Vincennes Castle, and more.
- German Castles - Features the Falkenstein Castle, the Wartburg Castle and more.
- Irish Castles - It includes an introduction to Irish castles as well as a brief description of the most important ones.
- Italian Castles - Contains information about the most important Italian castles including San Gimignano and more.
- Scottish Castles - The most important Scottish castles are located in this page along with a brief introduction and pictures of each one of them.
- Spanish Castles - Alcazar of Segocia, Castillo de Coca and Penafiel Castle are just some examples of the huge variety of Spanish castles in existence today.
- Castles From the Rest of the World - This page includes a list of the most famous castles not contained in the previous categories.
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