The Judas Chair, also known as the Judas Cradle, was a torture device allegedly used by the Spanish Inquisition. In Italian it was called the "culla di Giuda", in German the "Judaswiege", and the French called it la veille - "the wake" or "nightwatch" (as with the muscles contracted the victim could not fall asleep).
The chair was a pyramid-shaped seat. The victim was placed on top of it, with the point inserted into their anus, vagina or scrotum, then very slowly lowered by ropes. Some theories suggest that the intended effect was to stretch the orifice over a long period of time, or to impale slowly. The victim was usually naked, adding to the humiliation already endured.
Other sources describe a different way of use, stating the ability to raise or lower the victim can change the pressure. The pyramid-shaped seat was able to stretch the anus or the vagina, but the point of the pyramid may have been used to cause pain by pressing against the inside of the orifice. This contrasts to the stretching theory, in that the actual torture was caused not by the stretching of the vagina or anus, but by the different effects achieved by positioning the victim against the pyramid's point. Additionally, stretching of the anus or vagina could result in rips and tears causing pain and even death.
The invention and use of the Judas chair is attributed to the Spanish Inquisition, but there is very little evidence supporting this claim. Some sources claim that it is unlikely for the Spanish Inquisition to target the anus or the vagina with any torture, as it can be considered deviant sexual behaviour. Other experts maintain that targeting genitals and female breasts in torture or in various forms of punishment was not considered a sexual act, and therefore acceptable by the Church.
The device would break the skin of its victim, a practice condemned by the Inquisition, adding further fodder to the sceptics who suggest the device was not used in the Spanish Inquisition and may not have originated in Spain at all. The Spanish Inquisition, however, used other devices that were designed to break the skin, which only serves to further confuse the history of the Judas Cradle.
Historically, a similar device, known as a horse, was used in Prussia to discipline soldiers. This device was not designed to break the skin.
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