La vierge de fer ou vierge de Nuremberg-RELICS

The Iron Maiden or Maiden of Nuremberg

The Iron Maiden is a torture device said to have been used in Europe during the Middle Ages. It is also known as Virgo or Jungfer. It looks like a human-sized box filled with spikes. Victims were forced into it and impaled when the device was closed.

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Miniature Virgin of Nuremberg for sale at

The longer spikes would pierce it first as the lid came down. The spikes were placed to enter his wrists and ankles. He would hang there, crucified, as the lid continued its inexorable descent. Shorter spikes were then to penetrate her thighs, shoulders and arms. Then, as he struggled, impaled in agony, the lid moved closer until the tiniest spikes came close enough to penetrate his eyes, throat, and – please – his heart and brain. .

Was the iron maiden used in the Middle Ages?

There is no evidence that the Iron Maiden was used as an instrument of torture in the Middle Ages, although similar devices have been described in earlier texts. For example, an account of Saint Augustine in the City of God, relates how a Roman general, Marcus Atilius Regulus, was tortured to death by the Carthaginians by being locked in a box filled with nails, which pierced only when he stabbed. fell asleep. He eventually died of lack of sleep while lying awake.

The oldest account we have of the Iron Maiden dates from the 18th century and was written by historian Johann Philipp Siebenkees. In a guide to the German city of Nuremberg, the historian claims that a criminal was executed using an iron maiden in 1515. Siebenkees also noted that the spikes inside the device were deliberately made in such a way that they weren't long enough to kill him. Therefore, he continued to suffer for two days before he died.

virgin of nuremberg

How is the Schandmantel different from the Iron Maiden?

The credibility of Siebenkees' story has been questioned and it is widely believed to have been made up by the historian himself. It is also possible that Siebenkees misinterpreted a medieval punishment device known as the Schandmantel (cloak of shame in German), worn by German prostitutes and poachers to humiliate them in public. Although similar to the Iron Maiden, the Schandmantel did not feature spikes.

Nevertheless, Siebenkees' account of this gruesome device inspired his readers, and iron maidens began to be created based on his writings. Additionally, the Iron Maiden has become closely associated with the city of Nuremberg, known as the Nuremberg Maiden (an Iron Maiden surmounted by the head of the Virgin Mary) and the Iron Maiden of Nuremberg.

At the beginning of the 19th century iron maidens were created and exhibited not only in Nuremberg but also in other European cities. Also, towards the end of this century, in 1893, an iron maiden was exhibited at the Chicago World's Fair. The Iron Maidens created during this era were actually assembled from various medieval artifacts and spare parts and were displayed to the public for payment.

New stories about the use of the Iron Maiden are circulating
Along with the creation of these supposedly medieval torture devices, other horror stories began to be associated with the Iron Maiden. One, for example, claims that the contraption was used during the Inquisition and that the head of the Virgin was meant to symbolize the triumph of the Catholic Church over heresy. Another story claims that the iron maiden was in use as early as the 12th century.

Today, iron maidens are exhibited in various museums around the world, but these specimens were probably made during the 19th century. Finally, it was reported in 2003 that an Iron Maiden was discovered in the compound of the Iraqi National Olympic Committee in Baghdad. At one time, Uday Hussein, the son of Saddam Hussein, was the head of this committee and the country's football federation. The story goes that the Iron Maiden belonged to him and was used to punish athletes who performed poorly.

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