Museum of Torture Instruments – Prague, Czechia - Atlas Obscura
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Prague, Czechia

Museum of Torture Instruments

Take a break from the beauty of Prague to explore a more gruesome side of history. 

Humans are good at being bad to each other, and the artifacts of that cruelty are on display in this museum, which contains over 100 exhibits showcasing the torture practices of medieval and early modern Europe.

A short walk from Prague’s Old Town Square, at the east end of the Charles Bridge, stands a three-story museum showcasing the various instruments used by Europe’s powers-that-were to torment heretics, “witches,” political rebels, scapegoats, gluttons, insufficiently amusing entertainers, women who talked too much, and other assorted enemies of the state.

The Museum of Torture Instruments contains over 60 torture devices, including old standbys like the iron maiden (known here as the Virgin of Nuremberg), the rack, and the gridiron (the getting-roasted-alive kind, not the football kind), as well as deeper cuts (!) like the Spanish Tickle Torture (less tickling, more getting cut to ribbons by a giant fork), the Catalan Garrote (a garrote plus a spike at the base of the skull for added horror), and an array of iron masks – plucked from your most vivid Lynchian fever dreams – designed to publicly humiliate sinners of different stripes.

The implements at the museum are accompanied by medieval-style cartoons illustrating their use, as well as detailed textual explanations of their workings in eight different languages. The Museum of Torture Instruments also includes wax figures of various hapless individuals, as well as special effect representations of a witch-burning and an execution by sword. Discounted tickets are available for children and school groups.

Know Before You Go

Walking access easiest due to it already being a prime sightseeing spot. There are two museums of torture in Prague with roughly the same name and same exposition. The museum mentioned in this entry is located close to the Old Town Square, by the address Celetná 12. The other one is just in front of the Charles Bridge, by the address Křižovnické nám. 1. The first one is more graphic with many of the instruments shown with wax models as torture subjects.