Inquisition in Spain and Portugal

The Museum of Ancient Torture Instruments of Toledo

Among the more than one hundred monuments and museums preserved in the city of Toledo, a small exhibition narrates the macabre and dark part of the coexistence of the Three Cultures in our city and the terrible tools used to persecute and bend heresies and everything that deviated from the doctrines imposed by the civil and religious powers, essentially the latter, at the hands of the feared Inquisition.

We tell you all about the Museum of Ancient Torture Instruments in Toledo and what you will find inside.

This is a small permanent exhibition located at calle Alfonso XII, number 24. Five rooms containing various instruments of torture and their history, with around forty pieces from antique dealers and art markets make up the exhibition that also delves into the social, political and religious aspects linked to the history of the aforementioned organism.

Infamous masks. Toledo torture instruments exhibition

Avoiding tenebrism, the presentation of the devices and machines used by civil and ecclesiastical courts to obtain confessions reveal the true dimension of the activities of the Inquisition (of which we have already spoken several times in these pages), its organization, its importance as an engine and sensor of ideas and attitudes and the consequences that derived from it for the societies of the moment.

Infamous masksThe Iron Maiden, a sarcophagus full of iron spikes.

The exhibition brings together a selection of the machines and instruments most frequently used by the various inquisitorial, ecclesiastical and civil courts, both Spanish and from other European countries.

Thus we discover how our country was parco in instruments of torture using mainly the garrucha, the toca and the colt together with other torments in which fire was used (on this indicate the black legend that exists around the Inquisition and its executions, which were not as extensive as we have been led to believe from other European countries, although it undoubtedly was an important hindrance to Spanish development for centuries).


El castizo y netamente español Garrote, a machine consisting of a wooden bench and a metal clamp with a tourniquet that drowned the condemned.

Next to these three are exhibited for example a selection of execution machines (the guillotine, the post, the executioner’s axe…), torture (the anal pear, the head crusher, the barbed collar, the wheel…) and pieces of public mockery (the barrel beak, the sambenitos, the infamous masks…).

As a complement to the machines, a selection of texts and engravings allow you to contextualize what you are seeing in these five sections. The first – “Inquisitio. Concept of Inquisition during the first millennium in Europe” – delves into the concept of heresy and the crime of lesae maiestatis.

Next, “The Court of Faith” offers us an acute portrait of the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal and its organization.

Inquisition in Spain and PortugalOne of the rooms or basements of the exhibition of instruments of torture, with several exhibition elements.

” Sollicitatio ad turbia” is the title of the third thematic block, which investigates procedure, civil and inquisitorial prisons, torture, convicts and sentences. “The auto of faith” (with the epigraphs Abjuration of levi and Abjuration of vehement) and “Trafficking with witches and sorcerers” complete this brilliant journey.

The exhibition area, although small, conserves a good number of pieces, an interesting journey through the history of medieval instruments of torture (and some not so old).

Admission to the exhibition is 5 € per person. You can buy a multiple ticket that will allow you access to other exhibitions of “Entertained Culture” in the city, such as the exhibition of “Templars and other military orders” under the Monastery of San Clemente, the “Siege Machines” at the Posada de la Hermandad or the exhibition of “Witchcraft, unusual objects and fantastic creatures of Toledo” in the street Hombre de Palo.

torture toolsA good guillotine should never be missing in an exhibition of instruments of torture. Observe the upper counterweight to make the fall of the blade more powerful and the tilting system that made the body of the deceased could be deposited in a coffin.

Useful information about the Toledo Exhibition of Torture Instruments:

  • Location: Calle Alfonso XII, number 24.
  • Hours: Weekdays from 10:30 to 19:30h, Saturdays from 10:00 to 21h. Sundays from 10 to 22:00h uninterrupted.
  • Ticket price: 5 €. Reduced admission: €4. They can be purchased online here or directly at the exhibition (no access problems usually). There are combined prices with other exhibitions of the same group.
  • Accessibility: The exhibition is not accessible because it is in different levels separated by stairs and there are no elevators.
  • Approximate visit time: 15 minutes without reading posters. Up to 30-40 minutes consulting the posters. The texts are in Spanish and English.