Torture Instruments from Medieval Times - THE HERETIC'S FORK

During the Elizabethan era, Catholic priests were in danger of being captured (leading to other bad things). To avoid this, a building might have what was known as a "priest hole." It was a place where priests could hide - sometimes for several days. This image (by Sjwells53) depicts a "priest hole" located on the second floor of Boscobel House in Shropshire (England). Online via Wikimedia Commons; license CC BY-SA 3.0.


Hobbes was born April 5, 1588 - the year of England's battle with the Spanish Armada.

Elizabeth I was queen. Her father, Henry VIII, had closed (and looted) the monasteries in England not long before Hobbes was born.

Queen Mary, Elizabeth's half-sister, had spent her short reign trying to reinstate the supremacy of the Catholic Church in Britain. People called her "Bloody Mary" because religious persecution took place during her reign. (Persecutions, of course, took place during the reign of her father, too.)

Stocks were the "mildest" form of persecution and torture. Yet, it could not have been easy for someone in stocks to endure the public humiliation and disgrace - like chamber pots being dumped on them. But what happened when a person was accused of being a heretic and the Inquisitors of the Catholic Church entered the scene?

Take a look at this "heretic's fork." It's prongs were thrust into the accused's chin and sternum.

Once the heretic's fork was firmly imbedded in a victim's body, he could not move his head. He could only breathe the phrase that was inscribed (in Latin) on the inside of the fork: "I recant."

Maybe - if he recanted - he would be spared. More likely, the fork was just the first step in the torture process.

Death - often by burning - would not occur until later, after the victim endured much more anguish. Profound anguish like that produced by "the wheel."

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5189stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jul 01, 2000

Updated Last Revision: Jun 02, 2019

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"THE HERETIC'S FORK" AwesomeStories.com. Jul 01, 2000. Dec 12, 2019.
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