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A Scold’s Bridle used in Medieval Poland. Source: Fotokon / Adobe Stock

Scold’s Bridles: 12 Torturous and Humiliating Shame Masks of the Middle Ages (In Pics)

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There was no end to medieval creativity when it came to torture, punishment and humiliation! The ‘scold’s bridle’ or ‘mask of shame’ was a concept developed in medieval Europe to punish people, particularly women, who were found guilty of gossiping, gluttony, eavesdropping or lying. They were usually made of cold, unyielding metal, and molded into various mortifying designs.

The ‘ scold’s bridle’ was essentially a mask or cage that encased the head of the wearer, and it was attached to a locking iron muzzle. In order to prevent the woman from speaking, the device was also fitted with an iron curb that projected into the mouth and rested on the top of it. In some instances, the curb was studded with spikes, which inflicted pain on the woman if she tried to speak.

Scold's bridle mask which partially covers face, large nose-piece and jagged mouth, hinged neck ring and bell suspended at top of head, probably German, 1550-1800. (Science Museum Group Collection / CC by SA 4.0)

Scold's bridle mask which partially covers face, large nose-piece and jagged mouth, hinged neck ring and bell suspended at top of head, probably German, 1550-1800. ( Science Museum Group Collection / CC by SA 4.0)

An iron mask from a Medieval torture museum. (celiafoto / Adobe Stock)

An iron mask from a Medieval torture museum. ( celiafoto / Adobe Stock)

A medieval "schandmaske", or mask of shame, in the Fortress Museum, Salzburg, Austria (Klaus D. Peter / CC by SA 3.0)

A medieval "schandmaske", or mask of shame, in the Fortress Museum, Salzburg, Austria ( Klaus D. Peter / CC by SA 3.0)

A mask of humiliation from the Middle Ages. (celiafoto / Adobe Stock)

A mask of humiliation from the Middle Ages. ( celiafoto / Adobe Stock)

Scold's bridle of iron. From the original in the Tower of London. (Wellcome Images / CC by SA 4.0)

Scold's bridle of iron. From the original in the Tower of London. ( Wellcome Images / CC by SA 4.0)

An 18th century Scold’s Bridle. (Anagoria / CC by SA 3.0)

An 18 th century Scold’s Bridle. ( Anagoria / CC by SA 3.0)

An iron mask from a medieval torture museum. (celiafoto / Adobe Stock)

An iron mask from a medieval torture museum. ( celiafoto / Adobe Stock)

Medieval torture mask, Germany (Thomas Quine / Flickr)

Medieval torture mask, Germany ( Thomas Quine / Flickr)

An Iron 'scold's bridle' or 'branks' mask, with large nose piece, grotesque ears and two horns, used to publicly humiliate and punish, mainly women, for speaking out against authority. Brussels, Belgium (Wellcome Images / CC by SA 4.0)

An Iron 'scold's bridle' or 'branks' mask, with large nose piece, grotesque ears and two horns, used to publicly humiliate and punish, mainly women, for speaking out against authority. Brussels, Belgium ( Wellcome Images / CC by SA 4.0)

6th century Scottish brank or scold's bridle, made of iron. (postdlf / CC by SA 3.0)

6th century Scottish brank or scold's bridle, made of iron. ( postdlf / CC by SA 3.0)

A medieval mask of torture. (celiafoto / Adobe Stock)

A medieval mask of torture. ( celiafoto / Adobe Stock)

Scold’s bridle in a museum. (Public domain)

Scold’s bridle in a museum. (Public domain)

A 17th/18th century shame mask from Austria (CC by SA 2.0)

A 17 th/18th century shame mask from Austria ( CC by SA 2.0 )

Top image: A Scold’s Bridle used in Medieval Poland. Source: Fotokon / Adobe Stock

By Joanna Gillan

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