“Breast Ripper” Torture Device, Probably German, 17th/18th C


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Also known as the “Iron Spider” the “breast ripper” was an insidious torture device used
primarily on women from the late 13th C until the early 19th C,. Author Robert Held writes:
“Cold or red-hot, the four claws slowly ripped to formless masses the breasts of countless
women condemned of heresy, blasphemy, adultery and many other “libidinous acts”, self-
induced abortion, erotic white magic and other crimes. In various places and at various
times- in some regions of France and Germany until the early nineteenth century- a “bite”
with a red-hot ripper was inflicted upon one breast of unmarried mothers, often whilst their
creatures, splattered with maternal blood, writhed on the ground at their feet. Besides the
punitive function, breast-ripping also served as an interrogational and judicial procedure.”
As with most torture implements, the breast ripper was more often used to frighten and
coerce the accused into a confession rather than having the torture actually inflicted upon
them. This example made of forged steel as typically found, 5 3/4″ long with rust
incrustation overall. Similar example illustrated on page 137, Fig. 57 in Held’s
“Inquisition, A Bilingual Guide to the Exhibition of Torture Instruments from the
Middle Ages to the Industrial Era”.