Medieval "Justice" Had Strange Ways

Dublin Core


Medieval "Justice" Had Strange Ways


accused, barbarity, criminal, criminality, crime, divine intervention, fire, guilt, innocence, justice, law, legal, medieval law, oath, ordeal, Ordeal by Fire, Ordeal by Water, punishment, water


This article from the Junior Argus section of Melbourne newspaper The Argus describes what the author regards as 'strange' methods for ascertaining guilt or innocence in the medieval past. Short of finding reputable people to swear to a person’s innocence upon oath, the article outlines the three different methods used in trials by ordeal. In the Ordeal of Fire, it explains, an accused person was forced to hold a red hot brazier and guilt was determined by whether the hands healed or blistered within a matter of days. Sometimes boiling water was used instead of fire. Alternatively the accused was restrained and thrown into a pool of water, and guilt was determined by whether they sank or swam. The premise of these ordeals was that God would intervene to protect the innocent. The author of the article concludes by drawing modern parallels between these ‘terrible’ and ‘unjust’ medieval practices and the ‘barbaric’ methods of punishment that were still being used in some countries.




National Library of Australia:


The Argus


5 October 1939


No Copyright


Newspaper article