The job of the executioner consisted first of all in torturing the interrogated before the court reached a verdict. Since court sessions were held in the town hall, the interrogation room or the torture chamber was usually located in the basement of the town hall building. The aim of all tortures was to induce immense pain and fear in the prisoner. In most cases, such methods resulted in permanent damage to the prisoner's flesh and bones (crushing, burning, tearing apart, nailing, etc.). In consequence, the prisoner owned up to the most incredible crimes. Then, the court reached a verdict according to the "evidence" given by the prisoner and witnesses.
The executioner and his family usually lived outside the town walls and far from other buildings.
How to become an executioner?
Carrying out punishments required not only a thorough knowledge and a skilled use of special tools. In addition, his role often included putting up a show for the spectators. It was not easy to obtain the licence of master executioner. First, you had to learn from an independent and experienced executioner as his apprentice. Such education took many years and, in case of executioners' sons, it started at a very young age. Apprentices practiced their sword technique on carrion. It was up to the master to decide when the apprentice's training was completed. The final examination included performing an actual execution under the master's supervision. In Silesia, executioners' sons were not admitted to any other handicraft, so that the profession would become a family tradition.
Pricelist of executioner's services
Executions and tortures were performed by an executioner who was paid by the town according to set prices. This is an example of a pricelist of executioner's services:
Quartering - 12 talers
Racking - 6 to 8 talers
Cutting off the tongue or beheading with a sword - 5 talers
Cutting off a hand or another limb - 4 talers
Cutting off the ears or the nose - 2 talers
Burying a suicide - 6 talers
Hanging on the gallows - 3 talers
Stabbing the convict after cutting off his right hand - 10 talers
Flaying alive - 12 talers
Burning alive at the stake - 6 talers
Tearing with hot pincers and quartering - 12 talers
Killing and burning - 7 talers
Drowning in a sack - 5 talers
Flogging at the pillory - 2 talers
Flogging and banishment - 1 taler
Pillorying - 2 talers
One torture - 1 taler
Burying alive and stabbing through the heart - 6 talers
Some of the less severe punishments included branding (burning a mark, pillorying, carrying stones of shame, etc.), mutilation (cutting off a body part - a foot, a hand, an ear, a finger, the tongue or blinding), flogging (with a birch - from a dozen to a few hundred lashes on the back), banishment (the executioner led the convict outside the town walls where he swore never to return on pain of death). The most common capital or death penalties in Silesia were: racking, quartering, drowning, burying, hanging on the gallows, burning at the stake or beheading with a sword. A more refined beheading method was guillotining.
What else did the executioner's profession include?
Sometimes, the number of convicts would go down, which could ruin the executioner. That is why in some towns, he had other sources of income than tortures, public punishments and executions. He was often paid for overseeing the town prison, i.e. for working as a jailer. Despite his public office, the executioner was often shunned by the townsfolk and assigned other jobs considered unworthy of a decent citizen, e.g. dog catcher. It was also his duty to remove any dead animals not only in his town, but also in the neighbouring villages. He cured animals and even people in the neighbourhood (mainly setting broken or dislocated limbs). In addition, he buried suicides and the victims of his own executions, usually near the gallows. As an "infamous" person, he often ran a brothel, recruiting women convicted for lesser offenses whose sentences were changed with the court's permission. The women agreed if it was the only way to avoid torture or even death.
However, in our park we will try to familiarise you with the executioner's profession in a fun way.