Gallonio: Tortures
The text of Gallonio: Tortures


Having sufficiently treated of the Cross itself and of Stakes used for crucifixion, it now remains in this latter part of the chapter to inquire into the modes of suspending from the same; that is to say in what ways the Blessed Martyrs and champions of the Holy Gospel were hung therefrom by the Heathen. For both various and horribly cruel are the methods of hanging, the which we find them suffering at the caprice of their tormentors. Of some we read how they were suspended by one foot only, others by both feet, or else (as Nicephorus describes in his History) by one foot drawn up to the level of the head, a slow fire being kindled underneath in such wise as to suffocate them with the smoke coming from the burning fuel. Yet others were suspended by the arms, both or only one, or else by the tips of the thumbs, heavy and unconscionable weights being attached at the same time to the feet. Of others again we find it recorded that they were suspended hanging from a high wall, stones being fastened to neck and feet, or ropes bound to their bodies, their shoulders loaded with great lumps of salt, and for their greater torment wooden gags being put in their mouth. It is stated further of certain others, how that they were anointed with honey, and so attached to upright stakes under a blazing sun, to be tortured by the stings of flies and bees. Others are said to have been suspended from iron hooks, or from a noose, till they were dead, being hanged in fact in the same way as robbers and murderers are put to death in our own days. Last of all, they were tied up to pillars, their faces turned toward each other, with the feet not reaching the ground, or else hung up by the hair, as was often done to women contending for the Faith of Christ.

Of all these several modes the Acts of the Blessed Martyrs make frequent mention—of the first in especial the Acts of St. Gregory, Bishop of Armenia.

Christian women, likewise, were often hung up by one foot the whole day long (as Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, doth bear witness), in such a way that not even their privy parts were covered, for to show the greatest possible scorn of Christ’s holy Religion.

However, as concerns the modes wherein the Martyrs were tortured by suspension, these were many and divers. Sometimes they were simply hung up by one foot, while at others smoke from damp and evil-smelling fuel, such as the dung of animals, was added to increase the agony, and to crown all, a dozen executioners thrashing the victim at the same time with rods. In other instances they were suspended by one foot, the leg being bent at the knee and an iron band fixed round that joint, and then an iron weight fastened to the other foot in such a way that the unhappy victims were miserably strained asunder. Thus in the Acts of St. Samona we find it thus written: “But the Magistrate at once orders Samona to have one leg bent at the knee and an iron band put around the joint. This done, he hangs him head down by the foot of the bent leg, at the same time dragging the other downwards by means of an iron weight.”

Of Martyrs which suffered by the first of these modes of torment, we read amongst others the names of those most noble soldiers of Christ mentioned a little above, St. Gregory of Armenia and St. Samona.

As to the second mode, whereby the victims were hung up by both feet, sundry Acts of the Saints speak of this,—for example, those of St. Venantius, of the holy Virgins Euphemia and her sisters, of Bishop Acepsima and his companions. Also the Cappadocian Martyrs, a great host commemorated in the Roman Martyrology, under May 23, where it is thus written: “In Cappadocia, commemoration of the Blessed Martyrs which in the persecution of Maximianus were slain and their limbs broken; likewise of those which at the same date in Mesopotamia were hung aloft by the feet head down, suffocated with smoke, and consumed over a slow fire, and so fulfilled their Martyrdom.”

But verily it was not in one way only, but in many and divers, that the Martyrs were suspended by these Servants of the Devil (as may be gathered from the Acts above quoted) and tormented. For sometimes they were suffocated with smoke; sometimes their heads pounded with hammers by their executioners; sometimes great stones fastened round their necks; sometimes again cruelly burned with blazing torches.

In the first of these ways many Christians are known to have suffered in the region of Mesopotamia; in the second, Euphemia, Thecla, Erasma, and Dorothea, most noble Virgins and Martyrs of Christ; in the third, Saints Theopompus, Mercurius and the already mentioned Venantius.