Next time you hear someone say “These shoes are torturing me!” send them to visit the Medieval Torture Museum. I’m not kidding. Saint Augustine’s newest museum is a look at a not-so-pretty past when there was no law against cruel and unusual punishment.
Most museums containing antique items are filled with signs saying “Do Not Touch,” but not here. “We encourage people to touch and handle these instruments,” Director Scott Abrams told me. Thus, visitors here can really get a “feel” for things. (Coincidentally, the director’s nickname is “Grimm.”)
You enter the museum past a simple hangman’s noose and from then on things do get grim. Talking about shoes, consider the Spanish Boot for example. Vertical boards were fitted around the prisoner’s leg and then stakes or later iron spike were driven in along all sides breaking or stabbing the prisoner’s bones. Then there is a small iron sandal looking device where the heel can be tightened like a vise compressing the foot into ever smaller space and eventually crushing the bones of the foot. I’ll never complain about shoes pinching my toes again.
Today if you have had a few too many you risk a DUI ticket or even a night in jail in a climate controlled cell. Before you complain too much consider what was done in medieval times. You would be placed in a barrel where you would sit for a full day in a public square soaking in your own excrement. Passersby would laugh and mock you. Every now and then someone tossed a bucket of icy water over you.
Had Enough Torture?
Had enough fun? Sharing the same building is a sister museum, The Micro Masterpieces Art Gallery, which is filled with beauty that is in direct opposition to the Medieval Torture Museum.
The gallery is filled with tiny masterpieces. And I do mean tiny. You need to look through a microscope to even see them. The detail is amazing. There are portraits of famous people, castles, buildings, cars and my favorite, a train engine.
The detail on this is amazing yet it is so small that you can’t even tell what it is without looking through the microscope. The wheels, the smokestack and even a small driver are so perfect.
Scott, who is director of both the museum and the art gallery, explained. “To qualify, an artist had to be able to put horse shoes on a flea.” He pointed to a piece of art under a microscope and sure enough it was a life sized flea done in gold with tiny shoes on his feet.
The gallery has the largest collection of these micro masterpieces in the world, including the Guinness Book of Records world’s smallest book.
Medieval Museum & Micro Art
100 St. George Street, St. Augustine FL
Phone: (904) 373-7777
Tickets: $12.99 ($7.99 for Micro Art)