What Is the Pear of Anguish?

Andy Josiah

Several torture methods existed in Europe of the Middle Ages, one of which was the pear of anguish. Named after its pear shape, this was one of the most common torture devices used during this historical period. This medieval instrument is also referred to as the choke pear.

Examples of the pear of anguish may be found in the Museum der Festung in Salzburg, Austria.
Examples of the pear of anguish may be found in the Museum der Festung in Salzburg, Austria.

The pear of anguish is made of metal, consisting of four leaf-shaped segments that flank each other in a circular form, thus forming the pear shape. At the end of the instrument's handle is a screw that opens these structures. This is the process that inflicts the pain on the victim.

The invention of the pear of anguish has been credited to a robber who lived during the years of King Henri IV.
The invention of the pear of anguish has been credited to a robber who lived during the years of King Henri IV.

Most people in the Middle Ages used this device for the mouth, slowly expanding the lobes in the orifice to break teeth and induce immense bleeding. Another popular administration, however, was at the opening between the legs. For males, it was the anus. For females, it was the vagina.

Some pears of anguish were designed to target the part of the body at which it was meant for administration. Also, the offense of the individual determined the exact place of enacting torture. For instance, for homosexuals, the choke pear was introduced to the anus. Women who were accused of inducing miscarriage had the instrument shoved in their vagina. Liars or blasphemers got the torture device in the mouth.

The pear of anguish rarely caused death, although other torture methods could be used to hasten such a process. Death usually happened quicker if the instrument was applied to the anus or vagina. Also, death by infection, especially of the intestines, could occur, especially considering that the device was rarely washed after each torture session.

The exact origin of the pear of anguish is unknown. Its earliest mention dates back to a 1639 French publication titled L'Inventaire général de l'histoire des larrons, or General Inventory of the History of Thieves, which credits its invention to a robber who lived during the years of King Henri IV, who ruled France from 1589 to 1610. It also appeared in a few 19th-century publications from the United Kingdom, most notably Francis Grose's 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue; and Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, which the Reverend E. Cobham Brewer originally published in 1870. Today, examples of the pear of anguish can be found in select museums such as the Museum des Lebuser Landes in Zielona Góra, Poland, and the Museum der Festung in Salzburg, Austria.

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Discussion Comments


To be suspected of witchcraft and tortured until you admitted a false truth: barbaric.


I'm writing about which torture device I think is the most cruel, and I most definitely picked this one.


Even though we are much more civilized than our ancestors were during the middle ages, there is still inhumane treatment going on in some parts of the world.

In southeast Asia, very young girls are forced to live in a brothel and to engage in prostitution. Some are treated very brutally.

Early Americans and Native Americans imposed some horrible torture treatments against each other.

Ethnic cleansing in a number of countries in modern times has resulted in horrible acts committed against ethnic groups. Will it ever end?


I am appalled at all the torture and mistreatment that people throughout history have inflicted on each other. And especially for misbehaviors that weren't all that serious.

Unfortunately, our reasonably fair legal system took a long time in coming. The officials who imposed punishment and torture, didn't know what cruel and unusual treatment was.

I'm sure some of these evil punishments, like the pear of anguish, were done outside the law. A lot of these tortures were done right out in public, where even children would watch. Unbelievable!


This sounds horrible, but I have to say that "pear of anguish" is an awesome name. It sounds like "apple of discontent" or "orange of pain". I wonder who came up with the name.


I once went to a strange museum that had a lot of old fashioned torture devices. They had a rack, an iron maiden, a demonstration of Chinese water torture, and also a pear of anguish.

In the museum they had actually built a replica pear of anguish that you could handle yourself to get a sense of how it expanded. It was really creepy holding it even if that one had never been used. You could really get a sense of how excruciating it would be.


Oh my God, I have never heard of the pear of anguish but that sounds absolutely horrible. You have to wonder about who comes up with these things and what kind of sane individual could bring themselves to use it on another person. Almost any times I hear about a torture device my mind immediately begins to wonder about the torturer.

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