Europe’s largest museum on legal rights - Rothenburg’s Medieval Crime and Justice Museum
Gruesome, scary or just: highly informative. This is one way to describe the Medieval Crime and Justice Museum of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Housed in the building of the former Johannis Cloister of the town, it is directly adjacent to the St. Johannis Church. And this is exactly where you entered the town through the Red Gate around 1400. But what can visitors expect in the Medieval Crime and Justice Museum? And is it also suitable for children?
Where Bram Stoker went wrong – The highlights in the Medieval Crime and Justice Museum
The iron maiden that once performed its functions in Nuremberg has gone through a lot. It even had to endure literary lies by the romantic writer Bram Stoker. The reward: a prominent position in the Medieval Crime and Justice Museum in Rothenburg. Other things you can’t miss: the collection of shame masks and the original racks, thumbscrews and other torture devices in the museum’s cellar – truly frightening.
Rothenburg’s torture chamber in the medieval vault
In front of the entrance into the Medieval Crime and Justice Museum, you can already find a pillory for selfies and photos of your beloved. And behind the gateway is the cage of the legendary baker’s baptism – long ago, if a baker was cheating with the ingredients, this would immerse him in water. Right at the entrance of the Medieval Crime and Justice Museum, you can access a vault with torture instruments from the dark ages: here a rack, torture chair with nails and thumbscrews are put into perspective. Because the museum doesn’t play with shock effects, instead it fulfills its claim to provide information as a museum on justice and legal rights: How did law develop since the Middle Ages? And which prejudices about the dark ages may be inappropriate? The Medieval Crime and Justice Museum doesn’t glorify war or violence, which means that the question about child-appropriate presentations of the contents can be answered with a “yes”.
Public humiliation and death penalties: shame masks, iron maiden and executioner’s swords
However, a visit to the Medieval Crime and Justice Museum is not exactly light fare: In addition to interrogation logs from witch trials and legal texts from past times, highlights such as the iron maiden from Nuremberg, executioner’s swords and the shame masks draw the eye. The shame masks addressed the honor of the punished person: For liars or swindlers, there were masks with different motifs made of metal that had to be worn on the head. And you can’t miss the iron maiden from Nuremberg when you visit Rothenburg – after all, thanks to Bram Stoker, it’s a legend in the literary world. One thing we can promise: Here too, the Medieval Crime and Justice Museum clears up quite a few prejudices.
The emperor’s treasures: The crown, the scepter and the apple
As a museum on justice and legal rights, the Medieval Crime and Justice Museum also examines the legal conditions between the states or within the empires: How did the Holy Roman Empire work with the emperor in the German nation? What are the principles from that era that are still effective today? In addition to numerous informative plaques, the third floor of the permanent exhibit automatically draws the eye to the replicas of the imperial treasures made of high-quality materials: The imperial crown, scepter and apple represent the three most important imperial insignia of the emperor. After exiting the main building, visitors can rest at the cafeteria of the Johanniterscheune and/or view one of the regular special exhibitions at the Medieval Crime and Justice Museum. Currently the special show “Luther and the Witches” is on display.
Opening times Medieval Crime and Justice Museum Rothenburg:
April – October: 10 am – 6 pm
November – March: 1 pm – 4 pm
Please check the website of the museum prior to your visit.