Two of the most hair-raising torture appliances on display are the iron maiden of Nuremberg and an interrogation chair, also known as the throne, both bristling with razor-sharp, porcupine-like metal spikes designed to skewer victims. Also on view is an early model of an electric chair that reminds viewers of the callousness with which the death penalty is carried out to this day.

The exhibit closes with an expansive section devoted exclusively to the Inquisition and the Catholic Church's systematic campaign to root out heresy after a bill issued by Pope Sixtus IV in 1478 legitimized torture.

The "28 articles" listing the sins the Inquisition attempted to expose and purge range from apostasy and blasphemy to sodomy and sorcery, charges used primarily as a tool to expose Jews who were forced to convert or flee Spain.

An interrogation chair, also known as the throne.
An interrogation chair, also known as the throne.


"Instruments of Torture Through the Ages": Through August 29. Freedom Tower, 600 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-237-7700; Monday through Friday noon to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

One of the displays in this section includes an early example of waterboarding, a technique that spans the centuries to the present day and recalls the U.S. military's abuses at Abu Ghraib and controversial policies at Guantánamo Bay.

It's a chilling reminder that torture still flourishes among the most developed countries of the civilized world. Perfected by electronics, pharmacology, and other calculatedly atrocious methods, torture is, if anything, more effective than even Torquemada could have dreamed. It makes for a compelling argument that rather than growing closer to salvation, man's religious bigotry and failing respect for human rights and dignity pushes him ever closer to a spiritual and moral abyss.

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