Gallow, Wheel and Stake Gallow, Wheel and Stake
Gallow, Wheel and Stake
© Museum für Sepulkralkultur, Kassel, Bildarchiv
Photo: Jan Hendrik Neumann


28. January – 29. July 2012

Insights into places of horror

In Cooperation With the Neanderthal Museum Mettmann       

Gallows, wheel, pyre – these three words stimulate our ideas of the cruelty of medieval and early modern justice. But what do we really know today about these places of execution? And what do we know about the trials, the condemned or the executors?

What is left in german-speaking areas today are street names – "Im Galgenfeld", "Auf dem Richtsberg" and so forth. This is what the exhibition wants to take a closer look at. It takes a look at the former topographical location of places of execution and, by means of numerous exhibits, provides insight into a dark chapter of the European legal system. Typical punishment utensils of the time, including disgrace masks, shackles and pillory, are on display, alongside various execution structures and weapons such as gallows, execution swords and axes. Apart from that, archaeologically and anthropologically examined skeletal remains of executed men, such as the presumed skeleton of the famous robber captain "Schinderhannes" and the mortal remains of "Black Jonas", who once belonged to the Schinderhannes gang are to be seen.

Moreover, historical writings and depictions familiarize us with the legal history of the early modern period. Possible precursors of the death penalty – including the "Tollund Man" found in the mire in 1950 – are also taken into account. Furthermore, individual examples are used to shed light on the fate of those sentenced to death as well as on the lives of executors.

From the earliest references to execution sites to those in the early modern period, the exhibition covers a chronological arc up to the modern age. With the Enlightenment, the right to judge a person's life was increasingly questioned. It took about 200 years until the end of the Second World War that, at least in Europe, the death penalty was largely abolished. In many countries of the world, however, it is still legal. By taking this aspect into account as well, the exhibition underlines that state retribution is a highly topical issue.


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Arbeitsgemeinschaft Friedhof und Denkmal e.V.

Zentralinstitut für Sepulkralkultur

Museum für Sepulkralkultur

Weinbergstraße 25–27
D-34117 Kassel | Germany
Tel. +49 (0)561 918 93-0

Die Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien
Hessisches Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Kunst
Kassel Documenta Stadt
Deutsche Bischofskonferenz