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    Seeschloss Ort

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    The torture chamber in Ort Castle

    Prison and ‘higher jurisdiction’

    It might come as a surprise that a relatively small castle such as Seeschloss Ort has a prison and torture chamber. But in fact Ort already has ‘higher jurisdiction’ in the Early Middle Ages. The town of Gmunden does not acquire this until 1465.

    The term ‘higher jurisdiction’ – bestowed exclusively by the Emperor – encompasses the death penalty, various corporal punishments through dismemberment, incarceration and torture. Contemporary sources report that the castle dungeon is often crowded with those sentenced to the gallows or the block in the final weeks before their death.

    Those who pay a visit to the dungeon can easily imagine the misery of its inmates. Bone-chilling cold in winter, sweltering heat in summer and the uncertainty of being gotten out on time in the event of flooding. In addition the dungeon is equipped with a so-called standing cell, a tiny, windowless room so narrow you cannot sit down in it. The standing cell would be heated with its own furnace in order to torment the prisoner even further.

    A Gmunden chronicle tells of the “black student” who is supposed to have spent over two years with a fellow inmate in the dungeon at Seeschloss Ort.