A barbaric form of corporal punishment meted out in the middle ages where persons would be permanently blinded by the pressing of hot irons to the open eyes.
Sometimes spelled with a single b as in abacinare.
A barbaric form of corporal punishment meted out in the middle ages where persons would be permanently blinded by the pressing of hot irons to the open eyes, or of exposing the open eyes to a basin of red hot iron, copper or brass until the eyes were seared and the victim permanently blinded.
According to remnants of the Leff Law Dictionary published in the Yale Law Journal:
Abbacinate: To blind by holding red hot irons before the eyes of the victim. The Latin is abbacinare.
The punishment (l'abbacinare) has Italian origins and consisted in holding red hot metal over the victim's eyes, until the victim was blind, the eyes destroyed.
In his book on English history, Charles McFarlane relates that Robert, Duke of Normand was subjected to the abbacinare in 1107 after a failed attempt to escape imprisonment by Henry I. The abbacinare is referred to as a:
"... method which had become horribly common in Italy during these ages, and which was not unknown in other countries o the continent. A basin of copper or iron, made red hot, was held close over the victim's eyes till the organs of sight were seared and destroyed....
"The punishment was usually applied to captive princes, fallen ministers, and personages of highest rank and political influence."
For more information on the early struggles of common law jurisdictions to develop fair and humane forms of punishment for crimes, see The Law's Hall of Horror and Crime & Punishment in Medieval England, both in the Law Museum.
- Leff, Arthur, The Leff Dictionary of Law: A Fragment, 94 YLJ 1860 (1984-1985)
- McFarlane, Charles, The Cabinet History of England (London: C. Knight & Co., 1845) Volume II, pages 148-149.