Before public execution was regarded with distaste, the town squares of Europe became witnesses to the execution of many prisoners and the crowd who watched as these people were killed by the shadowy hooded figure of an executioner. Who were these professional killers behind the covers?

Here are some of the famous ones.

Getting the Job

Before we get to know these people, let’s briefly discuss first how a person could become an executioner in ancient times. As it turned out, the majority of medieval European executioners were former criminals. How it worked was that those who were bound to be executed, whenever needed, were forced into the job. In return, of course, they wouldn’t be killed. It was a matter of being the executioner or being executed. As mentioned in the book written by Hugo Matthiessen called Boddel og Galgefugl,

In the year 1470, a poor thief stood at the foot of the gallows in the Swedish town Arboga and was waiting to be hanged. The public attending the spectacle had pity on the sinner, and when he, to save his neck, offered to become executioner in the town, it was agreed. He was pardoned, and the red-hot iron was used to brand his body with both thief and executioner mark.