7. The notorious Spanish Inquisition
The image of the Inquisition is tightly linked in our minds with burnings and torture chambers. It might come as a surprise that, according to records of the time, most inquisition trials did not involve any kind of torture. More often heretics would be fined, ordered to go on a pilgrimage or participate in the building of a church. And only about 2% of those who faced tribunal were eventually burned at the stake. Admittedly, that’s still several thousand people, but at least for the rest of them the punishment wasn’t as severe as it’s generally thought.
Oh, and another thing: the lovely torture device we know as the iron maiden wasn’t invented or used in the Middle Ages. It was created later, with the specific purpose of attracting audience to exhibitions.