Hinrichtung Peter Stump (Execution of Peter Stump)


Hinrichtung Peter Stump (Execution of Peter Stump)


This woodcut shows the 'breaking wheel' as it was used in Germany in the Middle Ages. The exact date is unknown, as is the creator, but it depicts the execution of Peter Stumpf in Cologne in 1589. This form of punishment was most common during the middle ages and early modern age. Though in many regions of Germany, the breaking wheel was used even in the 19th century. The last known execution occurred in Prussia in 1841.

The woodcut relates the crime and the punishment of Peter Stumpf and includes a depiction of the punishment of his daughter and mistress.

Stumpf was accused of being a werewolf and in the top left hand corner of the woodcut we see a large wolf attacking a child. Above this scene a man with a sword is seen fighting off the wolf and in doing so, lops off the wolf’s left forepaw.

In the centre left of the illustration we are shown the first punishment of Stumpf, namely the tearing of his flesh with red hot pincers while he is bound to a wheel.

In the middle we see the executioner using the blunt side of an axe to break Stump’s arm and leg bones.

On the righthand side of the illustration the executioner beheads Stump.

In each of these three depictions we can see that Stump’s left hand is missing, presumably pointing to the fact that the werewolf had its left forepaw cut off.

After his beheading, Stump’s body is dragged away to be burnt. In the top right hand corner of the wood cut we see the fire where Stumpf’s daughter and mistress, each tied to a stake, are burnt alive with Stumpf’s headless body tied to a stake between them.

Also shown is a wheel, mounted on a pole, which carries Stumpf’s severed head together with a figure of a wolf.


Unknown artist. Print by Lukas Mayer


Public Domain: This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 70 years or less.

Original Format

Woodcut print on paper





Unknown artist. Print by Lukas Mayer, “Hinrichtung Peter Stump (Execution of Peter Stump),” Execution Ballads, accessed June 16, 2024, https://omeka.cloud.unimelb.edu.au/execution-ballads/items/show/1150.

Output Formats