Public shaming has, sadly, a long history. Stocks and pillories were used for centuries to put criminals and troublemakers on public display, to try and keep a town’s rowdier elements in check. Throughout parts of Europe there was another form of humiliation as punishment, called the “cage of shame.”
Such a cage can be found in Levoča, a small Slovakian town that dates to the 16th century. Fashioned from wrought iron, it looks more like a big bird cage than anything else. In keeping with its reformatory intent, there is a small metal heart worked into the design of the door, as if to welcome the next delinquent and whisper “this is for your own good.”
In order to maximize the dishonor, the cage was often used during markets, fairs and festivals, when crowds were teeming. Miscreants would be locked up for any number of offenses: excessive gossiping, cheating on your spouse, public drunkenness, or just staying out too late could all land you inside for a couple of days, where you’d be pelted by rocks and rotten vegetables, or just plain old spit.
You can find cages of shame in other Slovakian towns, but this one is said to be the biggest and most historical. It’s in the old Town Square, which is bordered by the renaissance Town Hall, colorful medieval row houses, and a 14th century Church of St. James. The cage is kept locked most of the time, but occasionally it’s opened up for special events. On those days feel free to pop inside for a shameful gag photo.
Know Before You Go
Levoča is in eastern Slovakia, in the richly historical region of Spiš. The Cage of Shame is in the town square, in front of the old Town Hall (which is now a museum).