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Flaying is the removal of skin from the body. Generally, an attempt is made to keep the removed portion of skin intact.


An animal may be flayed in preparation for human consumption, or for its hide or fur; this is more commonly called skinning.

Flaying of humans is used as a method of torture or execution, depending on how much of the skin is removed. This article deals with flaying in the sense of torture and execution. This is often referred to as "flaying alive". There are also records of people flayed after death, generally as a means of debasing the corpse of a prominent enemy or criminal, sometimes related to religious beliefs (e.g. to deny an afterlife); sometimes the skin is used, again for deterrence, magical uses, etc. (i.e. scalping).


Flaying is an ancient practice. There are accounts of Assyrians flaying a captured enemy or rebellious ruler and nailing the flayed skin to the wall of his city, as a warning to all who would defy their power. The Aztecs of Mexicomarker flayed victims of ritual human sacrifice, generally after death. Searing or cutting the flesh from the body was sometimes used as part of the public execution of traitors in medieval Europe. A similar mode of execution was used as late as the early 1700s in France; one such episode is graphically recounted in the opening chapter of Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punish (1979). In medieval Britain the invasion of the sanctity of the church was classed as sacrilege and the original punishment was to be flayed alive . The Subprior and the Sacrist of Westminster Abbeymarker broke into the Chapel of the Pyx in 1303, the abbey muniment and treasury chamber, and stole from the contents. The Pyx chapel door has been found to have fragments of human skin attached to it as have the three doors to the revestry. Copfordmarker church in Essex, England has been found to have human skin attached. In China, a variant form of flaying known as death by a thousand cuts was practiced as late as 1905.

Examples of flayings

See also


  1. Wall, J. Charles (1912), Porches and Fonts. Pub. Wells Gardner and Darton, London. P. 41 - 42.
  2. Boston Globe - Lost Marine

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