Tied to a lamppost, the victim stands with his head and upper body covered in tar and feathers. When the Catholic Inquisitions burned people they generally ensured a good distance between the flames and the victim, so that he or she was actually roasted to death rather than burned to death.

Lady Jane Grey was also condemned to burn as a traitoress but again the sentence was commuted to beheading by Mary I. During the Inquisition, the method of construction of the torture chamber of the papal palace at Avignon has been described as ingenious.

Although less vicious than many other tortures, they could still be painful and distressing especially if kept on for extended periods. Since the condemned was hanging upside-down, the brain received a continuous blood supply in spite of the severe bleeding.