Statues of tortured slaves fill the Gallows courtyard, a ghastly memento of Kirkwall's history. Fifteen-hundred years ago, Kirkwall was the Tevinter Imperium's largest quarry, feeding the construction of the Imperial Highway.
The Imperium's hunger for expansion led to legions of slaves forced into working the quarry. When the empire's construction phase ended, Kirkwall slid naturally into its new role as the capital of the slave trade—the Gallows at its heart.
The statues are not monuments to the suffering of slaves. Every inch and angle of the courtyard was designed by magisters bent on breaking the spirit of newcomers. Executions here took place daily, sometimes hourly, and corpses were hung from gibbets throughout the yard. New slaves trudging in from the docks saw what awaited them.
When Our Lady turned her armies against the Imperium, the slaves of Kirkwall revolted and claimed the city for themselves. The Gallows stood empty for two hundred years, not to be reopened until the crowning of Divine Justinia I. The Gallows transformed the city again when the abandoned prison tower became the home of Kirkwall's Circle.
—From In Pursuit of Knowledge: The Travels of a Chantry Scholar, by Brother Genitivi