While Middle Eastern cultures enjoyed daily baths – often twice a day – many medieval Europeans feared bathing. European doctors believed that allowing water to touch, enter, swirl around the naked flesh caused disease, sickness, and eventual death. Water was believed to seep into the system through the skin’s pores, flooding the bather with impurities.
Even the drinking of water was considered a dangerous practice to most medievals, who drank ale instead.
2. Where Middle Eastern religious practices required bathing, medieval European church authorities saw bathing as a sexually depraved act in which touching one’s own body was surefire hell damnation.
Though these people did bathe, they did so very rarely and wore a thin linen or muslin cloth gown to keep the water from entering their pores, as well as to keep their own hands from directly touching their bodies as they bathed.
3. In medieval castles, round tubs made of copper or wood were used to bathe in. Hence the term ‘bath tub.’
Water was heated in big iron caldrons hanging over a fire. To avoid getting painful splinters in fleshy bottoms, yards of cloth would be draped inside wood tubs before pouring in the water.
4. Medievals did not have the sense of privacy we are accustomed to today.
The bathroom as we know it did not exist yet, and nudity was not the secret affair that it is today. Baths would be taken in the kitchen, in the main living area, or in the yard on a nice day.
5. Professional preparer-of-baths was an actual job occupation. For the families of lords & other noble persons, a bath preparer would also travel with the family, his only job being the preparation of their baths.
Which of these facts of bathing could you live without?
What say you about medieval bathing?