Bathing Was Considered Dangerous To Health in Europe

Nov 2015
591
Andromeda
There seems to be evidence that suggests that medical experts, during the medieval and renaissance periods, believed that bathing and washing one's body parts was dangerous and unhealthy, which could lead to the spreading of diseases and contracting illnesses. One notable example was the lifestyle of King Louis XIV of France. It was recorded that he only took three baths during his entire life and his toes fell off due to not removing his socks for an extended period of time (possibly years). When did bathing become a regular activity as a part of daily life in Europe?
 

Ichon

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,711
Haven't heard that story about Louis XIV but while some 'physicians' understood about stagnant water and some diseases could be transported via fluid but there were bath houses and many books read by physicians of those eras that recommended washing. There is also lots of art showing people frolicking around washbins and tubs.
 

Lord Fairfax

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,425
Changing trains at Terrapin Station...
One notable example was the lifestyle of King Louis XIV of France. It was recorded that he only took three baths during his entire life and his toes fell off due to not removing his socks for an extended period of time (possibly years).
The peasants weren't the only ones revolting in ancient France
 
Aug 2016
338
Poland
King of France Henry III installed toilets in Versaille after seeing them in Wawel castle in Krakow when he had short episode of being king of Poland. Till that time there was terrible smell there, people used to defecate even to fireplaces.
 

jackydee

Ad Honorem
Jan 2013
4,569
Brigadoon
Playing Devil's Advocate here, but im guessing that bathing in medieval times was kinda dangerous to ones health, at least it wasn't exactly much use. Most people didnt have access to anything like enough hot water; instead you are bathing in freezing cold running spring water that may or may not be ridden with germs from an animal carcass rotting upstream. Assuming you are rich enough to bathe in hot water; again, its not much use health wise if you are literally the only person doing it.

edit; Im assuming regular bathing came along sometime after the Industrial Revolution. It's hard to bathe regularly without a cheap & practical supply of hot water and a suitable bathtub.
 
Last edited:
Aug 2016
338
Poland
not really, Paris had 30 baths in medieval ages
The true danger was water from moat to which also all excrements were poured.
 
Jun 2017
116
Skandinavia
The vikings were known for being excessively hygienic; we're told by english sources that some bathed once a week. The fact that this was found worthy of note by the english surely tells us something about their own habits.
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
6,010
Portugal
not really, Paris had 30 baths in medieval ages
The true danger was water from moat to which also all excrements were poured.
Well said.

I think that is fair to say that there was a decrease baths when compared to the Roman period, and that probably the decrease was even bigger during the black plague, but it is much of a myth to say that “Bathing Was Considered Dangerous To Health in Europe”, even if I am not mistaken there were written words defending that.

But there are even songs about baths, sometimes with an erotic meaning:

“Martim codax:

Quantas sabedes amar amigo,
treides comig'a lo mar de Vigo
e banhar-nos-emos nas ondas.

Quantas sabedes amar amado,
treides comig' a lo mar levado
e banhar-nos-emos nas ondas.

Treides comig' a lo mar de Vigo
e veeremo' lo meu amigo
e banhar-nos-emos nas ondas.

Treides comig' a lo mar levado
e veeremo' lo meu amado
e banhar-nos-emos nas ondas.”


Translation: Seven Songs for a Beloved in Vigo – V

All girls who know what it means to love,
come with me to the sea at Vigo,
and we´ll bathe in the waves.

All girls who know what loving means,
come with me to the risen sea,
and we´ll bathe in the waves.

Come with me to the sea at Vigo
and there we´ll see the good friend I love
and we´ll bathe in the waves.

Come with me to the risen sea,
and there we´ll see the good friend I mean
and we´ll bathe in the waves.

[English version by Richard Zenith]

Online Source: .:: Cantigas Medievais Galego-Portuguesas ::.

There is also an abundant iconography, and even laws about the baths…


From:http://www.medievalists.net/

Note this one:

From: dejavuteam.com
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
6,010
Portugal
About the baths in a brothel:

“Some regulations of prostitution still survive, such as Regulations concerning Prostitutes Dwelling in Brothels, which was part of the Nuremberg city ordinances from about 1470. One section states:
Also, the brothel keeper, man and woman, must provide the women living in their house with chambers, bed linens, and decent food, and they must feed them two meals a day and at every meal two decent dishes; and for such expenses each common woman living in the brothel must give the brothel keeper separately the sum of forty-two pence weekly, whether she uses the food or not. In addition the brothel keeper must make and hold a bath at least once a week in the house for the women living in the house, and this at his expense, not the women’s.”


Source: Sex in the Middle Ages