How important was bathing during the middle ages?
Not important at all. Most people had a bath once a year if
that. It was a very dirty time all the way around. There was no
running water so that means that to get hot water for a bath that
someone had haul water from a water source, heat it, and them put
it in some sort of tub. There was also no privacy for people and
people didn't wash clothing as well. I saw one little painting of
Henry VIII in Warwick castle ( this is after the middle ages, but
it reflects what I am talking about). The painting was only of his
bust with his hands in the forefront and it was his hands that I
found most interesting. The artist had painted what he saw and he
saw a man in red velvet with fur and a big hat on, but he also saw
hands that were embedded with grime and dirt. The fingernails were
broken or with dirt under them. He had painted it with such detail
that you knew that this man was not clean.
A differing opinion:
Bathing was very important during the Middle Ages. Cleanliness
was considered an important Christian virtue, and being clean was
very important for social status, even among the poorer people.
Rich people owned their own bath tubs, which were filled with hot
water by servants. Poorer people used public baths, if they lived
in town or in a village that at them. People who had no access to
baths bathed in brooks or ponds.
During the early Renaissance, people began to believe that
bathing was unhealthy. They learned to clean only those parts of
their bodies that showed, and depended on changing clothing to
clean the rest. Wealthy people could afford to change clothing
regularly, and could also afford perfume, which had become
The idea that the Middle Ages were a time when people were dirty
and smelly seems to have arisen in the Renaissance, a time when it
was popular to demean medieval people.
There is a link below to the section of an article on bathing
that deals with the history of bathing in Western Europe.