Middle Ages

How important was bathing during the middle ages?

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Wiki User
2011-07-12 10:30:08

One opinion:

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.

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