Strange prejudices: why in the "enlightened" era, Europeans stopped washing
Strange prejudices: why in the "enlightened" era, Europeans stopped washing
Hygiene of medieval Europe

There is an opinion that people in the Middle Ages did not take baths and did not even wash in rivers and other bodies of water. In fact, in the “dense” era, elementary hygiene was observed, in cities one could find public baths and baths. People stopped washing in the Renaissance and Enlightenment.

Public baths were popular in the Middle Ages

From about the end of the 15th century, the baths began to be closed due to the plague epidemic. When the townspeople came to wash, they dumped their clothes in the same room. Plague-carrying fleas jumped freely onto the robes of a healthy person and then infected him. People decided that bathing (clean water) spreads the plague, so they abandoned the procedure.

In 1526, the famous Dutch scientist Erasmus of Rotterdam wrote: “Only 25 years ago, nothing was as popular as public baths. Today they can no longer be found - the plague has taught us to do without them."

Isabella of Castile, circa 1485

After massive epidemics, the baths have not been revived. This was prevented by Protestantism. According to religious dogmas, public exposure of the body was considered shameful. And if commoners could plunge into a river or lake, then royalty practically did not bathe.

Isabella of Castile was proud that she took the bathroom only twice in her life: at birth and before her wedding. The Sun King Louis XIV always recalled with horror about taking a bath, which was prescribed by the doctor, and promised to wash in a large amount of water in general.

Portrait of Louis XIV. G. Rigo, 1701

They tried to mask all the unpleasant odors that emanated from human bodies with perfumery. One can only imagine how smelly the smell was in the ballrooms where people danced all night long.

The high hairstyles of the 18th century house only contributed to unsanitary conditions

In the 18th century, the fashion for huge hairstyles on frames only exacerbated the general unsanitary conditions. Lice were growing in my hair, smeared with goose fat. During sleep, mice could run along the hair.

The woman at the dressing table. G. Caillebotte, 1873

Only in the XIX century, scientists and doctors, took up the reeducation of the townspeople, forcing them to wash. It was especially difficult with commoners, who were even afraid to enter the river, experiencing superstitious horror.

Unfortunately, the medicine of the past centuries left much to be desired. In the 15th century, people believed thatthe cause of all mental disorders is supposedly the "stone of madness", which is in the head. To "get" it, the patients underwent craniotomy.

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