Why Bathing Was Uncommon in Medieval Europe

Mark R. asks: Why didn’t people in the middle ages ever bathe?

To begin with, it is something of a common misconception to say people never bathed in the Middle Ages (or centuries around it). In fact, in some regions, bathing regularly (in some form or other) wasn’t really all that different than today. And even in regions where it wasn’t as common as today overall, there were still certainly many people who regularly indulged. That said, there were certain groups that actively avoided bathing around this era, give or take a few centuries.  So what was their problem with bathing?

Before the Middle Ages, public baths were very common, as was the general public regularly taking time to bathe in one way or another. Even during the 4th and 5th centuries, Christian authorities allowed people to bathe for cleanliness and health, but condemned attendance to public bath houses for pleasure and condemned women going to bath houses that had mixed facilities. However, over time, more and more restrictions appeared. Eventually, Christians were prohibited from bathing naked and, overall, the church began to not approve an “excessive” indulgence in the habit of bathing. This culminated in the Medieval church authorities proclaiming that public bathing led to immorality, promiscuous sex, and diseases.

This latter “disease” point was very common; it was believed in many parts of Europe that water could carry disease into the body through the pores in the skin. According to one medical treaty of the 16th century, “Water baths warm the body, but weaken the organism and widen pores.  That’s why they can be dangerous and cause different diseases, even death.”  It wasn’t just diseases from the water itself they were worried about.  They also felt that with the pores widened after a bath, this resulted in infections of the air having easier access to the body. Hence, bathing became connected with spread of diseases, not just immorality.

For some lower class citizens, particularly men, this resulted in them largely forgoing bathing whenever possible.  During this time, people tended to restrict their hygienic arrangements to just washing hands, parts of the face, and rinsing their mouths. Washing one’s entire face was thought to be dangerous as it was believed to cause catarrh and weaken the eyesight, so even this was infrequent.

Some members of the upper classes, on the other hand, rather than completely forgo bathing, tended to cut down their full body bathing habits down to around a few times per year, striking a balance between risk of acquiring a disease from the bath vs. body stench.

This wasn’t always the case though.  As one Russian ambassador to France noted “His Majesty [Louis XIV] stunk like a wild animal.”  Russians were not so finicky about bathing and tended to bathe regularly, relatively speaking.  King Louis XIV stench came from the fact that his physicians advised him to bathe as infrequently as possible to maintain good health.  He also stated he found the act of bathing disturbing.  Because of this, he is said to have only bathed twice in his lifetime.  Another in this “gruesome two-some” class among the aristocracy was Queen Isabel I of Spain who once confessed that she had taken a bath only twice in her lifetime, when she was first born and when she got married. Of course, in both cases, they are perhaps forgetting many times when their parents may have had their servants bathe them as children. And given certain moral attitudes of the day, it may be that they were just saying they never bathed, rather than this literally being the case.  Whatever the case, once adults, both individuals claimed to abstain from bathing.

To get around the water/disease and sinful nature of bathing, many aristocrats around this era replaced bathing with scented rags to rub the body and heavy use of perfumes to mask their stench. Men wore small bags with fragrant herbs between the shirt and waistcoat, while women used fragrant powders.

Amazingly, this relative lack of personal hygiene in certain pockets of Europe lingered among some groups until around the mid-19th century.

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Bonus Facts:

  • If most of the entire populace smelling rancid wasn’t enough, during Medieval times in Europe, the streets of cities tended to be coated in feces and urine thanks to people tossing the contents of their chamber pots into the streets.  As one 16th century nobleman noted “the streets resembled a fetid stream of turbid water.”  He also noted that he had to keep a scented handkerchief held under his nose in order to keep himself from vomiting when walking the streets.  If that wasn’t enough, butchers slaughtered animals in the streets and would leave the unusable bits and blood right on the ground. One can only imagine how people survived the stench on sun-baked summer days. (This was actually a problem in some regions until very recently in history- see The Great Stench of 1858)
  • Interestingly, during the Middle Ages, people surprisingly did pay some attention to dental hygiene. Teeth were cleaned by rubbing them with a cloth and mixtures of herbs including the ashes of burnt rosemary.
  • The Ancient Greeks adopted the idea of bathing from the Hindus who were familiar with the benefits of bathing as early as 3,000 years ago.
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  • And yet they called the africans and indians savages -_-

    • This article is stupid and wrong.
      Read this:
      Disgusting hygeine of medieval European royals


      Heba E. Husseyn:

      You may have an idea how many medieval royals looked like. Have you ever thought how they smelt? Which royals hardly ever bathed? Here’s a whiff into some royal tubs.

      Despite the opulence of the palaces of France until the 18th century showing all those paintings, grandeur and romance, they lacked indoor plumbing and most palace dwellers smelled pretty bad. It was not uncommon to find human excrement in the elegant carpeted stairways of the great palaces and castles. Sometimes piles could be found in hallways and corridors. Bathing was a rarity.

      Marie Antionette, last queen of France
      Though she’s surrounded with fantasty tales in many history books, the truth is very different. Marie Antoinette bathed infrequently, seldom changed clothes, and was around palace people who cared even less for hygiene. Marie Antoinette’s once a month baths were supposed to be a ‘glamorous’ ritual. The water in the bathtub was scented and filled with sweet pine nuts, blanched sweet almonds, marsh mallow root, lilly bulbs and a candy paste of rare plants. As expected, she probably smelled fresh with some floral undertones for the first couple of days. But such elaborate baths with natural ingredients could not be made available frequently. Thus, the body would gradually start stinking from the third or the fourth day, and a fortnight later she would smelling quite bad.

      Queen Elizabeth I
      She’s said to have taken a bath once a month “whether she needed it or not” even though she had access to sunken bath. Writes show me the science: ‘During the Elizabethan era, women wore a kind of makeup called “Venetian Ceruse,” which was a skin whitener made of lead. Queen Elizabeth I would renew her Ceruse every morning upon waking, without washing off the previous days’ application. Either a medieval hygiene practice or just plain lazy.’

      Anne of Cleves
      The Germans had long shocked the rest of Europe by not washing their hands before eating and bathing infrequently. Henry VIII’s forth wife, Anne of Cleves was no different. Before she was presented to Henry, her advisors worked hard to get the stinky German princess to take a refreshing bath. Not that Henry VIII himself was any role model of cleanliness!

      King Henry VIII
      He bathed at Hampton Court (one of his palaces in England) with actual heated water pumped in from a stove in the adjoining room. To ease the pain in his sore leg, he soaked it in a mixture of herbs, musk and civet . Civet is a small carnivorous cat that supposedly gives off a very distinctive musk. Not sure what cat musk smells like but it definitely isn’t pleasant. Henry also went to bed with a piece of fur so that fleas and lice would jump on it and not on his royal skin. This begs the question, wouldn’t the fleas be confused if you smelled like a dead cat? Furthermore, how could fleas and lice be found in a place like the “royal bedchamber” unless the royal himself cared little for hygiene?

      Hair was even dirtier than the body
      The elaborate hairstyles of the aristocratic ladies, queens and princesses looked elegant. But there was a catch. Behind that elegance they often carried lice in those huge hairdos. The combs and picks seen in pictures sticking out were used to stab and scratch at the lice. Washing the hair was even more infrequent than washing the body, particularly among women. Hardly anyone washed their hair until the 19th Century. Hair was maintained by excessive use of hair powders and perfumed ointments to groom the hair. One can imagine the gooey mess it must have been. Show me the science mentions lice infested “wigs were shaped with animal fats, making them both disgusting and very likely to catch fire if exposed to candle flame.”

      King James VI
      Oftentimes, people would go for many days without changing their clothes. King James VI of Scotland wore the same clothes for months at a stretch.

      Peter the Czar of Russia
      This man was supposed to be widely travelled, educated and cultured .. but probably in his own way. Good and proper hygiene was a practice he never understood nor followed. He found nothing wrong with urinating on the glittering palace walls. He washed occasionally using natural mineral spring bath. Regular bathing never became his habit.

      Charity sometimes began in the tub
      While suffering from a “distressing malady” Countess Platen Hanover bathed in milk and then generously donated the contaminated milk to the poor. Totally disgusting!

      Kings of England had a personal butt-wiper
      Quoting Show me the science: “If you got extremely lucky, the King of England would appoint you as “Groom of the King’s Close Stool.” Your job was to carry around his portable toilet box and clean him afterwards. It was a coveted position, believe it or not. The Groom of the Stool was privy to the king’s confidence and would often learn many court secrets. The Groom of the Stool eventually rose to a position of considerable influence, participating in policymaking at the highest levels. There was no stigma associated with his menial duties.”

      Queen Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain
      Ferdinand and Isabella didn’t help in the quest toward cleanliness either. This may sound too crazy to believe, but in Spain the Christian doctrine saw bathing to be a corrupt practice that could only lead to “nakedness.” It was considered a form of “hedonism” and something “unreligous.” Religious Christians often walked from England or France to Jerusalem as a ritual without washing or changing their clothes. After the conquest of Granada by the Christians, the Muslims of Spain not only had to give up their religion to survive the Inquisition, they also had to give up bathing. Isabella and Ferdinand ordered the Muslim baths to be destroyed and bathing was strictly forbidden. When Columbus mentioned about the daily bathing habits of the natives of the Bahamas and the Caribeans, Isabella was horrified and commanded her new subjects to stop this “blasphemous bathing” practice at once. Isabella boasted that she herself had only bathed twice in her life and every historian takes her word for it.

      Phillip II and his Daughter Isabella
      Continuing along with the Spanish love for dirt, Phillip II banned the remaining bath houses in 1576. His daughter Isabella became a “national martyr to germs” when she vowed in 1601 that she would not change her undergarments until the siege of Ostend ended. Unfortunately, the siege lasted over three years! That’s an awfully long time to be wearing the same underwear!! After three years, her white shift had turned a “lovely” shade of brown.

      Henry IV
      Henry’s first wife, Marguerite de Valois complained bitterly about Henry’s lack of bathing worsened by his constant desire to eat large amounts of raw garlic. Cleaning the teeth in medieval Europe was another infrequent practice. Since most of them were frequent drinkers and eaters of half raw foods, bad breath was a common problem too.

      King and his tub
      One king that always gets accused of being dirty (in more ways than one) is Louis XIV. Numerous books contain the rumor that Louis XIV bathed “only three or two times in his life”. The ruling theory of the time was that simply changing your linen would soak up sweat and dirt. The rich wore tightly woven fabrics like linen and taffeta because it was believed to keep the crawlies away from skin. Loose garments were believed to be far less effective in staying clean. The king’s morning ritual consisted of his hands and face being wiped down with spirits and then his sweat-drenched linen was changed (Louis reportedly sweat a lot). His courtiers then sent him on his way to go to mass, his council meeting, hunt, chase the ladies and work up some more sweat. His linen was then changed a couple of more times throughout the course of the day. But no bathing!

      Europe’s ‘bath phobia’
      The Crusaders were reportedly impressed by the idea of Turkish baths and brought it to Europe. Turkish public baths were well-known venues for daily washing and considered a must by the Turks. In medieval Europe people had a strange mentality. With diseases like plague and other communicable illnesses being rampant from the 14th to 18th centuries, and from kings down to the peasants, all were fearful of dipping their body in water thinking that it made their bodies vulnerable to germs. Thus, they avoided water in favor of linen, which could be changed regularly. Fear of immersing the body in water continued into the 20th century. And of course, the long cold winters of the West with no central heating made bathing a lot more cumbersome, even frightening. People feared they would catch the cold and die. Children belonging to well-to-do aristocratic homes screaming with horror while being taken for their first warm bath was no uncommon sight. Americans (writes author Katherine Ashenburg), were as filthy as their European cousins before the Civil War, but the Union’s success in controlling disease through hygiene convinced its citizens that cleanliness was progressive and patriotic.

      Total immersion bathing as we know it, did not come into use in Europe until the 19th Century. It was simply too much work to heat the water, fill the tub, and then empty it. But occasionally in inns, a visitor would order a bath drawn which was considered quite a luxury. People generally took what we would call today a sponge bath every day, using basins and pitchers that are still around with plants in them. People also carried pomanders to sniff in case they ran into bad odors.

      Also, bed linens and cotton garments were frequently washed, however cotton garments were rarely worn by the royals and aristocrats. But satins, velvets, and wools were never washed. So one can imagine the stench.

      James VI just wouldn’t want to change for days at a stretch.

      European culture of carrying flowers has a strange history. Writes show me the science “People smelled so bad that you had to carry around flowers. People carried around little fragrant bouquets of flowers to mask the stench of everyday life. Nosegays were used when smell became unbearable. Because hygiene was so atrocious, people would carry small bouquets of flowers called “nosegays” to mask the stink when things got too pungent. The term nosegay comes from an archaic meaning of “gay,” meaning “ornament.” Nosegays were often worn like a necklace.”

      The Groom of the Stool – this was the only ‘equipment’ he needed for his job. All kings of England had a personal butt-wiper. Quoting show me the science “In medieval England, the man who attended to the king’s personal hygiene was considered a man of high esteem. The King had a person whose sole job was to carry his toilet. If you got extremely lucky, the King of England would appoint you as “Groom of the King’s Close Stool.” Your job was to carry around his portable toilet box and clean him afterwards. It was a coveted position, believe it or not.
      The Groom of the Stool was privy to the king’s confidence and would often learn many court secrets. The Groom of the Stool eventually rose to a position of considerable influence, participating in policymaking at the highest levels. There was no stigma associated with his menial duties.

      Lizzie I – woman with the messiest skin

      Bath days were big occasions 😀 The king, prince, queen or princess taking a bath would be surrounded by servants and maids helping through the bath process.

      Henry VIII, the bath hater, with one of the unfortunate ladies who had to bear being his wife

      Appalling hygiene standard

      Absolutely incredible!! Throwing “royal” poop on the road and alleys. 18th century British painter David Roberts once complained about his visit to Egypt that as he walked through a bazar, someone threw an orange peel that fell on his shoulder. Would he know how many poor Brits bathed in royal shit while walking through Old Edinburgh’s alleys?

      Information compiled from Raucous Royals and various other outlets. With the comeback of the imperialist era, RR has scrapped much of the interesting info from its blog. In an era of revival of empires and imperialist rules, more than a decade after 9/11, royals are once again getting popular with much help from media hype. Even Marie Antoinette is being painted as a ‘victim’ in her biographies by modern authors. She has suddenly changed into a very sympathetic person and never told the French middle class to “eat cakes.”

      … eeh! terrrrrible!! >:( I can hardly believe this. They were barbarians with money, silk and satin. that’s it.

      I had read this article this afternoon. lol .. it’s a uniquely interesting topic, a truth that much needed to be exposed. Thanks for this thrilling compilation sister Heba 😀 In addition to all this, the Caucasian race, particularly all these folks back then, didn’t even wash themselves with water after using the toilet .. most likely they didn’t even use dry wipes thoroughly as there were no toilet rolls then. Maybe just used a piece cloth – a scrap or two …. ikes! :-\ really bad.

      lol ,, sister Rose, enjoy your dinner tonight with these sweet memories of the “royal palace hygeine” teethsmile

      Heba E. Husseyn:

      The rumor about one of Henry VIII’s wife, Ann Boleyn, is that she had six fingers in her right hand. Many historians, based on various evidences, say she had six fingers. A writer by the name of Nicolas Sanders wrote 50 years after her death: “Anne Boleyn was rather tall of stature, with black hair, and an oval face of a sallow complexion, as if troubled with jaundice. It is said she had a projecting tooth under the upper lip, and on her right hand six fingers. There was a large wen under her chin, and therefore to hide its ugliness she wore a high dress covering her throat…” ;D hilarious! This is supposed to be her most influential description, but modern “royal” butt lickers claim that the polemicist who wrote it was a propagandist and hated Anne Boleyn as he was a devout Catholic and it was because of Boleyn that Henry VIII broke the law of the Catholic church by divorcing his former wife to marry this woman. Anyhow, she is known as the queen of England with six fingers ;D

      N. Truth Seeker:
      Ahaahaha haaahaa Laaaugh this is super hilarious! The fact that it’s a fact doesn’t make it less funny. Though one wouldn’t like to read it while eating lunch or dinner ;D ;D I appreciate the exposure. Much the opposite of how Hollywood shows these critters. The exaggerated lies about these filth pots is still more at present. With a comeback of imperialistic values, it’s comical to watch Hollywood actors with botox fillers and all sorts of plastic surgery makeovers to look like fairy tale characters playing the role of the tudor/saxe gotha/windsor women famous for their ugliness.

      They were apparently jealous of the clean habits of Muslims who ruled Spain. The following excerpt in particular is hysterical: “After the conquest of Granada by the Christians, the Muslims not only had to give up their religion to survive the Inquisition, they also had to give up bathing.” 😀


  • I work in a public library. It’s still uncommon.

  • Very inaccurate, sorry. While the church wasn’t happy about some of the bathhouses, there were in fact many bathhouses all over Europe in the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

    • Daven Hiskey

      @Heather: Nobody said there wasn’t. 🙂 We are talking about why there were certain people who didn’t like to use them.

  • Heather, the article is right on the money. The assertion of “bathhouses all over Europe in the Middle Ages” points to the Moorish bathhouses (public baths) in Medieval Spain, which some can seen today. In fact, there was 300 of public baths in Medieval Spain alone. Irrigated water and water fountains saturated every Moorish palace in Medieval Spain. In fact, water and cleanliness were associated with the Moors. The famous Moorish expression is “Godliness is next to cleanliness” (an expression that every modern-day Muslim uses). Unfortunately, we all have become educational victims of the public school system, which is rooted in Western thought. However, there are new schools of thought that are challenging the many false teachings of Western education. Personally, my school of thought comes from the hunted lion not the two-legged hunter. The hunted lion is now telling “his story” (history). Let us all remember that the lion is a hunter by nature. Thank you.

    • Um, no. There were bathhouses ALL OVER Europe in the Middle Ages. The notion that bathing was unpopular is a ridiculous myth. Paris alone had 32 bathhouses in the 13th century.

      • Daven Hiskey

        @Amy: It’s not that there weren’t bathhouses (and people who liked to use them), it was simply that it was generally recommended by certain groups against using them. Although, as stated, this varied from region to region and individual to individual.

      • That’s because as we found out that the Moors were not just in Spain, but also in France, Germany and many other european countries. You can find lots of evidence in Germany right now that shows the Moors ruled there. I’ve been to Germany when I was in the Army and didn’t know then what I was looking at, but they have Muurish statues hidden in plain site all over the country!

        • The Moors were never in Germany. But the Romans were. The Romans had public bath houses hundreds of years before Islam was ever a religion or ever even though of. Before there were Muslim Moors.

      • It is just a lying point for all the darkies who have nothing else to lie about.

    • @ Michael: Actually, the hyena is a hunter by nature, while the lionesses (not the lions) steal from the hyenas, chasing the smaller animals away from their kills. Don’t believe everything you see in The Lion King.

    • The Greeks and the Romans had public baths hundreds of years before Islam was founded. The Greeks and Romans were Europeans.
      Spain didn’t start out as Muslim. It was once part of the Roman empire and the people there were considered Roman citizens. The Moors ( Muslims) conquered Spain and eventually were overthrown.
      The Romans were also in England. There were many Roman baths in England, this was also before Islam & Muslims). The city of Bath England- where do you suppose it got the name Bath? From the Roman bath houses there.

  • ”complete lack of personal hygiene in most of Europe lingered until around the mid-19th century”

    Having been to france since the mid-19th century I question your facts sir!!

    • 19th century is 1800’s, not 1900’s

      • GH statement is correct – yours is irrelevant. GH visited France after the point at which regular bathing was supposed to have become common place, ie he visited in the period starting mid-19th century to today. I second GH’s anecdotal observations, and, at the same time, the doubts as to the extent of this no-wash belief in Europe. I see no evidence for it’s widespread application in popular culture, art or language (bear in mind Britain’s rainfall is a shower from God every day whether you want it or not). On the contrary, I understood they thought the black death was spread by odour which is why they isolated themselves from unwashed people…

        • Do you mean to say GH is close to 200 years old? Cause thats the only way GH would be able to observe France in the 1850s.

          Either that or GH was joking about the French still being smelly..

  • On the other side of the pendulum, the current habit of bathing daily is at best unnecessary and at worst mildly unhealthy. It certainly doesn’t cause cancer but frequent bathing can cause skin irritations by taking away protective oils our bodies secrete. As I’ve read it, the late 19th Century concept of “a bath once a month whether you need it or not” is a bit closer to optimal.

    • lack of melanin is what cause that you have explained and that’s why by the Europeans nature they hardly bath, but the truth hurts.

      • What? I don’t understand your comment. It sounds like you’re saying that lack of melanin takes away protective oils in the skin and leads to skin irritation so that’s why Europeans did bath a lot, but that makes no sense so could you please clarify?

        • sorry, meant to say ” It sounds like you’re saying that lack of melanin takes away protective oils in the skin and leads to skin irritation so that’s why Europeans DID NOT bathe a lot.” Again, can you clarify?

      • Terrible grammar, bro.
        Do you even know how to speak correctly?

    • Kyle in Upstate NY

      That is not true. Regular bathing is very important to keep the skin clean, especially if you work in a more physically-demanding job. If your skin is getting dried out, then you probably are bathing everyday in the winter, using hot water, and do not work a physically demanding job. When you bath everyday in the winter and/or use hot water and haven’t been sweating since your last bath, then your skin can be dried out easily. But the solution is to just use cooler water. In the summer however, where you sweat more, you can get away with regular hot water baths. But if not, then again, cool the water a bit. Use warm water, not hot. In hot weather, if not air conditioning, use cool water.

      If you work a physically-demanding job, regular hot water bathing will not dry out your skin, because your skin will be more oily to begin with from the sweating, and the water and soap will remove said oils to a normal level.

  • I think this article mixes up “Christianity” with “Catholicism”

    The Christian Bible speaks of good hygiene. It was the Roman Catholic Church that made bathing an issue and a perversion.

    I think it’s key that this is pointed out for the sake of historical clarity.

    • After reading about Calvin’s insane dictatorship of Geneva I’d skip bathing instead:

      “Just as in Catholic territories, heresy was an insult to God and treason to the state. Heretics would not be tolerated. During Calvin’s tenure, 76 persons were banished from Geneva, and 58 killed. One year,
      charges were brought against 14 witches who conspired with Satan to bring the plague to Geneva, the
      Council burned them all. There’s no record to show if this improved the plague.
      Never before or since, has a city’s virtue been so thoroughly enforced. Geneva was cleansed of
      drunkenness, dancing, immoral songs, excess entertainment, extravagance, and immodest dress. The
      law specified the color of clothing and the number of dishes at a meal. Theater was first limited to
      religious plays; then these too were banned. Calvinists often focused on the old Testament of the Bible,
      therefore many of their children were named for Bible characters. One father was commanded to name his son Abraham, he preferred the boy be named Claude, for this sin he spent four days in jail.
      The Geneva press was completely censored by Calvin, who had his own index of forbidden books. And it was a crime to speak disrespectfully of Calvin. Failure to comply was treated with a specified sequence of punishments. First came reprimand, then fines, imprisonment, or banishment. Fornicators might be exiled or drowned. Adulterers, blasphemers and idolaters were killed. One child was beheaded for striking his parents. As was the general custom, confessions were obtained by torture.
      Geneva was reportedly free of prostitution, of lewdness and even of rouge. There were no lawsuits.
      There were also no church bells and no organs. Actually, control may not have been that complete. There are records of illegitimate children, of abandoned infants, and forced marriages. Calvin’s own
      stepdaughter and son-in-law were condemned for adultery.”

  • Orthodox Jews bathed often (and still do), and ritually wash their hands several times a day. As a result, they didn’t get sick as often.

    This led people in the Middle Ages to think that Jews were in league with the Devil, and given some sort of unholy protection from diseases like the Plague.

    Those crafty Jews! How dare they not get sick like the rest of us! Burn them!

    • Jews suffered less from the plague?Really? Israel would have suffered from the plague before the rest of Europe as it started in Mongolia before reaching the Mediterranean ports where Jews would have been trading like everyone else. Washing does not protect you from the fleas that carried the plague, they just have to be able to bite the skin. The fleas came primarily with the rats on boats transporting grain. Only people that did not traditionally use or trade in grains (eg the Sami of Scandinavia) could claim that they escaped the consequences less than any other group.

      • The context is pretty clearly referring to Jews in medieval Europe, who would have been affected at the same time as everybody else in medieval Europe.

    • Muslims HAVE to bathe at least once a week from the time of our great prophet pbuh. We also wash our mouths noses faces arms head and feet prior to our 5 times a day prayers. Evil Isabella even had the public baths made by he Muslims smashed after the Inquisitions, so not only did some people have to leave their religion they had to leave out bathing as she made it illegal. It was more the vulgarity of the Pope who made stupid life threatening statements. She was an avid, but smelly dirty follower.

      • OMG once a week??? THATS CRAYCRAY! lol and what you mean by “wash” in the context of prayer is not actual washing. It is quick rinsing. There is no soap involved. Its symbolic, its a ritual. How can you not know this?

        • MINIMUM once a week.. If you engage in intercorse you also HAVE to have a bath.. Since the 6th Century.. Yes there is no soap.. Considering the fact that King James NEVER washed above his wrists, & most Europeans still to this day don’t wash their backsides Islam is a lot cleaner..

      • did your purohit used to take bath? the bath point is fabricated FROM YOUR IMAGINATION, yes threre is the washing faces and mouth with water that Muslims think it shows their cleanliness) but actually it is only surface wash that doesn’t take dirt from under arms or body, also in Ramdadn the mouth smell is disgusting because they shouldn’t wash their mouth and get water inside it , please stop thinking that touching your foot with your wet hands and then wearing the soaks is hyhinic , its the opposite, also you don’t take bath after sex, you also wash your hands lol and your internal parts to wash sexual liquids (which even animals do to get rid of annoying liquids ) I wonder how muslims consider routine things as a show of hygine !

        Isablel is a great hero, she defended her country and kicked out the conquerors, I don’t understand how Muslims con consider anyone who free his country from them Is evil ! so why do you complain from jews occupation to palastine? while palastine was a rubbish area before jews?? you should decide either occupation is wrong or is ok,

  • The Hindus have bathed and maintained hygiene for more than 9000 years. It is incorrectly given as 3000 yrs. The written and recorded history only dates back to 9000 yrs, before which it was hear-say and historic events and moments were only recorded verbally. Each and every Hindu, even today bathes early in the morning before consuming food. OUTER PURITY IS AS MUCH IMPORTANT AS INNER PURITY.

  • ALL the examples above are from the 16th century.
    This is not Middle Ages, this is Renaissance.
    In the Middle Ages, people were clean.

  • The article seems to be superficial in its research. I stumbled upon this one while doing a quick google search for research purposes, and another article I came upon was this one:


    It consists of significantly more source material, artists’ paintings, written guidelines found in manuscripts, etc.

    I think another reply here was quite accurate when it claims that this article seems to focus on the 16th century and later, which was *not* the middle age. In fact, the claims this article makes also appear in the other article, but only at the end of the 16th century.

    Thought that might be an interesting comparison.

  • Agree with anonymous JAL and Michael, the belief that bathing was bad for health seems to have been a health fad from some time after the middle ages. There is a suggestion in Michael’s link that it was after the outbreaks of plague and syphilis in Europe. As many bath houses were actually disguised brothels, it is understandable that some people would make the erroneous connection between bathing and diseases such as syphilis.

    According to the link King John travelled with a bathtub, although I remember a claim that he never even washed his hands, merely dabbed them on a cloth.

    Medieval people bathed as often as was practical and comfortable. I have lived without hot running water, in considerably more comfortable conditions than those of medieval peasants. When you have to carry water in buckets over large distances and heat it on a fire, you tend to wash your entire body rather less frequently than is common nowadays, especially in cold weather. Bathing under these conditions is a luxury, greatly appreciated.

  • Dirty Europeans had the nerve to look down on Africans. Africans been practicing good hygiene for millenniums. Most of you only know His-story, and neglect DaTroof because its to much for you to accept

  • Jews always bathed frequently. At least once a week everyone bathed for the Sabbath. Women who got their monthlies had to bathe before attending the mikvah (ritual bath) 7 days after their period stopped. First thing in the morning Jews must wash their hands and before eating or praying also.

    • Sorry, Hannah, if you think only Jewesses bathed after having their monthlies, you clearly have never had one. Dried blood can be used for paint – unless you washed it off it is so strong and durable it would bind the skin together requiring an surgical operation to fix.

  • europeans started bathing after the arabs made soap for them . ok …

  • Europeans started to learn from muslims after they invaded andulsia spain now and the many arabic hamams baths in all indalusia hygine in essential for 5 times prayers.

    • All ancient civilised cultures had public baths. These preceded Islam by a couple thousand years. myth, in Islam, you do not necessarily wash with water in the modern sense… according to the Koran you can use dry dirt to complete the ritual. Public bathing was also thought to be a risk to muslim women getting pregnant by sitting where a man had sat – in Morocco, it was used as their defence for many centuries.

    • As long as humans have been on the planet, they have been bathing. No one invented it. Also, the “bathing” before prayer is ritualistic. It is not to get clean. Its symbolic. It doesnt actually get germs off of anyone. Do you wash your arm pits and crotch 5 times a day? lol No, you dont.

      • What my brother is saying is that, we as Muslims were taught the advantage of using clean water, we use it for prayer and dirt is only allowed in the absence of water or water running out. Muslims DID TAKE HYGIENE to a level never known prior to men. Washing in the rest room both genitalia is essential in ONLY ISLAM.. Jas your naivety is showing, if water did not remove germs what did? It was not the Muslims fault you followed the uneducated Popes.

        • Soap, soap removes germs. Plain water does almost nothing. It gets visible dirt off, sometimes, but, not germs. All human beings who have ever lived, all societies, all cultures and races and religions wash and clean themselves. Its not even up for debate. Its a fact. Plain and simple.

          • Only antibacterial soap kills germs.
            It is the rubbing of the hands together that kills the germs. That is why you should rub your hands thoroughly from wrist to fingertip, front to back and between all fingers for 20 seconds. Singing Happy Birthday through twice is 20 seconds.

    • Romans and Greeks were bathing hundreds of years before Islam was even dreamt of.
      The Romans and Greeks had public bath houses before Islam was even a religion or even an idea.

  • You quote up until the 4th and 5th century and then use writing from the 16th century to prove that everything after that was filth. What happened to the thousand years in between?

    Louis XIV =/= middle ages.
    16th century =/= middle ages.
    That’s like saying Operation Desert Storm and the Civil War happened under the same circumstances and with the same kind of mindset in the same kind of society.

  • Hell you can go to Europe right now and still smell the old ways living strong! Some europeans bathe twice a week right now! I know because I’ve been there and asked about why they smell so bad! While stationed in Germany back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, I dated some German girls, they bathed everyday, but their parent ands grandparents didn’t!

  • There is so much garbage in this “article”… I cant EVEN! Its incredible to think that this is what people believe. Myths abound and you people love them. Its insane.

    • I agree.
      There is a lot of proof that even peasants washed themselves, their teeth and their clothing.
      Myths that Europeans didn’t practice good hygiene abound.

  • It’s no wonder the Spanish quickly took up Native brides in the Americas.

  • I found the idea of Louis XIV stinking like a wild animal hilarious. Come on people there is nothing to be ashamed of here. They stopped bathing because of the backward teachings of the church ( the usual suspect) Monty Python does a good job of mocking the disgusting conditions of some places (like their home London)in those times.
    No one is perfect and you can go all over the world and find out things about people then and now that will shock your socks off. Hey we’re only human after all.

  • Medievalists.net has an article on bathing in the middle ages and it disproves this ridiculous article. Also, the concept of one washing himself isn’t new at all. Even the ‘dumbest’ of peasants could go down to the river and wash himself, no? It’s not out of the box to think that. And I’m sure that’s what many peasants did.

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