On Bathing…

I’ve never been one for taking baths, I didn’t even like them as a child, and couldn’t wait until I was allowed to shower instead. If I could get this sort of treatment, though:

If people could afford a to have private bath – and not many could – they would use a wooden tub that could also have a tent-like cloth on top of it.  Attendants would bring jugs and pots of hot water to fill the tub. In John Russell’s Book of Nurture, written in the second half of the fifteenth-century, he advises servants that if their lord wants a bath they should:

hang sheets, round the roof, every one full of flowers and sweet green herbs, and have five or six sponges to sit or lean upon, and see that you have one big sponge to sit upon, and a sheet over so that he may bathe there for a while, and have a sponge also for under his feet, if there be any to spare, and always be careful that the door is shut. Have a basin full of hot fresh herbs and wash his body with a soft sponge, rinse him with fair warm rose-water, and throw it over him.

He adds that if the lord has pains or aches, it is good to boil various herbs like camomile, breweswort, mallow and brown fennel and add them to the bath.

I might well change my mind.

Via Medievalists.net.


  1. jimb says

    I’m not a “bath” person either. But I would definitely give this a try.

    I think it’s because this seems like a cross between a bath and a hot tub. Having something to sit on, rather than laying down in a typical tub, is more appealing to me.

    (As I think about that, it seems a bit incongruous with my adolescence as a swimmer and best event was backstroke. :-) Interesting how one can compartmentalize.)

  2. says

    Heh. I was varsity swim and dive teams, but that’s very different from bathing. I think you have the right of it, Jim, and this is much more like a hot tub experience. A warm, pampered, seriously fragrant one.

  3. Raucous Indignation says

    That sounds okay to me. Can I get a hot stone massage and sea salt rub down to go with that?

  4. Raucous Indignation says

    Yeah, long distance freestyle events never seemed like hot tub to me …

  5. says

    I would love to be able to take baths, especially like these. Unfortunatley, At 6ft 5in (195cm) an actual comfortable bath hasn’t been possible for decades for me. Oh well, one can hope.

  6. says

    YOB, well, you’re a metalsmith, make yourself one! In Medieval times, a really luxurious bath would be made from metal, and lined with wood (I don’t know what kind).

  7. Ice Swimmer says

    Now, swimming in water that’s under body temperature and sitting in water that’s hotter that body temperature are two quite different things, IMHO. Apart from sitting in a jacuzzi, haven’t taken a bath for ages, but I did like it as a kid. I found the jacuzzi to be boring, the bubbles and pumps couldn’t make up for sitting in chlorinated water that’s too warm to be refreshing and too tepid to get the endorphins out*.

    In the article, they say that Vikings bathed once a week. They also had a weekday for that, saturday was laugardagr in Old Norse and is still lördag in Swedish, lørdag in Danish and one standard of Norwegian (bokmål) and laurdag in the other Norwegian standard language (nynorsk).

    YOB/Caine @ 5/6

    Siberian larch, Norway spruce or heat treated wood (I don’t know which species) seem to be the kinds of wood used for wooden hot tubs here. The spruce is probably the least rot resistant of the three.
    * = I find about 25 ℃- 37 ℃ to be meh.

  8. says

    Ice Swimmer:

    * = I find about 25 ℃- 37 ℃ to be meh.

    I’m with you there. If I’m going to sit in hot water, I want it hot.

  9. rq says

    Traditionally here the sauna was fired up once a week, and on special occasions/feast days and childbirth, so the whole process of washing is associated with relaxation and taking one’s time about it.
    The one time I like (hot!) baths is after strenuous physical exercise, but even then I can’t pull off more than half an hour at a time. Having someone wash me with a soft sponge, though, might convince me to extend that!

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