The Truth about Bathing in the Middle Ages


“Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and were still smelling pretty good by June. But they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor.”



Contrary to popular legend, medieval man loved baths. People probably bathed more than they did in the 19th century, says the great medievalist Lynn Thorndike. Some castles had a special room beside the kitchen where the ladies might bathe sociably in parties. Hot water, sometimes with perfume or rose leaves, was brought to the lord in the bedchamber and poured into a tub shaped like a half-barrel and containing a stool, so that the occupant could sit and soak long. In the cities there were public baths, or “stews” for the populace.

Excerpts from: The Middle Ages by Morris Bishop. New York: American Heritage Press, 1970.

“One of the most stupid calumnies on the manners of the Catholic Middle Ages that bathing was forbidden, that it was seldom practiced, and the like.”
Thomas J. Shanan, The Middle Ages: Sketches and Fragments

Bathing – No Trivial Matter


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