Wiejskie łaźnie w średniowiecznej Polsce w świetle lubelskich i chełmskich zapisów sądowych z XV wieku
VILLAGE BATHHOUSES IN MEDIEVAL POLAND IN LIGHT OF 15TH-CENTURY LUBLIN AND CHEŁM COURT RECORDS
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One of the crucial elements in assessing the general health of society in particular historical periods is the issue of the spread and frequency of bathing and access to bathhouses – the places where baths were performed. In order to outline this situation in Poland’s rural areas in the late Middle Ages, sources were examined, which were preserved in many records produced by noble and Church courts functioning in Lublin and Chełm regions in the 15th century. The preliminary assumption was that village bathhouses should appear in different contexts, particularly in records documenting perpetual transactions (especially sales deeds, pledges, partitions of property, and demarcations between estates). However, it turned out that there were only sporadic mentions of these facilities. Nevertheless, this does not mean that they were rarely found in the investigated period. Bathhouses were usually hardly profitable; consequently they were not mentioned when estates changed hands. We may also guess that the central location, for practical reasons, of bathhouses in individual villages was not conducive to mentioning bathhouses when all kinds of intra-village demarcations were made. Despite these limitations, several types of bathhouses have been distinguished. Apart from the facilities available for the peasants, located in the center of villages, the sources confirmed the existence of manor baths, perhaps with a restricted access only for residents of the owner’s manor. In very few cases these businesses were profitable and organized according to the same principles as other craft specialties and services provided in the country. The shortcomings of source information resulting from the character of the extant sources are the reason why this problem is either entirely absent from or negligibly mentioned in literature on the subject. This state of affairs could be changed by extending analogous studies onto the sources concerning other areas in Poland. There are such possibilities but they require painstaking source research without a guarantee of obtaining results commensurate with the work performed.
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