Seelbad (balnea animarum) – uwagi na temat praktyki stosowania pobożnej fundacji w Prusach Krzyżackich i Prusach Królewskich do początku XVI wieku
Seelbad (balnea animarum) – remarks about the practice of religious foundation in the Monastic State of the Teutonic Order and Royal Prussia until the beginning of the 16th century
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Among the lesser known forms of burghers’ religious practice in the Late Middle Ages, there was the founding of the so called "Seelbäder” (balnea animarum) recorded mainly in the burghers’ last wills. Burgers bequeathed some sums of money to finance city baths for the poor. Sometimes they stated exactly which bath they wanted to support financially and when the baths were to take place. Sometimes the poor were also given food in the baths. What was curious about the bequest was the motivation behind it. It was not only an act of charity, but also a religious deed committed with the intention of saving the testatrix’s soul, which was often clearly stated in the text of the will. The commemorative nature of the deed consisted in the fact that baths were to take place after the testatrix’s death, usually on the anniversary of this event. The poor were supposed to pray with the intention of saving their benefactor’s soul. Sometimes they were to take place for a longer period of time (10 years), invariably on the anniversary of the benefactor’s death. The examples provided here come from the period from the 13th century until the beginning of the 16th century and reveal how such bequests were made in small towns such as Zalewo (the oldest record on founding baths for the poor dates back to 1326), Nowe nad Wisłą, Bartoszyce and Lubawa along with bigger centres in Teutonic Prussia and Royal Prussia such as Gdańsk, Elbląg, Toruń and Königsberg. In Königsberg, bequests to cover the costs of free baths for the poor happened so frequently that there was even a regulation issued by the municipal authorities which regulated the use of free baths. It should be underlined that financing baths for the poor on a particular day solved the problem of other inhabitants of the town using the baths who came from various social strata. Founding special baths for the poor and inhabitants of municipal hospitals meant that they used the baths separately and at different times than bathers from higher social classes.
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