Badkamers voor pausen en prelaten: leven en welzijn aan het Vaticaanse hof in de Renaissance

Raimond-Waarts, L., 2014, [S.l.]: [S.n.]. 338 p.

Research output: ThesisThesis fully internal (DIV)

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  • Loes Raimond-Waarts
Renaissance popes and prelates remained in function until the day they died. Physical health and a sound mind were essential for proper functioning as head of the Roman Catholic Church and the Papal States. Diminishing strength in body and mind due to age and carrying the heavy burdens made it necessary for the high clergy to cherish their health and follow the advice of court physicians for a proper lifestyle. According to the Hippocratic principles of dietetics, not only comfortable living quarters, moderation in food and drink as well as physical exercises or mental efforts, enough sleep and suitable forms of entertainment to relax from State affairs were a necessary part of the health regime, the cleansing of the body was also important. Taking a bath brought relief of pain, contributed to relaxation, strengthened the bodily powers and created a feeling of wellness. It must also have been attractive for popes and prelates to be able to withdraw into a private bathroom away from courtiers, ambassadors and officials in a time when privacy was almost nonexistent. The need to look after their health resulted in a highlight in the architectural history with regard to the layout and furnishing of bathrooms when Renaissance popes and prelates introduced a bathroom as part of their private suite. After five centuries seven bathrooms have survived the ages dating from the pontificate of Alexander VII (1492-1503) until and including that of pope Clement VII (1523-1534). The interesting feature of these bathrooms is that the architecture, fittings and ecorations were all different from each other. The fittings and furnishings were influenced by Roman examples, supplemented with the own ideas of the contemporary artists. Some contained a bathtub, while others were fitted with a heating system situated underneath the floor and in between the double walls (hypocaust), to create a sweat room. Water piping and taps were installed and in some cases a drain. All bathrooms have different lay-outs and dimensions. Noteworthy is their decoration applied by the best artists of the time (such as Raphael) with paintings in fresco, reliefs in stucco or marble and some of them had marble floors. Mythological subjects and the fanciful grottesche were considered fitting ecorations. In this study is shown that each owner had his own special reasons or needs for a private bathroom, whether related to hygienic purposes, part of a health regime, or medical therapy or even perhaps all three. The results of this research are divided into two parts: the life and health at the Vatican court in the Renaissance and private bathrooms for popes and prelates: function, use and significance. The first chapter of part one paints the way of life at the Papal Court in the second half of the fifteenth century and the first decennia of the sixteenth. The workings of the Roman Curia and the key positions occupied by the most influential cardinals are of interest as some of the protagonists occupied these posts for life or until they became pope. Papal healthcare was provided by an average of seven or eight court physicians who made sure they followed a health regime. The doctors consulted books on medical science, which were available in the Apostolic library. The second chapter deals with the medical knowledge at the time. The Hippocratic doctrine was still valid in the Renaissance period. Health meant that body and mind were in a state of harmony. The balance needed to be maintained at all costs, which was a daily concern. Health could be threatened or influenced by external factors, named six res non naturales, namely the environment and the air to breath (aer), food and drink (cibus et potus), exercise and rest (motus et quies), sleep and vigilance (somnus et vigilia), emotions (affectus animi) and the cleansing of the body (secreta et excreta). To remain healthy, each person needed to control these six influences on body and mind or at least minimize their damaging effects.
By avoiding excesses and following health rules, it was thought possible to prevent illness and to live to a ripe old age. In the third and fourth chapters is shown how the doctrine of dietetics was put into practice at the Vatican court, focussed on each of the six res non naturales. In the second part of this study the focus is on the seven Renaissance bathrooms that survived the past five centuries. They are presented in chronological order. The life-story of each protagonist is presented as well as his character and physical and mental condition. For each bathroom the most likely subjects are discussed that inspired the popes and prelates to improve their health via bathing rituals. By scrutinising the architecture and decorations from a medical perspective, new interpretations have been proposed to understand the meaning of the architecture, the function and paintings of the bathroom for each of the protagonist. In case of a lost or badly damaged painted scene that must have been part of a particular theme, a proposal is offered for the missing subject. In the Vatican Apostolic palace we find the bathroom of Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503), located in the Borgia apartment on the second level. The bathroom of Pope Julius II (1503-1513) is located on the third level of the Vatican palace. The steam bath (stufetta) of cardinal Bernardo Dovizi da Bibbiena (1470-1520) is to be found on the fourth floor in the apartment directly above the papal rooms used by Leo X (formerly by Julius II). The consistorial-advocate and advisor to different Popes, Melchiorre Baldassini (ca.1470-1525) had a private steam bath fitted into his newly built palace in the Via delle Coppelle in the city centre of Rome. Cardinal Raffaele Riario (1461-1521), a nephew of Pope Julius II, had an existing room redesigned into a bathroom in his cardinal's palace in Rome. Bishop Gian Matteo Giberti (1495-1543), datary and advisor to Pope Clemens VII, had a bathroom on the second level of the Vatican palace in a wing overlooking the Cortile di San Damaso. Pope Clement VII (*1479, pope from 1523-1534) had a bathroom installed adjoining the papal apartment located on top of the Castle Sant'Angelo. Three important factors contributed to the introduction of private bathrooms at the Vatican Court. It had been the custom for the clergy and officials of the papal palace to visit public bathhouses for a regular bath; however, after the outbreak of Morbus Gallicus (later called syphilis), this was no longer safe to do so. Patients sought relief for their wounds and received treatment by local quacks in the bathhouses. It was dangerous to share the bathwater with such patients. Doctors, therefore, recommended that patients take a bath at home. A second important factor was dictated by the necessity for certain popes and prelates to receive hydrotherapeutic treatment for an affliction or illness at a spa. It was a relative cumbersome and time consuming journey, to visit spa resorts. Those visits were generally restricted to spring and autumn and it was costly to move the papal court to Viterbo or other places. Besides, it was not a very private undertaking. Specialists in hydrotherapeutic treatment, like Ugolino da Montecatini (1345-1425), developed a method to create therapeutic bathing methods at home. They stated that by adding minerals or curative herbs and spices to fresh water, the effect would be almost as good as visiting the mineral bath in situ. They showed that it was also possible to create an artificial steam bath by sitting in an inglenook with the steam of hot water above the fire or by immersing in a bath of hot water, the patient would benefit just as much as taking thermal baths in a spa resort. Thirdly, at the papal court bathing as part of a health regime was invaluable. It was a way to contain or restore the humours in the body. A clean, healthy appearance and dignified manner impressed, provided confidence in ones capability, instilled trust and created an aura of distinction. In a period during which court etiquette and decorum were honed to perfection to smooth operations in a community of hundreds of people living and working together, it served to be a man of distinction. Popes and prelates were aware of the effect of a healthy image on their audience. It was, therefore, comprehensible that they initiated the building of a private bathroom in the Vatican palace. The influence of the Hippocratic doctrine with regard to health regime took a more important place in the lifestyle of popes and prelates in Renaissance Rome than heretofore was presented. It was in the popes interest to adhere to a health regime in order to maintain his health. Bathing as part of dietetics was an important means of achieving that purpose. It was also a remedy in case of illness. The modest dimensions of the bathroom and the location on an upper level as part of the private suite were a novelty. This proves they were only used by the pope (or prelate) who was assisted by a valet and in case of illness with the presence of a court physician. This way the treatment could be given without being noticed and the status of the Pope and his ability to govern well, was kept intact. The time of the introduction of a bathroom was heretofore attributed to Raphael and his circle. This study proves that two papal bathrooms already existed before Raphael's arrival in Rome in 1508: the ones for Alexander VI and Julius II. For privacy reasons these bathrooms were no longer located on the ground floor next to the kitchen where water was heated, but became part of the private suite, attached to the bedroom. Each owner or user of a private bathroom chose subjects to be depicted which had a special meaning for him. Whilst bathing was beneficial for the body, the decoration stimulated the mind. They offer a pleasant distraction and evoke a feeling of relaxation and well-being. The paintings were therefore not only of aesthetic value, as was believed before, but were detrimental in maintaining or recuperating health. It proves to have been essential for Popes and prelates to take a bath in a quiet surrounding withdrawn from the busy court life. This served to maintain and preserve their health. If health was threatened by age or worries or if an excess or shortage of humours made them ill, they underwent treatment to regain the balance in body, soul and mind. Bathing in itself was a relaxing way of regaining strength, especially in an environment that was agreeable to the eye. The cleansing of the body as part of a health regime brought a feeling of wellness. For Popes and prelates it must have been a relief to withdraw into the quiet harmoniously decorated surrounding and not to be constantly watched by courtiers, officials and servants, who sent messages all over Europe when the Pope's health was in danger. It was not only comfortable but contributed to political stability. Whilst stepping out of their official garments they also shed their duties. This was necessary to regain their spiritual and physical energy. After a refreshing bath they were once again able to face the world and all the problems that came with wearing the tiara or cardinal's galero. Bathing contributed to their health and may even have helped them to live a little longer.
Original languageDutch
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
Award date6-Nov-2014
Place of Publication[S.l.]
Print ISBNs9789036773003
Electronic ISBNs9789036772990
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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