Spas. What’s not to love? The potential benefits to mind and body are encouraging people in their thousands every day to leave the hustle and bustle behind for a while (even if it’s just an hour) and seek solace in a relaxing, luxurious environment where pampering and rejuvenation is the order of the day.
There’s no doubt that they are highly fashionable now but what may come as a surprise is that social bathing in healing waters is something that has been done for many, many years and even dates back to well before the Romans and Greeks made the practice popular.
Did you know?
There’s a word for the use of spas, it’s called ‘balneotherapy’ and is described in the Oxford Dictionary as ‘the treatment of disease by bathing in mineral springs.’ It originates from the late 19th century and comes from the Latin balneum ‘bath’ and therapy. The origin of the word ‘spa’ is somewhat uncertain. Some theorise that it comes from the Latin phrase ‘salus per aquae’ which means ‘health through water’. However, a more widely assumed and more likely theory is that it originated in a tiny little Belgian village called Spa which just happens to be well know for its warm mineral springs that were once enjoyed by Roman soldiers to treat their ailments, injuries and tired, aching muscles after long battles. These springs are used still today by residents and tourists to the village.
The earliest known advocate of spas for their therapeutic qualities was the ancient Greek doctor and philosopher Hippocrates (460 BC to 370 BC). Prior to this, bathing had been mainly used as a means of hygiene, however, Hippocrates was extremely interested in the curative effects of water due to the various minerals that it contained.
The Greeks and Romans not only appreciated the healing qualities of water, they saw baths as central to their social and recreational activities. The Romans were responsible for bringing the practice to our shores here in Britain, developing one of the very first spa complexes based around the hot springs in ‘Aquae Sulis’ which is known today as Bath. A beautiful, vibrant city which still entices many people from far and wide to enjoy its rich history, stunning architecture and of course the only natural thermal hot springs in Britain that you can still actually bathe in. The Romans also built baths across much of Europe and they became an intrinsic part of life for the communities with many of them remaining even after the fall of the empire.
In 1449 AD the then Bishop of Bath Thomas Beckynton took exception to nude, mixed bathing stating that it profaned God’s “holy gift of water” and bathers were made to cover up! During King Henry VIII’s reign, baths and holy wells in England were closed because of their implication in what was considered the superstition and religion of Rome. The Medieval church thought public bathing a sinful practise, worrying that the baths provided a place for Catholic dissidents to commune together.
Spas however were revived during the Elizabethan era with Elizabeth I, after visiting Bath in 1574 declaring that “the public must always have access to the springs”. Having grown in popularity ever since, with spas becoming social focal points for millions of people, there is certainly no shortage of beautiful venues to visit today. One such place is The Gainsborough Bath Spa. A five-star destination with a fascinating history that is centred around Spa Village Bath which is unique in the UK as having the privilege of exclusive access to the natural, mineral-rich waters, the source of which remain a bit of a mystery to this very day!
With so many stunning venues around the country to choose from, it’s not hard to find the perfect place to enjoy the health benefits and relaxation of a spa and if you’re in need of a gift for someone special, there’s no shortage of spa related gift experiences available. One thing is for certain, their popularity seems to be here to stay and long may it continue!
Enjoy – Relax – Rejuvenate.