Agnès in the garden
HYGIENE IN THE MIDDLE AGES
The idea of widespread dirtiness in the Middle Ages has been accepted for many, many years.
Thanks to the work of medievalists, we know that this is not the case. Indeed, if the streets and the air are not clean, the cleanliness of houses and bodies is all the more sought after. In the Middle Ages, cleanliness and purity are a single term.
Indeed, cleanliness is part of civility because it allows one to project a good self-image. The other motivation is the preservation of health.
Water has a medical, symbolic and ritual dimension: baths are used to heal oneself but also to "purify" oneself at the time of the adoubt or the raising. Winemakers, surgeons and priests had to wash their hands and face regularly.
Nature is a source of beauty. Creams, ointments and lotions are made from medicinal plants, mineral or animal materials, sometimes at the users' own risk!
IN SEARCH OF THE IDEAL BEAUTY…
Centre of the "Garden of Eden”
Each age has its own canons of beauty and the Middle Ages are no exception. But ironically, beauty and its pursuit are considered a sin by the church authorities. The only true beauty is the natural beauty because it is given by God.
Agnès Sorel was reputed to be the most beautiful woman in the kingdom because she possessed several standards of beauty that were highly valued in her time.
At the very end of the Middle Ages, there was an evolution because the body was no longer hidden: on the contrary, it had to be cared for and highlighted.
BORAGE - STARFLOWER
In the Middle Ages, the young girl was synonymous with purity and innocence, while the old woman represented ugliness. Women as well as men will therefore try to erase the signs of ageing. Borage is a plant recommended to slow down the effects of time on the face because its seeds contain fatty acids. Borage also helps to fight against skin problems.
BELLADONA – DEADLY NIGHTSHADE
In the Middle Ages, this plant was associated with witches, probably because of its toxicity. Indeed, belladonna is very dangerous because it contains atropine. The eyes are reputed to be the mirror of
the soul and can be considered a real tool of seduction. At their own risk, ladies do not hesitate to make their look more intense by putting a drop of belladonna in their eyes.
SAPONARIA – SOAPWORTS
This plant, also known as "soapweed", is rich in saponins: active ingredients that have the particularity of producing foam when in contact with water. Soapwort is used as a softening and emollient for daily hygiene. Black soap and white soap are mainly reserved for medical use.
Its French name Coquelicot comes from the onomatopoeia coq... coq...coq or perhaps a metaphor between the colour of the flower and that of the rooster's crest. Poppy petals are used to make the lips reddish. Its active ingredients are also moisturising and softening.
The iris is an essential plant in medieval gardens. It is associated with the Virgin because of the shape of its leaves, which evoke a sword. The hair is also a factor of seduction and is therefore the object of all attention. Doctors recommend washing your hair once a week, no more and no less.
Mallow was cultivated in all gardens in the Middle Ages because it has many medicinal qualities: it cools and relieves burns. It also has cosmetic virtues: it fills in wrinkles and restores the skin's vitality. Combined with chard in a lotion, it helps to eliminate dandruff.
Foeniculum vulgare ou officinalis
Thanks to its antibacterial properties, fennel is an ally of good oral hygiene. Clean breath is sought after as an indicator of good or bad health. Dental pain is feared as much as that of childbirth. Therefore, people clean their teeth very regularly using tools such as toothpicks and toothpaste made from cuttlebone.
The rose has a symbolic and mystical value in the Middle Ages; white and red roses are particularly popular. The first rose to be cultivated was the rosa gallica, known as the "apothecary's rose". It is found everywhere in interiors and gardens. It is used to perfume bath water. Cisterns are filled with rose-scented water to wash hands before each meal.
The word honey (miel in french) comes from the Latin mel and was first used in the 10th century. It was in the Middle Ages that straw hives appeared. Honey is used and consumed as a delicacy and as a remedy! It is an essential element of the pharmacopoeia because it has multiple virtues.
Snail slime, which is 90% water, contains minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, allantoin and elastin. It is therefore used in many beauty recipes to treat acne and ageing.