Bathing Culture

Bathing is one of the oldest cultural possessions of mankind. Baths built on the territory of the former Pannonia could be the centres of social life; just think about Aquincum that must have been a real spa as ruins of several baths were found during excavations. Later even Christians used medicinal springs, and built cloisters and hospitals next to them, for example the healing place of the leper was Rudas Bath. But baths became really famous only later.

According to contemporary information, Rácz Bath was connected with the Royal Palace by a roofed corridor during the era of Matthias Rex. Baths did not decline either during the Ottoman rule; traces of the once vivid bathing culture can be found not only in Buda, but also in Pécs and Szeged.

Marvellous recoveries

Fürdőzők a stégen, Városi Képtár Deák Gyűjtemény Székesfehérvár,CC BY-NC-NDWhen you study the emergence of baths, you usually bump into stories about herd boys with wounded feet. These boys experience marvellous recoveries after crossing gullies during grazing animals. Trusting in the miracle-monger water, masses of people visited the place and the primitive baths evolved.

Although the meaning of the word ‘bath’ is ambiguous nowadays – can be used as a medicinal and/or a holiday place as well -, in the era of the Monarchy, people who went bathing wanted to be healed as well, especially in Transylvania. About 800 spas were kept count of on the territory of the Monarchy at the beginning of the 20th century, from the classy ones to the peasants’ baths with varied features and services. According to a survey in 1863, there were 30 first-class baths in Hungary already. Herkulesfürdő, Pöstyén and Harkány were among them, and also several baths in Budapest, which might be introduced in the frame of a later exhibition.


The development of Tusnádfürdő bath is also related to the stories about recoveries. A marvellous recovery of a herd boy attracted attention to it. He was looking for his stray cattle in the almost impassable mess and had to splodge through the moorland of the Tisztás Brook. He realized in surprise that the rash on his legs, which he believed incurable, disappeared shortly after his feet sank deeply into the mineral mud.


.Pöstyénfürdő. Régi fürdők a szigettel - Bad Pöstyén. Alte Bäder mit der Insel, Balatoni Múzeum, CC BY-NC-NDAs the blazon of the settlement shows, people who dip into the medicinal water of Pöstyén can break their crutches. The Crutch-breaker that was created by painter Arthur Heyer for Lajos Winter’s order is still the emblem of the Pöstyén spa. The town was popular as of the Middle Ages, if one can believe legends, when invalids were sitting in pits padded with hay situated around the springs.


According to the ancient legend related to Hévíz, the Blessed Virgin Mary burst a spring for the pleading prayers of a nanny. The warm water flushing from the depths and the steaming mud cured the thin, scraggy child completely. According to the legend, the child was the Roman Emperor Flavius Theodosius, who declared Christianity the state religion in his empire.

The polymath Matthias Bel also reported on the beneficence of Hévíz, when he was there. The first scientific analysis of the Hévíz spring-water was made by Ferenc Szláby in 1769. Lake Hévíz was put on maps as of the end of the 18th century.


About two hundred years ago, the countryside of Harkány was muddy marsh. The land owner family Batthyány started draining the moorland in order to provide their increased animal stock with more grazing-land. Day-labourers noticed during work that the warm water and mud in which they worked all day long eased their rheumatic pains. Later in 1866, Vilmos Zsigmondy (head of the deep boring on Margaret Island) drilled an artesian well to stop the spring in the lower layers. After analysing the water, the bath construction began.


Révhelyi Elemér képei, Herkulesfürdő az 1930-as, 1940-es években, Kuny Domokos Múzeum, CC BYOne of Franz Joseph’s favourite holiday resorts was one of the most famous baths of Transylvania, Herkulesfürdő (which means Hercules bath). In the summer of 1773, a doctor from Vienna analysed its water and found that it had a wonderful healing potency. As of that time more and more diseased people visited the place, but the history of the bath goes back much earlier. Even the Romans discovered the curing effect of the spring. Emperor Trajan had baths built here, as the Hercules statues found in excavations proved it. The bath had its golden age in the 1850s. During this period, aristocrats’ cottages which still stand were built as well as hotels and baths that corresponded to the needs of the era. In 1847, Prince Charles entrusted Viennese masters Adam Rammelmayer and Joseph Glanz with making a Hercules statue and it is still standing there.


Vízakna evolved on the mine area cultivated by the Romans. The bath consists of salty lakes created by flooded and collapsed mines. First it was visited by the local population, especially citizens of Nagyszeben, but later people seeking cure from farther areas frequented it as well. After analyses in the 1840s, the development of the settlement started.




Translated by Zita Aknai


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