I just stumbled onto this little gem today during lunch at work in Notker the Stammerer’s Life of Charlemagne, and I figured that the world (which is comprised of the three people who read this blog) needed to see. Without further ado, from I.32: “There was a certain deacon who followed the habits of the Italians in that he was perpetually trying to resist nature. He used to take baths, he had his head very closely shaved, he polished his skin, he cleaned his nails, he had his hair cut as if it had been turned on a lathe, and he wore linen underclothes and a snow-white shirt.”
It would seem that even towards the end of the ninth-century, this form of personal hygiene was a bit of a strange concept to the Monks of St. Gall. The logic behind Notker’s argument may be lacking, but it remains interesting both to see that in Frankia it was perceived that the Italians still bathed, and that Notker regarded such things as completely unnecessary. No doubt the monk’s piety has had an effect on this statement (why adorn the body when the soul is the primary object of importance?), but it remains an amusing anecdote for modern readers all the same.