© Muzeum of King Jan III’s Palace at Wilanów
Silva Rerum   Silva Rerum   |   02.07.2015

Marie Casimire in a Hungarian Resort

The belief in the effectiveness of healing waters has an ancient origin. In Poland, Władysław Jagiełło was a great supporter of this type of treatment, and he regularly partook of the sulphur springs in Swoszowice near Krakow. The local sulphur springs were in use from the Middle Ages on. The flowers of sulphur powder that was deposited on the surface were collected for medical use, first for treatment of cattle, and later humans. In times of the plague, residents of Krakow moved to Swoszowice to escape the Black Death. Marie Casimire was also holding a justified belief in the healing power of the waters. The queen’s attitude towards physical cleanliness was decidedly unlike those of her 17th century contemporaries, which is known from many documents and reports. At a time when almost all ablutions were considered to be practically a surgical operation, Marysieńka took baths (even several times a month, as was reported in horror), brushed her teeth (monstrosity) and drank mineral water. This was often the famous water from Vichy, in which the queen particularly believed, imported to Poland in large quantities as bottled water.

Waters and their use in the treatment of rheumatic and venereal ailments were the subject of the writings of Wojciech Oczko, the court physician of King Stephen Báthory, in his work On the Hot Springs, published in 1578 at the Oficyna Łazarzowa publishing house. The queen was a living proof of the effectiveness of his advice; however, she was unsuccessful in her attempts to persuade her husband to undergo similar treatments. She gladly partook of the waters already popular at the time – Pau in France, or Cieplice in Silesia. Perhaps it was her scrupulous hygiene and undoubtedly powerful genes that allowed her to survive both syphilis – a memento after Jan Zamojski – and over a dozen births. The queen’s trip to Cieplice in 1687 was famous, when she arrived there surrounded by numerous courtiers, arousing widespread sensation. Selecting the location, she followed in the footsteps of, among others, hetman Stanisław Koniecpolski, who was treated there for his wounds sustained in the Turkish campaign. After the queen’s visit, Poles travelled to Cieplice in droves, as was the case with Bohemian (mainly Karlsbad) and Hungarian spas (Eger). People also stopped avoiding Austrian (Baden, Bad Ischl) and Italian (Montegrotto, Albano Terme, Terme Euganee) spas. The Polish aristocrat stopped ceased to be afraid of water.

A visit of Marie Casimire was considered to be a particular distinction by the spas, and they often would make use of it as a trademark. This was the case in the charming bath town of Bardejovské Kúpele, located in the immediate vicinity of the Polish-Hungarian border in the 17th century. Rising above it is Stebnícka Magura, and the Kvasnov potok stream flows through the spa park. The complete area of the healing springs was given to the city of Bardejov by King Béla IV of Hungary in 1247. From the 15th century on, the belief in the healing power of local waters became widespread, and ca. 1505 bathing facilities for the sick were constructed. In Poland, the spa gained fame through the spectacular healing of nobleman Tomasz Lisicki from Lisice. The 17th century saw brick buildings and wooden inns here, which could easily accommodate a stay even several weeks long. Marie Casimire spent her holidays there in 1683, nervously awaiting near the border for her husband’s return from the Vienna expedition. Her stay was not very long, due to the uneasy times, even though the queen was accompanied by armed men, sent along with the entourage by the Starosts of Biecz and Makowice. Malicious gossip claimed that the trip was an occasion for a furtive meeting with hetman Stanisław Jabłoński, with whom the queen had a secret affair, and whose army was returning to Poland through Muszyna. In December 1683, Marie Casimire returned to Stary Sącz, where she met with Jan III. The souvenir of the day is the Turkish banner, part of the spoils of war from Vienna, kept by the Order of St Clare.

The queen’s short visit was enough to make enterprising Bardejov burghers advertise their spa everywhere, talking about the beneficial effects of the local alkaline waters on the health of Marysieńka. Of course, the designation “alkaline waters” did not function at the time, and the chemical analysis of the springs was only performed in 1795 by prof. Paul Kitaibel from Pest. He considered the Bardejov alkaline springs to be one of the best sources of medical waters in Europe, which could be bottled and even exported abroad. After further analysis, he suggested indications for spa treatments: headaches, contractures, epilepsy, hypochondria, feminine ailments, gout, kidney stones and stomach disorders. Indeed, the queen suffered from some of these problems. Marie Casimire, as a kind of advertisement of the effectiveness of the Bardejov waters, attracted celebrities such as Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II (1783), Marie Louise of Austria, the future wife of Emperor Napoleon (1809); Tsar Alexander I (1821) and in 1895, the Empress Elisabeth, wife of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria. Along with them came crowds of nobles and officials. To this day, Bardejovské Kúpele benefit from the popularity of the mineral waters flowing from 13 springs.

Translation: Lingua Lab