Prestatyn Roman Baths

In the 1930s, a Roman bathhouse was discovered at what we now call Prestatyn Sands in North Wales. I took some time out to go and find it, getting briefly lost in the maze of a modern housing estate which seems to have sprawled around the site. The Romans are famous for their bathhouses, and they considered one of the hallmarks of civilisation the opportunity to pop to the baths and enjoy the benefits of warm and cold submersions as well as having the dirt scraped off the skin. Personal hygiene was important; the great unwashed were only fit to be colonised and subjugated.

Famously, medieval and early-modern folk bathed infrequently, yet were very much affected by Christian theology. Similarly, in modern Britain, showering is for many a daily (or even twice daily) exercise while prayer, taking communion, Bible study and church attendance are at record lows. Is there a link between low standards of personal hygiene and godliness? Before I receive a torrent of emails citing excessive piety accompanying impressive regimes of washing and scrubbing, I withdraw my proposed correlation. This much, however, I shall stand by: if we paid as much attention to the blemishes stuck to our souls as the dirt on our bodies, we would do well indeed.

…Baptism, not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God…1 Peter 3:21b, NKJV

If those old legionaries regarded the cleansing powers of Chrestus the Galilean as seriously as the waters of Sulis Minerva, they would have been made cleaner within than without.