Sunday, June 11, 2017

Mineral Springs in the Eighteenth Century

The daughter of Louis XVI is welcomed at Vichy
 The Duchesse d'Angoulême
 The Duchesse d'Angoulême used to frequent the waters at Vichy. From Geri Walton:
Despite critics, watering-places were prevalent across the European continent in the Georgian Era. According to one source:
“The British and Irish mineral waters noticed … exceed one hundred. Those in France are not fewer than eighty; while Germany is richer in these medicinal springs than either Britain or France. There are many in Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Sweden, Russia, and Switzerland.”
Mineral springs were also considered natural sources that arose from the bosom of the earth. Several hypotheses existed as to the formation of them, but the most general opinion in the 1830s was that they were formed in the following manner:
“[Because of] atmospheric moisture in the form of rain and dew, which, sinking through the cracks and fissures of the soil in mountainous districts, penetrates deeper in the earth in proportion to the degree of pressure of the superincumbent column of liquid, and by its action on the different strata through which it percolates becomes impregnated with mineral particles, acquiring a higher or lower degree of temperatures; which some have considered referrible to the central heat of the globe, and have endeavoured to prove that the elevation of temperatures is in a direct ratio in the depth at which a spring arises.”
The efficacy of a mineral spring was claimed to depend upon intimate combinations of such things as saline, metallic, and gaseous substances present within the water. Different watering-places also had different amounts of minerals or salts and might contain alkaline, carbonates, sulphate of lime, or carbonic acids. Moreover, some of the watering-places had turbid water or it was colored by various substances. The smell and taste of the waters was often characteristic of a particular spring, and, so, for example, “an inky, astringent taste [was] peculiar to chalybeate springs.”
Mineral springs were discovered in different ways. For example, several highly efficacious springs were claimed to have been discovered because of diseased animals. Diseased animals supposedly instinctively drank from the waters to aid in their recovery, and several specific cases of animals enjoying mineral waters were known. Animals also notified people as to when mineral springs would ready to be enjoyed. For example, according to one person:
“It is a known fact that at Vichy, in the month of April, the period when the snow melts on the mountains, when the wind has passed over the springs from the direction of Puy de Dome, and has carried the vapour to distances more or less considerable, the ruminating animals on the left bank of the Allier swim across the river to come and drink with avidity at the salutary springs of the establishment: the waters are then fit for use, and the people of the country are in the habit of saying the season has commenced, the beasts have passed across, — les bêtes ont passé.”
(Read more.)
Train station at Vichy

Fresco from the grand hall des Dômes at Vichy

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