The Elegance and Noblesse of Spas
Up until the 17th century, spa life played out in the private environment of noble palaces, to which ordinary citizens were denied access. The Baroque brought about an entirely new phenomenon: public spas. New findings about the healing power of mineral water and new types of curative treatments were discovered—for example, bathing in natural springs is replaced by significantly more comfortable spa baths.
It is a quirk of fate that a stay at the most famous Baroque spa complex, established by Count Sporck in the Elbe River valley and village of Kuks, likely did not help its guests with any of their various ailments. At least modern analyses have not proven that the water here has any curative effects. This small detail, however, was amply counterbalanced by an exuberant social life—after all, it is not a complete coincidence that the subject of Matthias Bernard Braun's sculptural decoration that is admired to this day at the Kuks sanatorium is human virtues and vices.
In the more traditional Karlovy Vary, treatment was a more serious matter. In the late 17th century, the ancestor of the inventor of the famous Becherovka, Mayor Andreas Wenzel Becher, established the first public promenade on his own meadow, which became a venue for countless social gatherings. Karlovy Vary's heyday, however, was yet to come, and the Northern Bohemian city of Teplice enjoyed much greater popularity during the Baroque. Its renown was highlighted by the fact that it was here that the personal steed of famous general Octavio Piccolomini was treated in the mid-17th century.
In the late Baroque, an entirely new spa was also established in Western Bohemia. When the monks at the Teplá monastery discovered first-hand the beneficial effects of the water in the nearby forests, they had the modern complex of Mariánské Lázně built, which, in just a few years, became one of the most popular spa destinations in Europe.