Historians suspect that Europeans have enjoyed sauna-like steam baths for thousands of years. A 4,000-year-old sauna structure has been found North of Scotland, on Orkney Island. Originally, these steam baths were simply baths, used for cleaning and relaxation, much like modern-day baths. Over time, the above-ground, wooden sauna building developed, and saunas took on a character of their own.
The earliest written records of saunas come from the 1100’s. During the middle ages, various travelers wrote about the public sweat baths of northern Europe, where saunas offered peasant farmers a break from hard labor.
By the 1700’s, Swedish and Finnish bath houses had become a topic of public discourse, with some criticizing the sweat baths burned too much wood. Various physical ailments were blamed on the saunas, as well, and there were some suggestions of indecency.
Saunas had already become a part of social life, though, and the locals refused to abandon them. While bath houses elsewhere in Europe had fallen into disrepute, they had been elevated to near-religious status for the Finns. Saunas became the site of important rituals, including childbirth.
In the 1800’s, visitors to Scandinavia reported on the distinctly Finnish institution of the sauna. Finnish art and literature frequently referenced saunas, depicting them in their traditional, log-construction form. Finns took pride in their unique form of recreation.
The Since then, popularity of saunas over time has ebbed and flowed. In the early twentieth century, as many Finns moved from villages to cities, interest in the sauna waned. Then, during World War II, with the scarcity of other forms of entertainment, the sauna became popular once more.
Today, saunas are found around the world, although they remain strongly associated with Scandinavia, and particularly with the Finns, their benefits have found their way into many homes of all nationalities.
The sauna’s earliest origins might be lost to ancient history, but their enduring value is evident in our modern times and The Sauna Place is here to help you decide which sauna is right for you!