In order to consolidate it’s power and authority, the suppression and persecution of any viewpoints which challenged, in any way, Chrsitian doctrine and dogma. The prime target of Christian suspicion fell upon physicians, scientists and health care workers.
This period is called the “dark age” because medicine, science and health in Western Europe declined seriously impacting public health. Muslims who came into contact with Christians - such as poet, author and diplomat Usama of Shaizar who did so during the Crusades – were shocked and appalled by the primitive understanding of medicine and it’s relationship to public health.
At the time, Muslim science and medicine were among the most advanced in the world. For example, Muslims knew the importance of public cleanliness so they adopt public baths and stressed the importance of washing before meals.
Christians in Western Europe, however, bathing was discouraged by the Church. When a community established public bath houses which were common in ancient Rome, the church objected to people being naked together. Under pressure from the Church regular bathing declined and was often “spiritualized”. For example, St Fintan of Clonenagh was said to take a bath only once a year, just before Easter. The monks of Westminster Abbey bathed four times a year: at Christmas, Easter, the end of June, and the end of September. Queen Elizabeth I reportedly was said to have bathed twice a year, whether she needed to or not.
The black death of the 14th century which caused the death of more than 20 million Western Europeans may also have added more resistance with some religious leaders declaring that bathing opened the pores of the skin permitting evil spirits, such as the plague, to enter the body.
Today, Christian resistance to public health can be seen in the way some Church leaders resist and oppose yoga.