In today's article we continue with the history of perfumery and take a leap from ancient Rome to the Middle Ages.
The advent of Christianity in Europe markedò a break in the imagination linked to perfume and its aesthetic and voluptuous function, known in Greek baths and Roman baths, was condemned.
In this' perspective, the episode of Mary Magdalene who sacrificed is symbolic ò its "sinful" perfumes at the feet of Jesus Christ, further emphasizing that the'use of odorous molecules was intended only for religious or medical purposes and that their sensual and pleasure-related side was condemned.
Precisely because of Christianity's condemnation of perfume, in the Middle Ages perfumery developed above all in the Arab and Eastern world where the growing spice trade and the diffusion of some techniques such as distillation created fertile ground for this'art.
In the meantime, many medicinal plants were cultivated in European monasteries used to make some medicinal perfumes: the famous «Aqua Mirabilis".
It is in this contentment that a great revolution takes place!
Many plants were treated with a process that was a distant relative of distillation, this made it possible to obtain concentrated odorous blends from medicinal plants, but the real revolution comes to us from the Arab world: the distillation of fermented products!
Through an instrument called still our ancestors were able to obtain, from fermented waste products, a substance called ethanol, the common alcohol.
The discovery of'ethanol combined with odorous molecules leads to a new course...the
Odorous substances, therefore, were no longer mixed with'oil or ointments but found their place in alcoholic solutions which still exalted more the olfactory characteristics.
Among the main perfumed products in this historical period c'were therefore alcoholates of aromatic plants such as rosemary and thyme, which also boast antiseptic properties.
In 1500 the «Liber de arte distillandi de simplicibus» by Jérôme Brunschwig was published which summarized in detail the different materials and the different distillation techniques and reviewed 305 vegetable and animal distillates explaining their properties therapeutics.
This is the story of the birth of alcoholic perfumery...but that's not all... wait to see what happens in the'modern age!
Dott.ssa Federica D'Incà - COSMAST Master in Cosmetic Science and Technology
"Every woman has the right to be beautiful" - Elizabeth Arden