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In 2004, archaeologists find Martin Luther’s 450-year-old toilet! This is the very seat where Luther, enraged by selling indulgences and the veneration of relics, wrote his famous 95 Theses and strained to birth the Protestant Reformation. The precious relic was accidentally discovered during the excavation of the grounds of Luther’s house during plans to plant a garden. Constructed in 1517, the latrine was unearthed under Luther’s study in his house in Wittenberg, southwest of Berlin. In a room measuring roughly twenty-nine feet square, the stone toilet seat with a hole in the center (leading to cesspit underneath) is set inside a niche. It is quite fitting that the toilet seat is ensconced in a niche, an architectural element designed to enshrine a statue, saint, or holy figure for veneration—as this is rightly the Lutheran Holy of Holies! Sadly however, the 80,000 annual Lutheran pilgrims to Wittenberg are not allowed to sit on it.

Seated on his porcelain throne, Luther dubs the Pope (who sits on St. Peter’s Throne) the “assgod in Rome.” He writes that following the blissful evacuation of his bowls he “felt totally reborn, and through open gates I entered paradise.” According to Princeton gastroenterologist Dr. Anish Sheth, the passing of large stool distends the rectum and stimulates vagus nerve, at times causing “a religious experience or an orgasm.” Medieval Christianity is likened to a cluttered and constipated church coated in filth—until Luther’s mighty evacuation frees and purifies it.  As well, the Church took up the merde-mantle by distributing equally scatological anti-Luther tracts. Luther labeled this condemnation by Catholics a “thunderous fart,” (the “thunder” remark perhaps harkens back to 1505 when a thunderbolt struck near boy-Luther, terrifying the lad and moving him to a powerful conversion experience). More recently, in a White House news conference on January 10, 2018, President Donald Trump, invoked the profane term “shithole,” using it as a racist slur when referring to Haiti, El Salvador and various African nations saying, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

People often wonder what medieval toilet paper was like. As for Luther, he used copy of a scathing Catholic pamphlet denunciating his theology to wipe his ass. He then sent the used pages back to its author—initiating the world’s first smear campaign. I dream that one day that archaeologists will excavate even deeper into the Luther Shit Hole to reach the actual remains of Luther’s petrified excrement in order to find out precisely what priceless treasures it contains. Ancient shit can tell a great deal about someone’s diet, health and habits. Many indigestible particles remain in age-old excrement, such as seeds and bone fragments. As well, DNA can be extracted from the various digested plant and animal material. And disturbingly, even the eggs of human parasites can be found, which can last for centuries preserved in a subterranean pit. Also, I imagine Luther throwing beer bottles, ointment vials and remnants of printed material down the crapper. Oh how I would love to obtain a particle of Luther’s excrement—seriously—I would reverently preserve it in an ornately carved reliquary!


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Partner to a press called Tenement, Hotel is a publications series for new approaches to fiction, non fiction & poetry & features work from established & emerging talent. Hotel provides the space for experimental reflection on literature’s status as art & cultural mediator. 

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