Faith and Constipation

Faith and Constipation

The BBC will have us know that archaeologists in Germany say they may have
found the very lavatory where Martin Luther launched the Reformation. The
stone room is in a newly-unearthed annex to Luther’s house in Wittenberg.
Luther is quoted as saying he was “in cloaca”, or in the sewer, when he was
inspired to argue that salvation is granted because of faith, not deeds.
The scholar suffered from constipation and spent many hours in contemplation on
the toilet seat, as do we all. It is not known whether his moment of inspiration was followed by a successful evacuation, but if it were, the fact was possible consciously concealed by the good man, so as not to bring The Deed too much into focus..
So we have now once again been reminded that constipation and faith are closely related phenomena.
The spot where this profound illumination occurred, The Lavatory, was, we are informed, built in the period 1516-17, according to Dr Martin Treu, a theologian and Luther expert based in Wittenberg.
“What we have found here is something very rare,” he told BBC News Online. No less than Martin Luther’s crapper, and what a crapper it was –  The toilet is in a niche set inside a room measuring nine by nine metres, which was discovered during the excavation of a garden in the grounds of Luther’s house. Lots of space in which to contemplate salvation, as it were. Not at all cramped. The Reformation, which resulted in the creation of Europe’s Protestant churches, is usually reckoned to have begun when Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg’s Castle Church on 31 October 1517, but now we know it REALLY happened while he was despairing of ever being able to do the deed in his 9×9 meter crapper. He may even have been constipated while he doing the nailing, hammering those nails in real deep. Luther left a candid catalogue of his battle with constipation but despite this wealth of inside information, certain key constipatory details remain obscure – such as what the great reformer may have used in place of toilet paper. That is, on those rare occasions when he succeeded. “We still don’t know what was used for wiping in those days,” says Dr Treu. The paper of the time, he says, would have been too expensive and critically, “too stiff” for the purpose. How this fact is related to faith-contra-deed has yet to be explored, but obviously opens up vast new vistas of scholarship. God forbid that he did as the Muslim does – using the left hand, reserving the right hand for eating.

Howard Gamble
Alonissos, Greece, 2003

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