29. “If I Fail, May I Die in Excrement!”
King Heinrich VI invited leading nobles and clergy from across the Holy Roman Empire to meet for a peace conference at the city of Erfurt. Dozens of bigwigs from across the empire answered his call, and on July 25, 1184, they gathered at a meeting room in Erfurt’s Church of Saint Peter. Their numbers included a Count Heinrich I of Schwarzburg, who was often given to emphasizing his determination to do something by stating: “If I fail, may I die in excrement!”
Beneath the church meeting room where the empire’s greatest assembled in all their finery, was the monks’ latrine. Unfortunately for the attendees, the room was not as structurally sound as they had assumed. No sooner had the meeting started than the supporting beams holding the floor gave way, and the glittering gathering plummeted into the liquid excrement below. Dozens died, either from drowning in the fecal pool, or from the collapsed structure. They included Count Heinrich I, who met his end just as he had often said: drowned in sh*t.