Beethoven's funeral procession
Beethoven's grave

Images of the funeral procession

The Funeral


The funeral was arranged for the afternoon of 29th March. Shortly afterwards Beethoven's publisher, Tobias Haslinger, wrote a preface to an arrangement of Beethoven's Equale that he entitled Trauer-Gesang bey Beethoven's Leichenbegängnisse in Wien den 29 März 1827:

A vast crowd collected before and inside the residence of the deceased - outside the Schotten Gate, in the Glacis, in the Schwarzspanierhaus - both spectators as well as mourners, the latter in complete mourning-garb, clothed in black, gloves too, and fluttering crepe on the left sleeve. At three o'clock, the corpse, which eight opera singers from the Royal and Imperial Court Opera Theatre had volunteered to carry on their shoulders, Messrs Eichbeyger, Schuster, Cramolini, Ad. Miiller, Hofmann, Rupprecht, Borschitzky, and Ant. Wranitzky (orchestra member), was put to lie in state in the courtyard. A half-hour later the high clergy for the solemn escort appeared; following the prayers spoken over the mortal remains, the aforesaid singers intoned an earnest, solemn chorale by B. A. Weber, whereupon the whole procession, in the order given below, started to move:

I. The cross-bearer,

II. Four trombonists, Messrs Böck (brothers), Weidi, and Tuschky,

III. The choirmaster, Mr. Assmayer, under whose direction

IV. A choir of singers, made up of Messrs Tietze, Schnitzer, Gross, Sykora, Frühwald, Geissler, Rathmeyer, Kokrement, Fuchs, Nejebse, Ziegler, Perschl, Leidl, Weinkopf, Pfeiffer, and Seipelt, performed the Miserere in alternation with the trombone quartet. This ambulant orchestra was followed by

V. The high clergy

VI. The sumptuously adorned coffin flanked by Messrs Kapellmeisters Eybier, Hummel, Seyfried, and Kreutzer on the right: Weigl, Gyrowetz, Gänsbacher, and Würfel on the left, who held the white ribbons that hung down from the richly embroidered pall

VII. In rows on either sides, from the front of the procession to the coffin, were the torchbearers, thirty-six in number, made up of friends of the arts, poets, authors, composers, actors, and musicians, among them Messrs Anschiitz, Bernard, Jos. Böhm, Castelli, Carl Czerny, Sigr. David, Grillparzer, Conr. Graf, GriAhbaum, Haslinger, Hildebrand, Holz, Katter, Krall, Sigr. Lablanche, Baron Lannoy, Linke, Mayseder, Mr. Meric, Merk, Mechetti, Meier, Sigr. Paccini, Piringer, Radicchi, Raimund, Riotte, Schoberlechner, Schubert, Schickh, Schmidl, Streicher, Schuppanzigh, Steiner, Weidmann, Wolfmayer, and many others, all in mourning-dress with white roses and lily bouquets fastened on the sleeve with crepe, and with burning wax torches. In addition, one caught sight in the procession (which moved at an extremely slow pace because of the undulating throng) of many esteemed dignitaries: Messrs Privy Councillors von Musel and Breuning (the latter being the deceased's childhood friend and executor); Beethoven's brother; the pupils of the Conservatory; the students of the thoroughbass teacher at St. Anna's, Mr. Kapellmeister Drechsler, etc., etc., all of them deeply mourning a loss shared by anybody receptive to the almighty power of the musical art. Having arrived at the church, the aforementioned sixteen singers began, during the consecration, to sing the Libera me Domine de morte Aeterna by Mr Kapellmeister von Seyfried, originally intended for use in performances of the Mozart Requiem, and composed for four voices with organ accompaniment (score and parts published by Tob. Haslinger), but here, as demanded by the occasion, simply rewritten as a vocal chorale for four mens' voices 'a cappella'.

After this the four-in-hand ceremonial hearse drove off to the Währing Cemetery. Many equipages followed it out across the custom-line. Before the cemetery, Royal and Imperial Court Actor Mr Anschütz recited a text written by Grillparzer in memory of the deceased. Mr Haslinger handed three laurel wreaths to Mr Hummel, Court Kapellmeister of the Grand-Duchy of Weimar, who lowered them on to the coffin. The grieving friends of the departed remained until the earth was levelled off. Both of the aforementioned musical works, Miserere and Libera, were given in the Augustinian Court Parish Church on the occasion of the office for the dead held for L. van Beethoven, on 3rd April (Mozart's Requiem), organised by the association of local music dealers, and on 26th of the same month (Cherubini's Requiem) by the Society of the Friends of Music, where it was repeated by popular request during the functions of the high clergy at the catafalque, at the end of the requiem.


We who stand here at the grave of the deceased are in a sense the representatives of an entire nation, the whole German people, come to mourn the passing of one celebrated half of that which remained to us from the vanished brilliance of the fatherland. The hero of poetry in the German language and tongue still lives -- and long may he live. But the last master of resounding song, the gracious mouth by which music spoke, the man who inherited and increased the immortal fame of Handel and Bach, of Haydn and Mozart, has ceased to be; and we stand weeping over the broken strings of an instrument now stilled. 


An instrument now stilled. Let me call him that! For he was an artist, and what he was, he was only through art. The thorns of life had wounded him deeply, and as the shipwrecked man clutches the saving shore, he flew to your arms, oh wondrous sister of the good and true, comforter in affliction, the art that comes from on high! He held fast to you, and even when the gate through which you had entered was shut, you spoke through a deafened ear to him who could no longer discern you; and he carried your image in his heart, and when he died it still lay on his breast. 


He was an artist, and who shall stand beside him? As the behemouth sweeps through the seas, he swept across the boundaries of his art. From the cooing of the dove to the thunder's roll, from the subtlest interweaving of wilful artifices to that awesome point at which the fabric presses over into the lawlessness of clashing natural forces -- he traversed all, he comprehended everything. He who follows him cannot continue; he must begin anew, for his predecessor ended where art ends. 


Adelaide and Leonore! Commemorations of the heroes of Vittoria and humble tones of the Mass! Offspring of three and four-part voices. Resounding symphony, "Freude, schöner Götterfunken", the swansong. Muses of song and of strings, gather at his grave and strew it with laurel! 


He was an artist, but also a man, a man in every sense, in the highest sense. Because he shut himself off from the world, they called him hostile; and callous, because he shunned feelings. Oh, he who knows he is hardened does not flee! (It is the more delicate point that is most easily blunted, that bends or breaks.) 


Excess of feeling avoids feelings. He fled the world because he did not find, in the whole compass of his loving nature, a weapon with which to resist it. He withdrew from his fellow men after he had given them everything and had received nothing in return. He remained alone because he found no second self. But until his death he preserved a human heart for all men, a father's heart for his own people, the whole world. 


Thus he was, thus he died, thus he will live for all time! 


And you who have followed his escort to this place, hold your sorrow in sway. You have not lost him but won him. No living man enters the halls of immortality. The body must die before the gates are opened. He whom you mourn is now among the greatest men of all time, unassailable forever. Return to your homes, then, distressed but composed. And whenever, during your lives, the power of his works overwhelms you like a coming storm; when your rapture pours out in the midst of a generation yet unborn; then remember this hour and think: we were there when they buried him, and when he died we wept! 


After Beethoven's Death


Exhumation Oct13th 1863 - First exhumation of both Schubert and Beethoven in order to better preserve the body by placing it in a metal casket within a bricked-in vault. Gerhard Breuning (who as a 13 year old boy had known Beethoven) was present, and noted the compact thickness of Beethoven's skull in comparison to the 'almost feminine thinness' of Schubert's. Another striking feature was the presence of a fine gold filling in the last left molar - a rarity for the 1820's. Both skulls were photographed by J.B.Rottmayer and plaster casts were made by Wittman. As a member of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, Gerhard Breuning had custody of Beethoven's skull - In his own words " what stormy feelings passed through my mind evoking such powerful memories, as I had possession of that head for a few days, cleaned from it bits of dirt, took plaster casts of the base of the skull for Professor Romeo Seligmann, kept it by my bedside overnight, and in general proudly watched over that head from whose mouth, in years gone by, I had so often heard the living word!"

Beethoven and Schubert graves

The original graves of Schubert and Beethoven in the Wahring cemetery (now The Schubert park)

June 22nd 1888 - 4 pm - During the second disinterment, the casket was opened and scientists were allowed twenty minutes to examine and measure the bones. Photographs were again taken. The composer Anton Bruckner was present and Bruckner was a very traditional Catholic with a reverence for relics, such as the remains of saints. For him composers like Beethoven were "saints," and when Beethoven and Schubert's remains were exhumed for reburial close to each other in the Central Cemetery in Vienna, Bruckner insisted upon being present and in handling the remains of Beethoven, even being the one to put Beethoven's skull back in the casket after examination by physicians. Afterwards he was proud of the fact that he might have lost a lens out of his pince nez glasses in handling Beethoven's bones and that the lens might have ended up being buried with Beethoven!


Heiligenstädter Testament

"O ye men who think or say that I am hostile, stubborn or misanthropic, how greatly do you wrong me!"

Heiligenstadt Testament

After Beethoven's death in March 1827, this very moving document was found amongst his possessions (along with the letters to the 'Immortal beloved') - It was written at Heiligenstadt (now a suburb of Vienna) in Oct 1802 at a time when Beethoven aged 31, had given up all hope of his hearing improving. It was never sent, but in it he reveals his soul and the inner torment he was suffering. 


The house in Heiligenstadt, where Beethoven wrote the Testament

"...ah it seemed impossible to leave the world until I had produced all that I felt called upon me to produce, and so I endured this wretched existence."

The Testament serves, as does his music as an inspiration to mankind - that no matter whatever adversity we are facing there is always hope and in Beethoven's belief, ultimate triumph.

Click here to read the "Heiligenstädter Testament"

Beethoven Reference Site  © 2010

The cause of Beethoven's deafness is generally thought to have been Otosclerosis - the abnormal growth of bone of the inner ear. This bone prevents structures within the ear from working properly and causes hearing loss.

Otosclerosis is a disease, which results in new bone formation either in the area of the stapes bone or in the cochlea housing the hearing nerve; or it can be a combination of both. When the bony deposits infiltrate the stapes bone, this bone is unable to vibrate and pass the sound into the inner ear. This results in what is called a conductive hearing loss, i.e., the sound is not being properly "conducted" into the inner ear. As a general rule, the thicker the bony deposit the greater the hearing loss, and the longer the hearing loss, the greater is the amount of deposits. The fixation of the stapes usually follows a slow and relentless course with progressively worsening hearing.

Beethoven deathbed

Hüttenbrenner: "In the last moments no one  except myself and frau Beethoven [probably the housekeeper Sali] were present. Beethoven lay in the final agony, unconscious and with the death rattle in his throat, from 3pm when I arrived until 5.00pm; then there was suddenly a loud clap of thunder accompanied by a bolt of lightning which illmunated the death chamber with a harsh light (there was snow outside). After this unexpected phenomenon, Beethoven opened his eyes , raised his right hand and , his fist clenched, looked upwards for several seconds with a very grave, threatening countenance as though to say "I defy you, powers of evil! Away, God is with me". As he let his hand sink down onto the bed again, his eyes half closed. My right hand lay under his head, my left hand rested on his breast. There was no more breathing, no more heartbeat.

The great composer's spirit fled from this world of deception into the kingdom of truth..

I shut the half open eyes of the deceased, kissed them, and then his forehead , mouth and hands. At my request frau Van Beethoven cut a lock of his hair and gave it to me as a sacred relic of Beethoven's last hour."

The painter Josef Danhauser (1805–1845) drew a portrait of the dead master and made a death mask. Before this, bones of an ear had been taken during the post mortem in order to discover the cause of deafness. 


Dies (26th Mar-4.45p.m.) 28th Mar: Autopsy performed by Dr.Johann Wagner. Petrous portion of the temporal bone was sawn through and removed. Cause of death Cirrhosis of the liver accompanied by dropsy. 

Ear diagram

The ear 

Eye pain. Due to nearsightedness, he uses glasses. 




Rheumatic troubles. Stays in Teplitz and Franzensbaden. 



Serious intestinal illness



Further deterioration of hearing. Last public appearance as pianist




Use of ear trumpets



Conversation books. (Conversation had to be written)




Jaundice, goes to Johannesbad.




Almost totally deaf (left ear not as bad as right)




Intestinal illness. Recovery in July




Final illness; Chirohsis/dropsy. (5 operations to drain fluid)




Baden, the spa town near Vienna which Beethoven frequented 

Only 26 kilometers south of Vienna, Baden offers a rich variety of baths and springs, parks and coffeehouses. It was the favourite summer residence of Beethoven, and he stayed there many times over the years. Mozart had also frequented the spa. The origin of Baden lies in the healing powers of the sulphur springs. The Romans experienced and enjoyed the waters, calling the place "Aquae". Its thermal water, which emerges from the springs at a temperature of 36°C, is rich in valuable minerals. Every day, about 4 million litres of superior thermal sulphur water are used in Baden. After the devastating fire of 1812, Baden was rebuilt in the Biedermeier style.




First signs of deafness




Complains of buzzing in ears in letter to Wegeler and Amenda




"Heiligenstadt testament" - Beethoven writes of his despair at worsening hearing



Serious illness in the spring, slow convalescence




The spa towns

The use of mineral waters for treatment of various ailments goes back to ancient times, when the Romans developed places for taking a cure around existing mineral springs. In the Middle Ages kings and princes rediscovered the benefit of drinking waters with therapeutic properties to cure various ailments. In the 18th and 19th centuries the aristocracy developed resorts around the sources of these waters at which they gathered to relax and meet each other. Some of the oldest spas in continous existence are located in Central Europe, in present day Austria, Czech Republic and Hungary. 



9th Symphony

Tragically Beethoven was completely deaf  when the  9th symphony was first performed in 1824 

Further test results on the Guavera lock of Beethoven's hair have been published :

"The second test was a trace metals analysis conducted by Dr. William Walsh at the HRI & Pfeiffer Research Center in Naperville, Illinois. This test will reveal the presence of any trace heavy metals. The following results of this test were announced by Dr. Walsh on Tuesday, October 17th 2000:

High lead concentrations in Beethoven's hair were found in independent analyses by McCrone Research Institute & Argonne National Laboratory. This is evidence that Beethoven had plumbism (lead poisoning) which may have caused his life-long illnesses, impacted his personality, and possibly contributed to his death. Distinctive trace-metal patterns associated with genius, irritability, glucose disorders, and malabsorption were not present in the Beethoven samples tested by McCrone Research Institute. Very low (undetectable) mercury levels were reported independently by McCrone Research Institute and Argonne National Laboratory. These results provide no evidence that Beethoven received medical treatment for syphilis, usually treated in the 1820's with mercury compounds. This supports the consensus of Beethoven scholars who believe that Beethoven never had syphilis. Rumors that Beethoven suffered from syphilis have been discounted in all serious musicological literature for the last thirty years."

Ear Trumpets

Mälzels hearing aids 

There are various theories circulating today regarding Beethoven's health and hearing loss. It has been suggested that Beethoven was suffering from Syphilis (now discredited) or that he was poisoned. I have listed the presently accepted causes of his ailments and death, though tests are being carried out on his hair and should prove the matter conclusively.