Jul 22, 2013

Theresia Mozart's Original Baptismal Entry

Mozart's first daughter Theresia Konstanzia was born on 27 December 1787 in the house Stadt 281, "Zum Mohren" ("At the Sign of the Moor", today Tuchlauben 27, today's building dating from 1884).

The house Stadt 281 at the corner of Tuchlauben and Schultergassel (W-Waw, Sammlung Woldan)

The entry concerning the baptism, published for the first time in 1919 by Emil Karl Blümml (and in 1961 referred to by O. E. Deutsch), is based on the following document in the registers of the parish of St. Peter's Church in Vienna.

 The clean copy of Theresia Mozart's baptismal entry (A-Wstm, St. Peter, Tom. 1, 195/1787)

Apart from publishing this entry with a wrong number (198 instead of 195), with several mistakes, and without the name of the officiating priest Joseph Petz (which is given on the far right), Blümml was also unaware of the fact that the document he copied was nothing but a later fair copy of the original 1787 entry. Only a few of the old original baptismal registers of St. Peter's survive. Mozart scholarship was unaware of their existence, until on 24 August 2006, I realized their significance and published the original entry concerning Theresia Mozart's baptism for the first time in my article "Mozart's Apartment on the Alsergrund" on 8 June 2009. Contrary to Blümml's and Deutsch's assumption, the original document shows that Theresia Mozart was not baptized at St. Peter's Church, but in the apartment of her parents on the Tuchlauben.

[officiating priest] Jos. Petzmp / Coop.[erator] / 1787 / 27tr Xbris / N: 281 / unter Tuchlaub[en] / [the child's name] Theresia, Constantia, / Adelhaid, Friderica / Marianna / [midwife] Marianna Kaudelkin / N: 882 in der / kleine[n] Schullerstraße[n] [catholic, girl, legitimate] / [father] Wolfgangus Ama / deus Mozzar / Mozart K K / Hof= Kapellen= / =Meister. / [mother] Constantia ge= / borne Weber eines / Amtmans Tochter / aus freyburg. / [godparent] Theresia / Edle von / Trattnern / [note] Im Hause ge= / =tauft. wider die Ver / ordnung; wegen angeblicher Schwach / heit des Kinds. [Baptized at home. Against the regulation; owing to alleged weakness of the child.] (A-Wstm, St. Peter, Taufbuch [original copy], Tom. 2, fol. 123)
 The note in vol. 2 of the original baptismal registers of St. Peter's: "Im Hause getauft. wider die Verordnung. wegen angeblicher Schwachheit des Kinds." which shows that Theresia Mozart was baptized at home. The surviving original baptismal and marriage registers of St. Peter's were never digitized.

The note regarding the baptism at home "against the regulation" shows that the minister generally opposed this procedure, because the alleged weakness of the child often served the only purpose of sparing the midwife and the godparent the walk to the church. The signature of the godmother Theresia von Trattner (1758–1793, herself a goddaughter of Maria Theresia) in the original entry is not autograph which is proved by her signature on the occasion of Elisabeth Mansfeld's baptism on 10 August 1784 in the records of the Piarist church of Maria Treu (Maria Treu, Tom. 5, fol. 142).

172 years after the foundation of the Mozarteum, which (among other objectives) was established "to collect Mozart documents", there are still many pivotal Mozart documents in Vienna's archives that so far have escaped the attention of researchers who are confined to a desk.

© Dr. Michael Lorenz 2013. All rights reserved.

Updated: 11 June 2022

In his article "Mozart: In und vor der Stadt" in the journal Wiener Geschichtsblätter (2/2012) the Viennese amateur historian Walther Brauneis plagiarized my discovery of Theresia Mozart's original baptismal entry by simply copying everything from my article and from the pictures of the entry that I had published online in 2009. Brauneis gave himself away by shortening the shelfmark "A-Wstm, St. Peter, Taufbuch (original copy), Tom. 2, fol. 123" in footnote 8 of my article into the revealingly false "Taufbuch Pfarre St. Peter, Bd. 2, fol. 123". This incomplete (and therefore wrong) shelfmark refers to a completely different and much later "Band 2" of the baptismal records in question. In the course of his copying Brauneis did not understand what the words "original copy" in the footnote of my article meant. Because he had never actually seen the books in the parish archive, he did not know that there are two series of early baptismal records of St. Peter's: the original books (which had been ignored prior to my research and to which I referred with the words "original copy") and the later copies of these books with volume two beginning but in January 1804.

Jul 8, 2013

Maria Eva Hummel. A Postscript

In June 2009, the German magazine Der Spiegel reported that the German musicologist Klaus Martin Kopitz had "found proof" that the singer Elisabeth Röckel (1793–1883), who in 1813 became Johann Nepomuk Hummel's wife, was the woman for whom Beethoven wrote his famous piano piece WoO 59 Für Elise. Kopitz claimed that her name being given as "Maria Eva Elise" in a baptismal entry of her first son Eduard in 1814, proves that "Mrs. Hummel called herself Elise" and, since she was known to have been on close terms with Beethoven – who according to Anton Schindler once had intended to marry her – "there could be no doubt that the old riddle of the dedicatee's identity had finally been solved". Kopitz's shaky hypothesis suffered a fatal demise in 2011, when I published my article "Die 'Enttarnte Elise'. Elisabeth Röckels kurze Karriere als Beethovens 'Elise'" ("'Elise Unmasked'. Elisabeth Röckel's Short Career as Beethoven's 'Elise'") (Bonner Beethoven-Studien 9, 2011, pp.169-90). By scrutinizing archival sources, most of which had remained unknown to Kopitz, I was able to show that Kopitz's tortured hypothesis was based on no real evidence and could not be upheld.

The basic arguments in my article against Kopitz's false identification were the following:
  • Since Frau Hummel was not present at the christening of her son on 9 May 1814 (women in childbed were not allowed to get up for a time of nine days), her name being given as "Maria Eva Elise" in the register was the result of an arbitrary decision on the part of the officiating priest. In a copy of the baptismal register, which was made at some later time, the mother's name "Maria Eva Elise" has already been changed into "Maria Eva Elisabeth".

 In the copy of Eduard Joseph Hummel's 1814 baptismal entry (which Kopitz never saw) the name "Elise" is gone. The mother's name is "Maria Eva Elisabeth". (A-Wd, Tauf-Rapular 1811-14, fol. 374)

  • There is not a single document where Maria Eva Hummel called herself "Elise". She signed herself "Betty" or "Maria Eva Hummel", like, for example, in a letter that she wrote in 1837 to the "Tonkünstler-Societät" in Vienna (a charitable society for the support of the widows and orphans of musicians), concerning her pension after her husband's death.

Maria Eva Hummel's autograph signature in a letter written on 24 October 1837 (A-Wsa, Haydn-Verein, A3/2)

Johann Nepomuk Hummel's widow on a photograph by Ignaz Frisch taken around 1860 in Weimar. Note the telling inscription "Betty Roeckel-Hummel" (A-Wn, Pf 8.739 : B [1]).

  • The only members of the Röckel family who can be shown to have actually borne the names "Elise" or "Elisabeth" are Röckel's mother and Maria Eva Hummel's younger sister Eva Elisabeth.

The entry concerning the marriage of Dr. Joseph Benedict and Maria Eva Hummel's younger sister Elisabeth[!] Röckel on 11 February 1840 in the Piarist Church in Vienna. (A-Wp, Tom. 8, fol. 138). One of the witnesses was the bride's brother August Röckel.

Maria Eva Hummel's mother "Elise Röckl [b.] 1756 Private [from] Neuburg Baiern" and the younger sister "Tochter Elise [b.] 1799 d[etto]" together with the illegitimate son Eduard Benedikt, August Röckel "Musikus Düßldorf Preußen" (Hummel's pupil and Wagner's deputy director in Dresden who was actually born in Graz) and Elisabeth Röckel's future husband Joseph Benedict "Medeziner v[on] Wesselÿ Mäh[ren]" in a Viennese conscription sheet dating from 1840. (A-Wsa, Konskriptionsamt, Josefstadt 121/67r)
  • In 1867, Ludwig Nohl published Beethoven's piano piece by permission of the possessor of the autograph, a certain Babette Bredl in Munich who claimed to have received the music as a gift from Beethoven’s friend Therese von Droßdik née Malfatti, ennobled von Rohrenbach zu Dezza (1792–1851). In her will, which I discovered and published in 2001, Therese von Droßdik left her mahogani piano and all the music in her possession to her friend, the German composer and pianist Josef Rudolf Schachner (1816–1896) who in later life resided in Munich. 
  • Frau Bredl's previously unpublished probate documents in the Bavarian State Archives prove that Babette Bredl (1792–1880) was Schachner's unmarried mother. According to Bredl's will (which I published in 2011), Schachner was her sole heir, which makes it very plausible that the autograph of "Für Elise" was returned to Schachner in 1880. It should therefore be searched for in his musical estate.

The composer and one-time owner of the autograph of "Für Elise" Josef Rudolf Schachner in 1861 (US-NYp, Muller Collection 1713141)

The main stumbling block for Kopitz's untenable identification was, of course, the fact that in no way Frau Hummel could be connected to the autograph of "Für Elise" in Munich. How did the autograph make its way from Weimar to Frau Bredl in Munich before 1865? Until her death in 1883, Hummel's widow kept the lock of hair which she had cut from Beethoven's head on his deathbed, as well as Beethoven's last pen that she had received as a gift in 1827. And the autograph of a piano piece which had allegedly been "dedicated to her" should have been of so little value to her that she lightly gave it away? Kopitz never was able to explain this paradox, and all his attempts to produce a biographical connection between the families Hummel and Malfatti failed miserably. None of his musings could be backed up by actual evidence. Kopitz published a book, describing himself in the blurb as "currently one of the most renowned Beethoven scholars", and he continued his online propaganda campaign, using several pseudonyms on Wikipedia (where two of Kopitz's pseudonyms were eventually banned from Wikipedia owing to sock puppetry). His media activities culminated in an unintentionally funny appearance in a German TV documentary, where he was staged as "eminent Beethoven scholar doing research in Vienna" in the evacuated reading room of Vienna's Universitätsbibliothek, a library that is not frequented by musicologists.

Maria Eva "Elisabeth" Röckel was not the last candidate to be presented as "Beethoven's Elise" and "the solution of the mystery". Time and again, the urge to make headlines in the press (or, as I put it in German, "der Fall in die Zeitungsspalte") with over-optimistic and half-baked research, simply proves irresistible to researchers. Some of them lack the necessary epistemological education to distinguish between proven scientific facts and imaginative hypotheses, and make fools of themselves by calling themselves "Miss Marple of musicology" and by presenting a porous theory as "new solution". They are unable to understand that the name "Elisabeth" and a woman's personal acquaintance with Beethoven are not enough to identify her as "Beethoven's Elise". The identification hinges on the person's direct connection to the lost autograph of the Bagatelle WoO 59 in Munich. Up to now, only two women named Elise have been shown to have had such a close connection: Josef Rudolf Schachner's wife Elise (née Wendling) and his daughter Elise Schachner. Therefore – and because I also claim the right to present a hypothesis – I have already suggested some time ago that the dedication "Für Elise" on the autograph was not written by Beethoven at all. The composer only wrote the words "am 27 April [1810] zur Erinnerung von L. v. Bthvn" and the dedication "Für Elise" was added by Schachner decades later when he gave the autograph as a gift to his wife or daughter. This scenario – curious as it may seem – is still more likely than the two wrong dedicatees that have been presented so far. All the people involved in my theory had direct contact with the autograph and under the premise of Occam's razor, the role of Elise Schachner as not Beethoven's, but "Schachner's Elise" looks quite reasonable.

Because the most important sources concerning Maria Eva Hummel's name have all been presented in my article, I have little to add to my arguments, except for three previously unknown documents which shall be published here. Two of them I discovered within the last two years, and one I simply failed to remember in 2010, because I had already found it much earlier.

First, I was able to unearth Hummel's application to the Vienna Stadthauptmannschaft (the Vienna Captaincy) to be granted permission to get married. This significant and previously unknown document in the composer's own hand also proves that in 1813, Hummel called his bride "Maria Eva" (for reasons of source protection, the location of this document cannot be revealed).

K.K. Oesterr Controlstempel   (W) Sechs Kreutzer [Viennese Currency]

Löbl.[iche] K. K. Stadhauptmannschaft.

Der Unterzeichnete ist entschlossen,
die Maria Eva Röckel wohnhaft
in der Rosengasse nächst der Koth=
gasse N. 56 zu ehligen.
Er hat hiezu bereits alle nöthigen
>Anstalten getroffen. Da aber
der H. Pfarrer ob der Laim=
grube verlanget, daß Bittsteller
die Trauungsauflage von der löbl.[ichen]
K.K. Stadthauptmannschaft beybringe
so bittet er hiemit darum.

Wien am 20. Aprill 1813.
Johann Nep.
Musick = Compositeur und
gewesener Kapellmeister
bey Seiner Durchlaucht dem
H.[errn] Fürsten von Esterhazy
Laudable City Captaincy.
The undersigned is determined to marry Maria Eva Röckel, residing at Rosengasse No. 56 [today Fillgradergasse 8] next to the Kothgasse. He has made all the necessary arrangements. But since the priest of the parish ob der Laimgrube requests the supplicant to produce a marriage permit from the laudable captaincy, he hereby requests this document.
Vienna, April 20th, 1813 Johann Nepomuk Hummel
Composer and former capellmeister of his excellency Prince von Esterházy

The permission of the Stadthauptmannschaft was granted the same day by the councilor Sebastian Angermayer.

Second, there is an entry in a conscription form of the Theater an der Wien which I already found in December 2005, but forgot to consider in my 2011 article. It proves that in her youth, Maria Eva "Elisabeth" Röckel, together with her older brother, the singer Joseph Röckel (1783–1870), lived as a foster child in the home of the familiy of the diplomat Felix Milder and his daughter, the soon to become famous opera singer Anna Milder-Hauptmann.

One of the conscription sheets of the Theater an der Wien (Laimgrube No. 26) from between 1807 and 1810. From top to bottom: the singer "Jos[eph] Rökel kk Schauspieler ledig", Felix Milder (b.1754) "Kabinets Courier W[ien]" and his wife Antonia (b. 1759). The actor Georg Palmer (1796–1830), "Schauspieler v Liechtenthal" (whose real name was Georg Frall with his actress wife Josephine, née Demmer (1795–1863) (the entry of the Palmer couple dates from after 3 November 1823, the day of their wedding). Then follow Milder's two daughters, "Tochter Anna (b.1782[sic]) Sängerin beym Hoftheat[er]", "d[etto] Johanna (b.1797[sic])" (the future composer Jeanette Bürde) and finally "Elis[abeth] Rökel (b.1793) in d[er] Kost" (in boarding). The name "Elis[abeth]" of course proves nothing, because – as stated above – it is of secondary relevance for the identification of "Beethoven's Elise". (A-Wsa, Konskriptionsamt, Laimgrube 26/7r)

Third, there is an another entry in a conscription sheet which I discovered in 2011. It shows that in the 1830s, Hummel's son Eduard was employed as intern in the music publishing house of his father's friend and publisher Tobias Haslinger. This employment is also documented in Hummel's letter of 30 January 1832 to his former piano student and  patron Carl Emanuel von Liebenberg de Zsittin (1797–1855) where he writes: "Ich bringe meinen ältern Sohn Eduard zu Haslinger nach Wien um dort das Musikhandel Geschäft, dem er sich widmen will, zu lernen und zu prakticiren." ("I am sending my older son Eduard to Haslinger's in Vienna to learn and practice the music business to which he is willing to dedicate himself."). Owing to Eduard Hummel's various character flaws, his apprenticeship was ended in November 1834.

Hummel referring to his son's employment in Vienna in 1832 in a letter to Carl Emanuel von Liebenberg de Zsittin (Wienbibliothek, I.N. 82830)

Eduard Hummel in the Fremdentabelle (list of foreigners) of the house Stadt 572 (today Graben 21): "[apartment] 2 Aloisia Hasslinger [b.] 1811 d[etto (maid)] Linz [a daughter of Tobias Haslinger's brother Joseph] / Eduard Humel [b.] 1814 Handl.[ungs] P[ra]kt.[ikant] Weimar Sachsen". (A-Wsa, Konskriptionsamt, Stadt 572/17r)

In my 2011 article, I showed that Maria Eva Röckel and her youngest sister Eva Elisabeth sometimes exchanged their first names. In 1827, Eva Elisabeth appears as "Maria" in the sources, because her older sister Maria Eva is called "Elisabeth". As soon as "Elisabeth" (Betty) Hummel had moved from Vienna to Weimar, her younger sister Eva Elisabeth called herself "Maria Elisabeth" or just "Elisabeth" again. In the probate documents of Hummel's mother-in-law, who died on 7 June 1840 in Vienna (Wiener Zeitung, 12 June 1840, 1113), the original names have been put back into place: Hummel's wife (the supposed "Elise") is listed as "Eva Hummel" and her younger sister is named "Elisabeth Benedikt".
Michael Strumpfstrickermeister zu Neuburg am Wald in der Pfalz, H. Joseph Roekel ehemaliger Theater Direktor in London, Andreas bef[ugter] Schneider, zu St. Ulrich Nr – Fr. Eva[sic] Hummel, Hofkappellmeisters Witwe zu Sachsen Waimar, H. Alexander Roekel, Hofkanzellist zu Weimar, Fr Elisabeth Benedikt, Med. Dr. Ehegattin im Sterborte".
The children of Elisabeth Röckel the elder listed in her 1840 probate file (A-Wsa, Mag. ZG, A2, 1824/1840).

The "Elisabeth carousel" in the Röckel family saw a late highlight in the appearance of Maria Eva Hummel's grandniece Elisabeth, a renowned actress, who called herself Louisabeth Röckel.

The actress Louisabeth Röckel (1841–1913) (A-Wn, PORT_00008797_01)

In 1869, in Vienna, Louisabeth Röckel married the railroad official Heinrich Mathes and continued her career under the name Mathes-Röckel.

Heinrich and Louisabeth Mathes's wedding announcement (A-Wienbibliothek, I.N. 20139)

© Dr. Michael Lorenz 2013. All rights reserved.

Updated: 14 March 2023

Jul 1, 2013

Mozart and the Myth of Reusable Coffins

The ineradicably popular conception that Mozart's body was sewn into a linen bag, put into a reusable coffin with flaps on the bottom, and buried in a mass grave, is based on two memorable visual impressions. First, there is is the following scene from the motion picture Amadeus.

Second, there is the following wooden exhibit in the "Vienna Funeral Museum".

Of course, the iconic scene from the movie is already the result of a grave misunderstanding, created by poorly informed historians and authors such as Volkmar Braunbehrens, who in his book Mozart in Vienna, mixed together all kinds of second-hand information and turned it into a deeply flawed description of Mozart's burial "in a mass grave". The most fundamental misconceptions regarding this topic can be traced back to the Josephinische Begräbnisordnung of 1784 (the burial regulations of Joseph II). Joseph II (possibly motivated by severe mother-son-relationship issues) abhorred all kinds of religious pageantry and superfluous irrational customs, and, for the plain reason of sanitariness, wanted to shorten the decomposition time of buried bodies. Therefore, on 23 August 1784, he issued the following court decree.
  1. From now on, all crypts, cemeteries and graveyards which are located within the limits of villages shall be closed and instead only those should be used that are located outside the villages within reasonable distance.
  2. Following the last will of the deceased or the the wishes of the relatives all bodies should be carried to the churches by day or in the evening according to the regulation of burial fees and funeral cortege, be consecrated and laid to rest with the usual church prayers and then be brought by the parish priests to the chosen cemeteries outside the villages to be buried without ostentation.
  3. For these cemeteries a place of appropriate size is to be chosen which is not exposed to water and whose soil is not of a type that prevents decomposition. After the area has been selected it should be surrounded with a wall and adorned with a cross.
  4. Since the burial can serve no other pupose than to further the quickest possible decomposition, which is prevented by nothing more than the burial of bodies in coffins: thus it is commanded that the bodies should be sewn into a linen bag, completely naked and without clothes, then put into a coffin and be transported to the graveyard.
  5. In these cemeteries there should always be made a pit with a depth of six Schuh [one Austrian Schuh was 12,6 inches] and a width of four Schuh, the body should always be taken out of the coffin and put into the pit, as it is sewn in the bag, be covered with quicklime and immediately be covered with soil. In case several bodies arrive at the same time, they can be put into the same pit, but at anytime it is to be observed that every pit into which the bodies have been put be immediately filled and covered with soil, which must be continued in such a way that there is always a space of four Schuh between the graves.
  6. To cut expenses it has to be arranged that every parish acquires an appropriate number of well-made coffins of various sizes which must be provided to everybody for free; if somebody should provide his own coffin for his deceased relatives, he remains free to do this; but the bodies must never be put into the ground with coffins, but have to be taken out again to use the coffin for other bodies.
  7. Relatives and friends, who want to establish a special monument of love, admiration and gratefulness for the deceased, should be allowed to follow their desires; but these can only be erected at the walls not in the graveyards, to avoid taking up space there. (Joseph Kropatschek: Handbuch aller unter der Regierung des Kaisers Joseph des II. für die k.k. Erbländer ergangenen Verordnungen und Gesetze in einer sistematischen Verbindung, Johann Georg Moeßle, Vienna 1786, vol. VI, 565-70) 
Paragraphs 5 and 6 of the 1784 Josephinische Begräbnisordnung in Kropatschek's collection of laws of Joseph II.

This is the theoretical legal situation on which all flawed descriptions in the Mozart literature about the composer's supposed burial in a bag and a mass grave are based. But the emperor's puritanical concept met with stark opposition, especially in Vienna where the local population had not forgotten the mass graves of the plague epidemic of 1713/14. To become effective in the k.k. Hof- und Residenzstadt a law had to be approved by the Vienna City Council. And because the citizens of Vienna filed massive protests against sack burials in mass graves, the Vienna Magistrate decided to remove the paragraphs 4-6 of the regulation from the Currende (i.e. the official publication of the law). Therefore, reusable coffins only came into use in the k.k. Erblande but never in Vienna. The general opinion of the Austrian people was nicely described by Joseph Richter who, in his 1787 pamphlet Warum wird Kaiser Joseph von seinem Volke nicht geliebt? ("Why is Emperor Joseph not being loved by his people?"), wrote the following.
Die Edlen im Volke wünschen, Kaiser Joseph möge überhaupt mit minder schädlichen Fehlern und Schwachheiten der Menschen etwas mehr Nachsicht haben. Unter diese Schwachheiten gehört die Abneigung, sich in Säcke einnähen, und dann durcheinander in eine Kalkgrube hinschleudern zu lassen.

The noble of the nation wish that Emperor Joseph would show a little more leniency towards the less harmful flaws and weaknesses of the people. Among those weaknesses is the reluctance against being sewn into a bag and then being tossed into the muddle of a lime pit.
Owing to the protest of the people, on 20 January 1785, obligatory burials in linen bags had to be revoked in the k.k. Erblande. Joseph II issued the following court decree which amounts to a veiled rant against the stubbornness of his own subjects.
Everybody is allowed to be buried in coffins.
Because His Majesty has noticed that, owing to the salutary order to bury dead bodies without coffins in linen bags, sewed in completely naked and without clothes, many minds have been troubled and – out of prejudice – burials of bodies together with coffins are being preferred; and His Majesty is not inclined however to bend the will of his subjects in this less significant matter which is irrelevant for the general welfare: therefore His Majesty has declared that he does not think of forcing somebody to this kind of burial, who is not convinced of its advantage, but is willing, as far as the coffins are concerned, to allow everybody to freely do what in advance he considers agreeable for his body. Apart from that the content of the regulations of 23 August of last year remains valid. (Kropatschek, Handbuch 1787, vol. VIII, p. 675f.)
The Emperor's withdrawal of obligatory burials without coffins in vol. 8 of Kropatschek's collection of laws.

The documents concerning the expenses for Mozart's coffin are lost. But there are of course archival sources from Mozart's time that show as to how the procurement of a coffin for a common citizen was handled and how much it cost.

When Mozart, in June 1788, moved into the house Alsergrund No. 135, he made the acquaintance of Christoph Dopler who lived there in a small apartment on the first floor, together with his wife Magdalena, née Neu, and their youngest two children Maria Anna, and Karl.

Christoph Dopler in the 1788 tax register of the house Alsergrund 135. His neighbor, the shoemaker Peter Dußel, signed as witness in Dopler's probate documents (A-Wsa, Steueramt B34/27, fol. 218).

Dopler was born on 25 December 1737, in Loosdorf in Lower Austria (Loosdorf 2, 255). At the time of his wedding in 1764 (St. Ulrich 25, fol. 188v), he was referred to as "soon-to-be innkeeper". In 1769, he was described as "former innkeeper in the cemetery of the Benedictine friars of Montserrat" on the Alsergrund, (which was closed in 1783). In 1771, in the baptismal entry of his daughter Regina (Schotten 37, fol. 223v), he is documented as working as Goldpolier (gold polisher) at the porcelain factory, and in 1773, on the occasion of the baptism of his daughter Theresia (Schotten 38, fol. 64v), he is already given as "Mahler in der Porcellain Fabrique" (painter at the porcelain factory in the suburb of Rossau). Dopler's speciality was painting the so-called Türkenbecher (turkish cups).

Christoph Dopler's seal and signature in the marriage records of his friend Andreas Kuhrmayr who ran an inn in the house Alsergrund 135 (A-Wsa, Mag. ZG, A3, 217/1787)

Dopler died on 5 May 1789 (Wiener Zeitung, 13 May 1789, 1213), in the house Alsergrund 135. His probate records are of great interest, not only because they contain a document related to the cost of Dopler's coffin (directly proving the use of coffins in Mozart's Vienna), but they also contain a list of expenses of Dopler's widow which document Constanze Mozart's private funeral expenses two years later which are not extant in Mozart's Sperrs=Relation. Dopler's body was consecrated at the Servite parish church in Rossau and buried third class for six Gulden and forty-five Kreuzer in the Währinger Allgemeiner Friedhof. The carpenter who made the coffin wrote the following receipt (A-Wsa, Mag. ZG, A2, 1770/1789).

P[er] Ein Gulden dreisig Kreitzer welcher ich / Endes under schribener vor eine thotten / druchen vor den herrn Cristof Doppel Seliger / Richtig und bar empfangen habe bescheine / hie mit wienn d[en] 12 Meÿ 789
                                     Joseph Haiss bürgl: / Dischler meister
Ites[t] 1 f 30 x

For one Gulden thirty Kreuzer which I the undersigned have received exactly and in cash for a coffin for the deceased Mr. Christoph Dopler, I certify herewith. Vienna 12 May 1789
                                                   Joseph Haiss civil master carpenter
That is 1 f 30 x
It must be noted that Dopler was not a wealthy individual. His modest estate was estimated at a value of about 34 Gulden. The cost of Dopler's coffin equalled the estimated value of his wall clock. The coffin cost six Kreuzer less than the cowl in which Dopler's corpse was dressed. The following list of Magdalena Dopler's private burial-related expenses provides a fascinating look at the burial customs in late eighteenth-century Vienna. In December 1791, Constanze Mozart – except for the orderly's wage – was certainly faced with having to pay for exactly those items. The list of her expenses, which survives in Mozart's probate records ("bezahlte Konti"), only concerns the composer's most recent debts.

The list of Magdalena Dopler's immediate expenses concerning her husband's burial (A-Wsa, Mag. ZG, A2, 1770/1789).

What follows is yet another document from the year 1790 that proves the use of coffins in Vienna. On 8 May 1790, Christina Ponschab, first wife of the court singer Leopold Ponschab (1742–1795) died at Spittelberg 135 (today Burggasse 2). Her probate file contains a list of medical and burial expenses that her widower had to cover. Listed among these objects is a "Todten Trugen" (coffin) for four gulden.

The list of Leopold Ponschab's expenses concerning his wife's medical treatment and burial (A-Wsa, Mag. ZG, A2, 1613/1790)

The historical facts can be summarized as follows:
  1. Mozart was not buried in a linen bag without a coffin, because such burials were never mandatory in Vienna.
  2. Mozart was not buried in a mass grave, but in a customary "allgemeines Grab" (the usual common grave).
Of course, countless books on Mozart – and even the most recent ones – are rife with stories about Mozart's body having been sewn into a bag and mercilessly hurled into a mass grave. Most of this nonsense is based on Braunbehrens, who in his 1986 book not only fantasized about "the music that was performed at Mozart's consecration inside[sic!] the Kreuzkapelle of St. Stephen's" (there was no music and the consecration took place outside the church), but also referred to "rental coffins having been the normal equipment of all parishes" (a claim that he of course corroberated with the notorious Klappsarg in Vienna's Bestattungsmuseum). Let us look at some of the most typical examples from the literature. To nobody's surprise, Maynard Solomon picked up Braunbehrens's error and described the idea of "being buried without a coffin" for Mozart to have been "a metaphor of the brotherhood of souls". In volume 2 of his biography of Joseph II, Derek Beales (as of 2013) erroneously claims that between 1784 and 1785 people in Vienna were "buried without coffins in mass graves". In her book A History of Opera, Carolyn Abbate states (among many other falsehoods about the composer) that "Mozart was buried in a mass grave". Mozart biographers do not fare any better. Martin Geck firmly believes that "Joseph II spartan burial regulations were still valid in 1791", and so does Piero Melograni. In his 2009 book on Mozart's finances, Günther G. Bauer describes Mozart as having been buried "in the dead of night[sic!] in the usual mass grave". In 2009, Annette Kreutziger-Herr promised to answer the important question whether "Mozart was buried in a pauper's grave", only to claim again that Mozart's burial was not an exception and that "he was sewn into a linen bag". In her 2012 book about Constanze Mozart, Gesa Finke described Mozart as "laying out in a simple reusable coffin" and being buried "wrapped a linen sheet in a mass grave". And yet, in her 2012 biography of Emanuel Schikaneder, Eva Gesine Baur definitely takes the cake. After having allegedly spent "a year and a half of research", she not only has Mozart buried with a reusable coffin (with flaps on the bottom), but also chooses to honor Schikaneder with the exact same funerary procedure in the year 1812. Baur's text sparkles with stunning ignorance.

For Mozart, his friend van Swieten had ordered a third-class burial with the smallest cortege[sic!], certainly not impious, but common with the majority of the populace and also sensible, considering the financial situation of the widow. Schikaneder is also buried in the third class, like Mozart in a coffin that is opened at the bottom, emptied into a shaft grave and used again, just as Emperor Joseph II, the enemy of la pompe funèbre would have liked it. Swieten[sic!] or Constanze had however rented a carriage with two horses to avoid a mass transport.
Only a few remarks concerning this paragraph will suffice. A burial "mit dem kleinsten Geleit" is a misnomer caused by a misunderstanding. The term "kleinstes Geleit" did not exist in 1791. The correct term was "dritte Class". The Viennese dialect term "Geleit" did not refer to a Geleit (cortege), but to the Geläut (peal of bells). Baur's claim that "Schikaneder received a third-class burial" is not based on any documentary evidence. At the time of Schikaneder's death in 1812, the burial classes of Mozart's days did not exist anymore and had long been replaced by a new Stolordnung (regulation of burial fees). Since the parishes of the suburbs had always lower burial fees than the parishes in the City, a comparison in this case is not possible anyway. There is no source that documents the costs of Schikaneder's burial on 23 September 1812 (Pfarre Alservorstadt, Tom. 6, fol. 53). He was probably buried "5. Rubrik 3. Klasse", but this category allowed for various extra expenses that were paid apart from the parish fee, such as the cortege and expenses for an own grave. The fact that on 29 September 1812, at 10 a.m., Mozart's Requiem was performed for Schikaneder at St. Joseph ob der Laimgrube, which was the parish church of the Theater an der Wien, should make us reconsider the idea of Schikaneder having been buried without any effort and completely neglected by his former colleagues. 

The announcement of the performance of Mozart's Requiem for Schikaneder at St. Joseph ob der Laimgrube in the Wiener Theater-Zeitung of 28 September 1812

It is true that in 1791, for three gulden, a carriage was rented for the transport of Mozart's body to St. Marx, but there is no documentation concerning the number of horses that pulled this carriage. That there were two of them is a figment of Baur's blooming imagination. Similarly untenable is Baur's claim that without this carriage Mozart's body "would have become part of a mass transport". Since on 6 December 1791, Mozart was the only person to receive obsequies at St. Stephen's, to be buried in St. Marx, there was no possibility of several corpses being transported to this cemetery on one carriage. All the other deceased persons that were registered in the Cathedral's Bahrleihbuch on this day were either consecrated in other parish churches or buried in other cemeteries, such as Währing or Matzleinsdorf (A-Wd, Bahrleihbuch 1791, fol. 337r-338v).

© Dr. Michael Lorenz 2013. All rights reserved.

Updated: 21 March 2023