Mozart’s funeral has all of the makings of a great film plot: A mysterious death of a famous music composer, a music rock star (at least in classical music terms) lost, and a lonely pauper’s funeral. The film Amadeus loosely combines all of these elements to make a scandalous plot involving Mozart’s rival, Salieri, who may or may not have poisoned Mozart. Admittedly, musicologists agree that Mozart was not poisoned by Mozart. Illness took the music genius away from the world prematurely (as did the usual questionable medical practices at the time). However, Mozart did have a pauper’s funeral.
Why? How could the most phenomenal music genius in classical music have an unmarked grave? Did no one care about the now decomposing composer? Did his wife simply dismiss her husband? Was Amadeus Mozart truly a pauper at the time of his death? A little bit of historical explanation can shed some light on the mystery behind Mozart’s burial and ceremony.
During the time of Joseph II, a decree went out requiring that all burials needed to heed to new sanitation requirements. Mass graves were created, with bodies rotating after a set number of years. Besides sanitation, Joseph II insisted that families not accompany the bodies to the burial site. Services would occur at the church (which Amadeus Mozart did enjoy) and then the body would be carted to an unmarked gravesite. It was atypical for family and friends to accompany the deceased to the burial site. Therefore, the sad scene of Amadeus Mozart’s lonely burial was actually quite normal.
Amadeus Mozart was not royalty or rich by any means. Those that were of the upper crusts of civilization were allowed more lavish ceremonies and burial practices. However, these cost more than Constanze Mozart, Amadeus Mozart’s wife, could afford. In fact, the musical genius’ spouse never did find where her husband was buried. Reportedly she searched for the burial site of her beloved Mozart for several weeks with close friends, but never did find him. Had Mozart been a member of the aristocracy or had more financial success behind him, he might have enjoyed a much more extravagant funeral.
The musical genius Amadeus Mozart did enjoy much fame and fortune during his relatively short lifetime. He created masterworks that audiences still enjoy today. Although Mozart did not have an extravagant burial, he was remembered then and is remembered now as the greatest musical prodigy in all western classical music.
Morris, J. (1994). On Mozart. Cambridge, : Cambridge University Press.