I ran across a newspaper clipping that detailed the exhumation of Ludwig van Beethoven. I wasn’t aware he was ever exhumed, so I read on. The article from 1888 detailed the events surrounding what was his second and final exhumation, he was going to be moved to an honorary grave at Vienna’s main cemetery, Zentralfriedhof. The article goes on to mention a curious tidbit regarding Beethoven’s ears, or rather the lack thereof.
The following is excerpted from The Cincinnati Enquirer July 9, 1888:
“Beethoven was deaf during the greater part of his life, and at his death a distinguished anatomist of the period Professor Wagner was allowed tn amputate his ears, with the whole of the two aural cavities, in order to investigate the causes of the deafness. The ears were placed in two glass jars full of spirits of wine: but Wagner died before he had finished his examination of them, and soon afterward the jars mysteriously disappeared. The story goes that they were bought off Wagner’s servant by an English doctor and removed to England. They were never seen since.”
Further down the rabbit hole I found another article, this time referring to the absence of both his temporal bones. At this point, I had to wonder if Beethoven’s ears are sitting on a shelf in a cellar, who knows where.
Where are the seemingly preserved ears and temporal bones? They have never been located. So the next time you have the chance, lend Beethoven an ear, or two and remember the man behind the masterpieces. Oh, the irony.
Cooper, Barry (2008). Beethoven. Oxford University Press US. ISBN 978-0-19-531331-4.
The Daily Oklahoman Beethoven Ear Diagnosis Given. July 22, 1970 Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
The Cincinnati Enquirer Strange Scenes at the Exhumation of Beethoven’s Remains. July 9, 1888 Cincinnati, Ohio