Thursday, October 28, 2010

Gather round, dim the light, let me tell you a tale:

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) was a noted Austrian composer. He was a friend of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and a teacher of Ludwig van Beethoven.

After Haydn's burial, two men, Joseph Carl Rosenbaum and Johann Nepomuk Peter bribed the sexton so they could dig up the remains, remove and then take Haydn's head. The two men were interested in phrenology. Phrenology was at that time considered to be a study related the shape of someone's cranium to their mental capacity. Phrenologists had a great deal of interest in people who showed degrees of genius.

In 1820 a patron of Haydn, Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy II was reminded of intentions to bury Haydn at the family seat in Eisenstadt rather than where he was first interred. The prince had Haydn's remains exhumed to discover that the skull was missing. The prince tracked things to Rosenbaum, who gave the prince a different skull. This substitute skull was then buried with Haydn's remains.

Over time, the real skull changed hands. It went from Rosenbaum to Peter, and to the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde (Society of the Friends of Music) in Vienna. A musicologist there would sometimes bring out the skull to show visitors.

In 1954 Haydn's skull was finally placed in the tomb that holds his bodily remains, 145 years later. The substitute skull was never removed, so Haydn's tomb contains two skulls.

wanna see?