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Special Article |

What Killed Mozart?

Jan V. Hirschmann, MD
Arch Intern Med. 2001;161(11):1381-1389. doi:10.1001/archinte.161.11.1381.
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died in Vienna on December 5, 1791, 2 months before his 36th birthday.1(p415) His 29-year-old wife, Constanze, became so distraught that she crawled into bed with her dead husband, unsuccessfully attempting to contract his illness and die with him.2(p153) A physician, legally required to examine the body to exclude foul play, found nothing amiss but performed no autopsy.1(p523) Regulations specified that interment not occur until 48 hours after death, apparently to ensure that no one was buried alive.3(p169) During that time, a service took place at St Stephen's Cathedral, where he and Constanze had wed 9 years earlier, and probably on the night of December 7, during inclement weather, a hearse transported the corpse to a cemetery in St Marx, a village about 5 km outside Vienna. Without ceremony or a priest in attendance, Mozart was interred, probably in a coffin in a simple grave.4(p745) 5(p421) It was common practice, however, to sew the unclothed bodies of the dead in linen sacks, place several together in a communal pit,5(pp414-416) 6 and cover them with quicklime to hasten decomposition. No permanent marker commemorated his burial site, and, about 7 years later, workers dug up the grave and reused it, dispersing the remains.

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