The trouble is that when he died (December 5th, 1791), he was buried in a standard, unmarked plot in the St.Marx cemetery in Vienna’s third district, as was usual practice for the time. Not a mass pauper’s grave, as portrayed in film, but an unmarked one.
Unfortunately, as an unmarked grave, there was not so much as a stray piece of sheet music to highlight the last resting place of one of history’s greatest composers.
This led to confusion as to its exact location, but in the mid-1800s efforts were made to identify the most likely site and instructions given to cemetery staff to ensure it was kept in good order. A proper memorial stone designed by Hanns Gasser was erected there in 1859.
So far so good, but we’re not at the end of the story.
Which means if you see something looking like Mozart’s “grave” in the Zentralfriedhof, it’s just a monument and NOT the actual grave.
Meanwhile, back in St.Marx, a large stone slab eventually marked the grave’s location and subsequent years saw the addition of further adornments, including a stone angel and column. The current display is the result of restoration efforts in 1950, which repaired damage caused by WWII bombing.
How to find Mozart’s grave
Unfortunately, the cemetery is not in the most convenient location in Vienna, sandwiched behind a bend of the A23 Autobahn.
Take trams 18 or 71 to the St.Marx stop, then walk for a few minutes following the “St. Marx Friedhof” signs. Alternatively, take bus 74A to Hoffmannsthalgasse (and another short walk).
You can find the grave easily enough inside. Go through the main cemetery entrance and walk down the aisle of trees until it forks and just look left. There’s also a sign pointing to “Mozartgrab” (it’s plot 179).
And there’s more…
Our story is still not over, though.
First, we’ll likely never know if the marked location truly is the actual plot where Mozart was laid to rest. We’re assuming the 19th century Viennese got it right.
Second, this kind of grave was not permanent back then. Which means they typically dug up the bones after ten years and reused the site for a new burial.
Nobody knows what then happened to Mozart’s actual skeleton once they reused his plot. A skull in the hands of the Mozarteum Foundation in Salzburg is alleged to be Mozart’s but nobody is sure – scientific tests were inconclusive.
P.S. If you’re in St.Marx cemetery, check plot 207 (Anna Gottlieb), too. She was the soprano who played Pamina at the premiere of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” in 1791 (just before his death)!