Vienna’s Schwarzspanierhaus enjoys an ignominious entry in the encyclopaedia of music history. This is a former home of Ludwig van Beethoven and, most importantly, the place where he passed away in 1827.
- Original house no longer exists (demolished in 1903)
- A plaque and relief on the new building recall the importance of the location
- See also: Beethoven locations in Vienna
Beethoven died on March 26th, 1827, in his apartment in a converted late-17th century convent building (the Schwarzspanierhaus) just outside the old city walls. They buried the great composer in the Währinger Cemetery before later moving his body to an honorary grave at Vienna’s Zentralfriedhof.
The debate over the cause of death continues today, but suffice to say Beethoven was not a well man; it seems likely lead poisoning played an important role in his poor health.
(Incidentally, that very same apartment later provided a home for another artistic genius, albeit one not quite in the same league as Beethoven: Nikolaus Lenau (1802-1850), a celebrated German-language poet.)
The house today
So what can you still see of the house and final residence of dear Ludwig?
Not a lot, unfortunately.
The demolition crew turned up at the Schwarzspanierhaus in 1903. So the building you see standing on the same site today is not the one that once housed Beethoven. Hard to imagine that modern Vienna would allow such an act of historical vandalism (the decision to pull down and replace the house proved controversial even back then).
Fortunately, parts of Beethoven’s apartment landed in the city archives. For example, the House of Music has the entrance door on display, and the flooring formed part of the recent Beethoven Moves exhibition at the Kunsthistorisches Museum.
The new building does, however, offer a couple of nods to its poignant location:
- A plaque outside features a relief of Beethoven and the words (my translation):
The house that stood on this site until 1904 was once home to Ludwig van Beethoven, who died an edifying death here on March 26th, 1827. Erected with the agreement of the Abbey of Heiligenkreuz by the Rossauer Male Choral Association on November 3rd, 1929
- The unusually decorative entrance to the house features two reliefs: one of Beethoven and one of Lenau:
At the time of writing, the Weltcafé Wien occupied part of the house and I’ve enjoyed a decent cappuccino and brunch inside. Seems kind of poignant to drink coffee there, given Beethoven’s love of the drink.
Walk around 5 minutes south and west of the Schwarzspanierhaus and you reach another Beethoven landmark at Alserstraße 17. His funeral service was held in the church there (the Alserkirche or Holy Trinity Church) on March 29th, 1827.
How to get to the house
Although beyond the city walls at the time of Beethoven’s death, the location is now quite central.
Subway: the Schottentor station (on the U2 line) is around eight minutes’ walk away (or catch the trams listed below).
Tram/bus: take the 43 or 44 trams to Landesgerichtsstraße or the 37, 38, 40, 41 or 42 trams to Schwarzspanierstraße. Both stops are the first stop after you leave Schottentor on any of these lines.
Address: Schwarzspanierstraße 15, 1090 Vienna