Haydn His Head
Who Needs Friends like Rosenbaum?
During my recent visit to Austria I picked up a little tit-bit from “The Rough Guide to Austria” about the composer Haydn who ‘lived‘ in the town of Eisenstadt where I was staying, for some years. My sarcastic emphasis is because by all accounts, Haydn’s opinion of Eisenstadt and it’s folk was at complete odds with his current estimation by the town. Jillian Greenwood makes this point here.
Anyway, The Rough Guide off-handedly mentions that Haydn is in the squat church called the Bergkirche. His mausoleum is round the back from the view in this picture. This picture is from the church’s website as I forgot to take pictures when I was there mainly because there was a blizzard at the time.
Unlike the Rough Guide, I thought the church was quite cute looking like a large clay jumping spider about to pounce.
To continue, Hadyn’s glamourously carved resting place is not what it seems. In the normal chain of events, most people die and either get cremated or buried – job done. Hadyn, unfortunately, took 150 years for his head and body to be united after his death…
His ‘friend’, Rosenbaum, lopped of his decomposing head, then boiled off the flesh to analyse his skull for bumps (phrenology). This was (and still is) a pseudo-science that people get sucked into, like crystal twirling etc.
Anyway, 120 years after Haydn’s death, the present mausoleum was made for his body, followed 22 years afterwards by his head!
Eisenstadt is proud of Haydn despite his own feelings towards the town. They make a fair bit from the tourism. There are seven organs dotted around the town that Haydn played and composed at, including one in the Bergkirche. I don’t know which pieces were composed at which organ; this information seems hard to come by.
This is probably the most well know piece by Haydn. Surprised me too!
The tale of Haydn’s head has similarities with that of Einstein whose brain was removed for similar pseudo-scientific reasons, again, with a story ripe with controversy and intrigue.