Rest in Pieces
by Rita Klement
Rest in Pieces  – das posthume Schicksal Ludwig van Beethovens
However, there was not too much left of Beethoven’s coffin and only some wooden parts were found. Then, the precious bones were recovered. Particular importance was attached to the discovery of the skull, since there had been repeated rumors that it had not been in the coffin at all. But the rumors could be disproved. Not only were the bones found, but also the skull of the great composer, which was cut into nine pieces during the autopsy. The precious corpse was now examined, the bones measured.  Afterwards, the bones were to be lined up in the new coffin in “as natural a position as possible”. For this purpose, Beethoven’s vertebrae were threaded on a string. Despite this effort to achieve a “natural position,” it was decided not to rebury the heads of the two dead composers for the time being, but to keep them in the Society of Friends of Music, all the more so since Beethoven’s skull was no longer complete anyway. The coffins were sealed and protected with the Society’s seal and then moved to the chapel. The remains of clothing found in the graves and the remains of the two wooden coffins were also given to the Society of the Friends of Music. 
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
But this was not to be the end of the odyssey for Ludwig van Beethoven’s precious corpse. For only another 25 years later, his “eternal rest” was once again interrupted. It was decided to make the new central cemetery, which was not very well received by the population, more attractive by transferring prominent personalities here.
In 1888, Ludwig van Beethoven was exhumed for a second time and the valuable remains were examined once again. Since the time available for the examination was extremely limited, one had to limit oneself to an examination of the skull.  However, it was noticed that some other parts of the skull were missing, since it was already known that the rock bones (inner ear) had already been removed during the autopsy and had not been buried with them. 
The bone fragments of Beethoven’s skull, which had apparently been removed during the first exhumation, did not reappear until about 100 years later, when the two physicians Hans Bankl and Hans Jesserer, after long research, succeeded in 1985 in finding the missing bone pieces in a metal box with the inscription Beethoven. They had been in the estate of the physician Romeo Seligmann, who had been present at the first exhumation, and had now been handed over to the two scientists by one of his descendants.  Later, these pieces of bone arrived in the USA and were examined there together with some locks of hair by the “Center for Beethoven Studies”.  Thus, the mystery of the cause of Beethoven’s death could now be solved with the greatest probability.
Kilophot (K. L.) (Hersteller), 18., Währinger Ortsfriedhof – Beethoven-Grab, Ansichtskarte , 1914 (Herstellung), Wien Museum Inv.-Nr. 58891/1338, CC0 (https://sammlung.wienmuseum.at/objekt/130368/)
References and literature used
0 … Lovejoy 2013
1 … Caeyers, S. 19ff.
2 … Bankl/Jesserer, S. 89
3 … Actenmässige Darstellung, S. 3.
4 … Actenmässige Darstellung, S. 4.
5 … Actenmässige Darstellung, S. 4ff.
6 … Actenmässige Darstellung, S. 8.
7 … Actenmässige Darstellung, S. 10ff.
8 … Bankl/Jesserer, S. 96ff.
9 … Bankl/Jesserer, S. 110.
10 … Bankl/Jesserer, S. 103f.
11 … Reiter 2007.
12 … Erfurth, S. 386f.
13 … Reiterer 207.
Jan Caeyers, Beethoven. Der einsame Revolutionär, München 2020.
Andreas Erfurth, Ludwig van Beethoven—a psychiatric perspective. In: Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift Band 171, S. 381–390, Wien 2021.
Bess Lovejoy, Rest in Pieces. Die unglaublichen Schicksale berühmter Leichen, New York, 2013.
Christian Reiter, Beethovens Todesursachen und seine Locken, Mitteilungsblatt Wr. Beethoven-Gesellschaft 38.Jg, Wien 2007.
o.V., Actenmässige Darstellung der Ausgrabung und Wiederbeisetzung der irdischen Reste von Beethoven und Schubert, Wien 1863.