Why did Beethoven never go to church

Why did Beethoven never go to church


norman lebrecht

April 16, 2023

In a new Spectator podcast, Damian Thomson and I examine the religious life of Ludwig van Beethoven, his deep and abiding faith and his loathing for organised worship.

Ludwig van Beethoven had a profound faith in God. He was born and raised a Catholic and on his deathbed he asked to receive the Last Rites.

Listen to our conversation here.


  • Serge says:

    This is so interesting to listen! I don’t understand why Mr. Lebrecht, which is so intelligent and knowledgeable in this podcast, fills Slipped disc with c*ap.

    • Jan Kaznowski says:

      A good point. I’ve read NL’s first novel and a Mahler book – both first class. Maybe this tabloid-ish blog pays well with the clicks ?

  • Kenny says:

    Like Verdi, way too intelligent to lower himself.

  • Nicholas says:

    1.) Beethoven’s 4th piano concerto with Noel Mewton – Woods.
    2.) Josef Hofmann with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy.
    Emil Gilels – TBD

  • Herr Forkenspoon says:

    Why? He didn’t want to get to the other side.

  • Mr. Ron says:

    Fascinating, N.L.

    And you downplay that you have written a new book on Beethoven. Good for you.

  • Gabriel Parra Blessing says:

    The church is too small and doctrinaire for the enormity of his vision. The Missa Solemnis is the greatest mass, or for that matter religious work of any kind, ever created. No church or organized religion of any sort could ever hope to frame a work at once so vast and deeply personal.

  • Doc Martin says:

    Beethoven attended Mass in Bonn and also during his early days in Vienna, his ENT problem made it impossible later on. He was not anti-religion, he taught his nephew Karl how to pray.

    His library contained several theological tomes, including, Catholic Hymn books, and even a Lutheran Bible (in German). Like Mozart, he also had several volumes of Protestant theology which were banned by the Vatican and would have been confiscated by Metternich’s thought Police.

    The composer of the Missa Solemnis was certainly not an atheist. He may have had certain misgivings of the sincerity of some of the Catholic clergy of his time (as Schubert thought). In his Missa Solemnis, which should be called Missa sinfonia in tempo belli ( Symphonic Mass in time of turmoil) Beethoven reconciles God and the world, art and life.

  • Doc Martin says:

    I found this conversation between Beethoven and the harp maker Johann Andreas Stumpff, mentioned in an obscure journal of harp makers!

    Wenn ich an Abend den Himmel staunend betrachte und das Heer der ewig in seinen Grenzen sich schwingenden Lichtkörper, Sonnen oder Erden gennant, dan schwingt sich mein Geist über diese soviel Millionen Meilen entrfernten Gestirne hin zum Urquell, aus welchem alles Erschaffene strömt, und aus welchem ewig neue Schöpfungen entströmen warden. Ludwig van Beethoven (Aus einem Gespräch mit dem Londoner Harfenfabrikanten Johann Andreas Stumpff, 1824)

  • Doc Martin says:

    My impression is that Beethoven was really a Protestant at heart. He would have fitted in well with the sung Matins, Morning Service and Evensong at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. My final resting place is opposite Dr Swift. I would make the Dean and Chapter reserve him a vault next to my ancestor.

  • Observer says:

    It was a pity Damian Thomson felt he needed to do most of the talking, clearly trying to demonstrate what a great expert he is. NL was far more interesting and I wish he had had more airtime. It was thought a relief not to have Mr. Thomson go on and on about the mass in Latin, which seems somewhat of an obsession for him.