Beethoven in Bonn

Beethoven was born and raised in Bonn, the city on the Rhine. He was baptized Ludwig van Beethoven in Bonn’s St. Remigius Church on December 17, 1770; his birth date was very likely December 16. His parents were Johann and Maria Magdalena Leym née Keverich. Married in 1767, the couple had seven children, although only three survived infancy: Ludwig, Kaspar Karl (baptized April 8, 1774) and Nikolaus Johann (baptized October 2, 1776).

Ludwig van Beethoven carried a burden from the day he was born. Ludwig was also the name of the family’s first son (1769), who had died as a one-week-old infant. It was also the name of his grandfather – a strong suggestion that he was to follow in the elder Beethoven’s musical footsteps.  

Beethoven’s paternal ancestors came from Mechelen in Flemish Brabant (north of Brussels). His grandfather, Ludwig van Beethoven (1712-1773), was the family’s first professional musician. In 1733 the elder Beethoven was appointed bass singer at the electoral court in Bonn and, in 1761, the Electoral Prince Maximilian Friedrich appointed him court music director (Kapellmeister) for the Electorate of Cologne. His son Johann became a professional tenor at the court in Bonn and a renowned music teacher. 

JohannThe “Beethoven-Haus” in Bonn’s Bonngasse van Beethoven and Maria Magdalena first lived in the garden wing of the house at Bonngasse 515 (today no. 20). The ground floor consisted of a kitchen and a workshop with a cellar. Living quarters were on the first floor and consisted of two smaller rooms and one larger room. Their son Ludwig was born in one of the tiny bedrooms on the top floor. As the family continued to grow, Johann and his wife began looking for a larger home.  They moved first to Rheingasse 934, later to Wenzelgasse and then back again to Rheingasse. Of all the family's homes, Beethoven’s birth house in the Bonngasse – today the Beethoven Haus – is the only building still standing today.