Was Mozart’s middle name actually ‘Amadeus’?
Ummm… Not really!
Mozart was christened Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart.
The first two names are his saint’s names. Following Catholic tradition he was given these names because his birthday (27 January) is the feast day of St John Chrysostom. He was generally known by family and friends as Wolfgang (meaning ‘running wolf’) which was the name of his maternal grandfather.
Theophilus is a Greek name meaning ‘loved by God.’ He was sometimes known by the German translation ‘Gottlieb’. In fact, his own father announced his birth in a letter stating his name was Wolfgang Gottlieb. Into the 19th Century, well after Mozart’s death, he was still often referred to as Wolfgang Gottlieb Mozart.
So where does ‘Amadeus’ come from? Well, it’s the Latin translation of ‘loved by God’, so has the same meaning as Theophilus and Gottleib. It’s often stated that this is a name that Mozart chose for himself as an adult. Problem is, Mozart never called himself Amadeus, preferring to use the French sounding version ‘Amadè’. He regularly signed his name Wolfgang Amadè from the age of 21 onwards. In Italy he even signed Wolfgango Amadeo, which was probably a bit of a joke.
It seems that Mozart only used the Latin version ‘Amadeus’ once, when he jokingly signed a letter Wolfgangus Amadeus Mozartus. This use of mock Latin was clearly intended to be humorous and doesn’t represent his preferred version of his name.
It was not until after his death that ‘Amadeus’ began to be used regularly. For a century and a half academics used Amadeus interchangeably with other versions of Mozart’s middle name, but eventually the Latin won out. The deal was finally sealed with Peter Schaeffer’s 1979 play ‘Amadeus’ and its subsequent film adaption in 1984.
So it seems we’ve been calling him by the wrong name all these years. Just sayin’.