Posted by Richard on  UTC 2017-04-24 16:40

When Franz Schubert entered the Vienna Stadtkonvikt in November 1808 one of the boys there was Johann Chrysostomus Senn (1795-1857). Their relationship became a key one in the Schubert Freundeskreise, the 'circles of friends' that make up the core of the Schubert biography. Senn was about 18 months older than Schubert. He came from Tyrol and had started at the Akademisches Gymnasium in Vienna in 1807, a year before Schubert's arrival. He, too, was staying at the Stadtkonvikt. Although they were in different years and Schubert had extra duties as a Sängerknabe, an imperial chorister, they seem to have struck up a close friendship.

FoS image, size 708x673

Portrait of Johann Chrysostomus Senn by Leopold Kupelwieser, 1820.

A lesson for them all

Senn developed into a charismatic, spirited and free-thinking hothead, just the sort of person whom Emperor Franz I and his government did not want to have in their empire. He was close friends with the leading members of the Schubert 'circles of friends'.

Senn associated himself with radical student political clubs. He was swept up along with many other students when Franz took action against the clubs in 1820. Senn was arrested, interrogated and held in police custody for over a year. He was finally released and exiled to his home state of the Tyrol.

Senn's fate was a deep shock for the members of the Schubert circle. His arrest not only took away one of their intellectual leaders, it served as a warning to all the others about the consequences of opinions too freely expressed and rash youthful enthusiasms. It was arguably the trigger for the initiation of the Schubertiaden, the musical evenings centred around Schubert, which would excite little suspicion from the authorities. They were started in the year after Senn's arrest, 1821, by Franz von Schober, a close friend of Senn's.

Reconstructing the fragments of a life

Much of the biographical information about Johann Senn is scattered in articles that have been published from time to time in Tyrolean newspapers and journals. Alois Pichler, the Tyrolean novelist, wrote a memoir of Johann Senn, which unfortunately contained many novelistic flourishes. It has become a source of many errors and misrepresentations over the years.

Worse still, many of the records of the police interactions with Senn were destroyed in the arson on 15  July 1927 at the Justice Palace in Vienna during the uprising of that year. Nearly all of the secondary accounts of Senn's life have serious defects: dates are frequently incorrect and many unfounded claims are made. Even the main dictionaries of biography give the wrong birthdate for Senn. As the final jest, the headstone which Pichler got erected for Senn also gives an incorrect birthdate.

The present article is not in any way intended to be a definitive biography of Johann Senn, but at least it tries to establish a conservative and sceptical interpretation that does not simply propagate demonstrably false information.


As a rule only direct quotations from these sources have been attributed in the text. All translations ©FoS.

  • Aderhold, Werner. 'Johann Chrisostomus Senn' in Kongreßbericht Ettlingen, 1997, Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main, p. 97-107. [DE]
  • Deutsch, Otto Erich, ed. Schubert: Die Dokumente Seines Lebens. Erw. Nachdruck der 2. Aufl. Wiesbaden: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1996. [DE]
  • —, ed. Schubert: Die Erinnerungen Seiner Freunde. Wiesbaden: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1997. [DE]
  • —, ed. 'Das k. k. Stadtkonvikt zu Schuberts Zeit nach Akten des Wiener Staatsarchivs' in Die Quelle, Berlin, 1928, Folge 4, p. 477-490. [DE]
  • Dürhammer, Iljia. Schuberts literarische Heimat: Dichtung und Literatur-Rezeption der Schubert-Freunde, Wien, Böhlau, 1999. [DE]
  • Dürr, Walther. '"Tatenfluten" und "bessere Welt" Zu Schuberts Freundeskreisen' in Kongreßbericht Ettlingen, 1997, Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main, p. 23-37. [DE]
  • Enzinger, Moriz. 'Franz v. Bruchmann, der Freund J. Chr. Senns [...]. Eine Selbstbiographie aus dem Wiener Schubertkreis' in Veröffentlichungen des Museums Ferdinandeum in Innsbruck, No. 10, 1930, p. 117-379. [DE]
  • —. 'Zur Biographie des Tiroler Dichters Joh. Chrys. Senn.' in Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen und Literaturen, No. 156, 1928, p. 169-183. [DE]
  • Granichstaedten-Czerva, Rudolf von. 'Johann Martin Schärmer' in Tyroler Anzeiger No. 47, Sat 26 February 1927, p. 10. [DE]
  • Gschließer, Oswald von. 'Zur Geschichte des stehenden Heeres in Tirol. II. Die Zeit von 1813-1848', Veröffentlichungen des Tiroler Landesmuseums Ferdinandeum, 1954, 34, 69–173 [DE]
  • Helfert, Joseph Alexander von. Alois Fischer: Lebens- und Charakterbild, Innsbruck, 1885. [DE]
  • Holland, Hyacinth, Moritz von Schwind: Sein Leben und sein Werke, Stuttgart, 1873. [DE]
  • Kern, Florian. Der Mythos ‘Anno Neun’: Andreas Hofer und der Tiroler Volksaufstand von 1809 im Spiegel der Geschichtsschreibung (1810-2005), series Konsulat und Kaiserreich, Band 1. Frankfurt am Main, Lang, 2010. [DE]
  • Klein, Hugo. 'Johann Chrysostomus Senn', Innsbrucker Nachrichten 1921, No. 191, p. 3; 192, p. 3; 193, p. 5; 194 p. 3; 196, p. 3; 197 p. 5; 198 p. 3-4; 199 p. 5-6; 200 p. 3; 202, p. 3; 203 p. 3. [DE]
  • Kofler, Erich. 'Johann Chrysostomus Senn' in Der Schlern, Monatszeitschrift für Südtiroler Landeskunde, Verlagsanstalt Athesia, Bozen, 53. Jahrg. Mai 1979 - Heft 5, p. 306-311. [DE]
  • Kohlhäufl, Michael. 'Literarisches und politisches Bewußtsein im Freundeskreis Franz Schuberts' in Kongreßbericht Ettlingen, 1997, Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main, p. 113-133. [DE]
  • —. Poetisches Vaterland, Dichtung und politisches Denken im Freundeskreis Franz Schuberts, Bärenreiter, Kassel, 1999. [DE]
  • Kramer, Hans. 'Landrichter Franz Michael Senn von Pfunds: Ein Bauernvertreter Tirols' in Tiroler Heimat: Jahrbuch für Geschichte und Volkskunde, Band XIX, 1955, Tyrolia-Verlag, Innsbruck-Wien, p. 135-149. [DE]
  • Melkis-Bihler, Ruth. 'Politische Aspekte der Schubertzeit' in Kongreßbericht Ettlingen, 1997, Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main, p. 81-96. [DE]
  • Otto, Barbara. 'Solche Art negativer Freyheit', in Verdrängter Humanismus – Verzögerte Aufklärung, Vienna, 1992, p. 877-920. [DE]
  • Pichler, Adolf. 'Johann Senn' in Gesammelte Werke, München und Leipzig, 1908, vol. 12, p.99-129. [DE]
  • Schumacher, Franz. Neue Tiroler Stimmen, 1907, Nos. 152, 167, 171; 1912, Nr. 256, 257. [DE]
  • —. Allgemeiner Tiroler Anzeiger, 1927 Nos. 117, 122. [DE]

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