A 14 year old boy ended it. That boy was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Mozart (above) was already an accomplished musician and composer. By age 8 — six years prior — he had composed his first symphony, one of 600 pieces of music he’d compose over his nearly 36 years of life. But in 1770, Mozart did something different, playing the role of Elizabethan-age tape recorder. Mozart attended the first of the two Miserere performances and did what any child prodigy would do: he wrote it down, from memory, having heard it only once. His version was not quite perfect, but any mistakes were easily rectified — Mozart simply attended the second performance and corrected his errors.
A year later, Mozart gave (or, perhaps, sold) his transcription to an English music historian named Charles Bruney. Bruney published the composition. With the Church now being unable to effectively prohibit the Miserere‘s performance, it lifted the ban. Instead, the Pope, Clement XIV, focused his attention to Mozart, summoning him to the Vatican.
Thankfully, Pope Clement XIV’s sense of reason overcame any anger — instead of excommunicating the prodigal composer, the Pope praised his genius. Today, the Miserere remains popular — as, of course, does Mozart’s work.
From the Archives: Happy Birthday (c): The Miserere is no longer under copyright (nor the papal equivalent), but it may surprise you to learn that the song “Happy Birthday” was (as of November 2011, at least).
Related: The Miserere, available on CD or as a digital download, with 8 other songs.