Scientists have examined the heart of composer Frederic Chopin and determined that he died from complications of tuberculosis. Not shocking, as I assume all Romantic figures of the 19th century died of consumption. The twist is that his heart has apparently been “pickled in a jar of alcohol and then encased in a stone pillar.” Did you know about this?
Oh, and it was also “‘submerged in an amber-brown liquid,’ thought to be Cognac, which was often used for tissue preservation.” Right, of course. Got it.
That’s according to Annalisa Quinn, writing at the New York Times about new research in the American Journal of Medicine. How exactly did Chopin’s heart end up pickled in Cognac, inside a stone pillar? (The rest of him lies in Paris’s Père Lachaise Cemetery.) Well, the piece contains the following brief recap of Chopin’s heart’s history:
The heart has a long and contentious history. Chopin, who died in Paris in 1849 at the age of 39, dreaded being buried alive, and asked that his body be cut open before burial and his heart sent to Warsaw. Accordingly, his heart was cut out, sealed in a crystal jar and smuggled past the Russian authorities into what is now Poland.
During the Warsaw Uprising in 1944, the occupying German forces, anxious about Chopin’s status as Polish national icon, suppressed performances of his music. His heart was removed from the church and kept at the headquarters of the SS commander Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski. After the war, it was returned to the church and interred in a pillar inscribed with a verse from Matthew: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
To be fair, if I lived in the 19th century, I also would have gone to incredible lengths to make sure that I wasn’t buried alive. Though perhaps I would have opted for a safety coffin instead of requesting that my heart be cut from my body.