Chopin’s Heart, Pickled in a Jar, Offers Clues to his Death

Chopin’s Heart, Pickled in a Jar, Offers Clues to his Death

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.”

On the evening of April 14, 2014, a small group that included Polish scientists, church officials and members of the Chopin Institute disinterred the jar and examined its contents in secret. An account published a few months later by The Associated Press is thick with intrigue: “With a feeling of mystery hanging in the air, they worked in total concentration, mostly whispering, as they removed the heart from its resting place and carried out the inspection — taking more than 1,000 photos and adding hot wax to the jar’s seal to prevent evaporation.”

One of the scientists, Dr. Tadeusz Dobosz, told The A.P., “The spirit of this night was very sublime.”

Dr. Michal Witt, the lead researcher on a team of Polish scientists who worked on the article, said in a telephone interview that it was important to understand the heart as a symbol of Polish national identity: “For Poles, this piece of his body which is present still in Poland is of special emotional value.”

Except for his heart, Chopin’s body is buried in at the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

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