Chopin’s heart of cognac

Frédéric Chopin, very reasonably considering the era, had a tremendous fear of being buried alived, so much so that he asked that his heart be removed from his body after his death to ensure that he was in fact dead when buried in Paris’ Père Lachaise Cemetery.

This dovetailed neatly with his sense of Polish patriotism, so when Chopin died in 1849, his sister had his heart removed and took it back with her to Poland where it has remained all these years, happily preserved in cognac in the Church of the Holy Cross in Warsaw, surviving intact even the near-destruction of the church during the Warsaw uprising in 1944.

Now scientists want to examine the heart for DNA evidence of congential illness, specifically Cystic Fibrosis.

“From early childhood he was weak, prone to chest infections, wheezing, coughing,” Cichy said.

Records show that as an adult weighing 40 kilograms (about 88 pounds) at a height of 1.70 metres (five foot seven inches), Chopin was chronically underweight — another telltale symptom of cystic fibrosis.

Cichy also pointed out that despite a passionate romance with flamboyant French writer George Sand, Chopin had no known children, suggesting infertility — another telling clue. And few cystic fibrosis sufferers live past 40.

“If we can prove Chopin suffered from cystic fibrosis, it would be a huge inspiration for our patients, especially children, to know they can accomplish a great deal like he did,” Cichy told AFP.

There is some opposition to the idea from one of his descendants, and the church hasn’t even been asked yet, but it seems the ultimate decision is in the hands of Poland’s culture ministry.

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