Chopin's Heart – Warsaw, Poland - Atlas Obscura

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Chopin's Heart

Church of the Holy Cross

After the famous composer died in Paris, his sister snuck his heart out of the country to honor his wish that it be buried in their native country. 


During his final days, famed Polish composer Frédéric Chopin made the gruesome request that his heart be taken from his corpse and sent back to his home country, knowing full well that his body would never leave Paris

When he passed, Chopin’s eldest sister, Ludwika Jędrzejewicz, complied with his request, taking the heart before his body could be buried and secreting it back to Poland in a jar of booze (most likely cognac). Jędrzejewicz hid the hearty package under her cloak, avoiding officers and agents that might ask too many questions about the body part she was carrying. She was able to smuggle it to the Holy Cross Church in Warsaw, where it was buried beneath a small monument.

Given Chopin’s popularity in his native Poland, the monument to his heart quickly became a rallying point for proud nationalists. During World War II, the Nazis, knowing the power the composer’s legacy held over the people, stole the heart (as well as outlawing playing his music). However, after the war, they gave it back. The heart was reinterred in the church and remains there to this day, undisturbed until recently.

In 2014 a secret Ocean’s 11-like group of church officials, scientists, and medical experts dug up the heart under cover of night. As evocative as the situation sounds, the group was actually just checking the container preserving the heart. They feared it might have cracked, which would have allowed the heart to dry out and decay. Knowing how beloved Chopin still is among the Polish people they simply wanted to avoid causing a public outcry at the exhumation. Though Chopin’s heart is no longer beating, luckily it is still in great condition.

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