News24

Home is where the heart'll stay

2008-07-26 22:51

Warsaw - Like a religious relic, the heart of composer Frederic Chopin rests in a Warsaw church, untouched since it was preserved in alcohol after his death in 1849 at age 39.

And that's how the Polish government wants to keep it.

Scientists want to remove the heart for DNA tests to see if Chopin actually died from cystic fibrosis and not tuberculosis as his death certificate stated.

But the government says that's not a good reason to disturb the remains of a revered native son.

The heart lies in a jar sealed inside a pillar at Warsaw's Holy Cross Church - and the only time it has been removed was for safekeeping during World War II.

Before it was returned in 1951, a doctor examined the heart and found it perfectly preserved in an alcohol that many think is cognac.

Chopin died in France, where his body is buried, but he asked that his heart be sent to his homeland.

Cystic fibrosis, an incurable genetic disease, was not discovered until many decades after Chopin's death, and the scientists who want to examine the heart say many of his symptoms match that illness, including respiratory infections, recurrent fevers, delayed puberty and infertility.

A spokesperson for the Culture Ministry, Iwona Radziszewska, told The Associated Press on Thursday that ministry officials consulted experts and decided that "this was neither the time to give approval, nor was it justified by the potential knowledge to be gained".

  • Chopin was born in 1810 in Zelazowa Wola, a village near Warsaw, to a Polish mother and French father.

    From an early age, he suffered frail health and nasal and lung infections typical of cystic fibrosis.

    He was so weak at times that he had to be carried off stage after concerts, and in his later years he taught piano while lying down.