The heart of Chopin is buried in a church away from his body.

When Famed Composer Chopin Died, His Sister Literally Stole His Heart

When Famed Composer Chopin Died, His Sister Literally Stole His Heart

Atlas Obscura
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July 9 2015 4:00 PM

Chopin’s Heart Was Saved in Booze

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During his final days, celebrated 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 who might ask too many questions about what she was carrying—and was able to smuggle the heart 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 outlawed 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 Eleven-esque crew of church officials, scientists, and medical experts dug up the heart under cover of night.

As much as this situation sounds like a caper, the group was actually just checking the container preserving the heart—they feared it might have cracked, allowing 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. Luckily, Chopin’s heart isn’t beating, but it is still in great condition.

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Eric Grundhauser is a head writer and editor at Atlas Obscura. He lives in Brooklyn with his comic book collection. Follow him on Twitter.