It was Chopin’s last written request. Days before his death in 1849, Fryderyk Chopin pleaded with his caretakers: “Have my body opened that I not be buried alive.” The request was granted.
After Chopin died, his heart was removed and placed in alcohol. Then his sister Ludwika transported it back to Warsaw. She may even have hidden the container under her skirt to get it past Russian border guards. To this day, Chopin’s heart resides at Holy Cross Church in Warsaw—not far from the place where he once lived. It rests inside a hermetically sealed crystal urn, filled with what’s presumed to be cognac.
During World War Two it was removed for safekeeping. And a group of scientists asked to remove it again in 2008 for DNA testing. They theorized that Chopin died of cystic fibrosis, not tuberculosis. But the Polish government turned them down.
Chopin’s unusual dying wish arose from morbid fears and fantasies that had plagued him throughout his life. They clearly influenced his music. His lover George Sand wrote that the “funeral chants that besieged him” appeared as “visions” in his 24 Preludes, Op. 28. The Prelude No. 6 was played at Chopin’s funeral.