Photo: Heritage Images / Contributor (Getty Images)
Today I LearnedToday I Learned is a feature where The Takeout writers share something they learned today.  

This is exactly what it says on the tin: Frédéric Chopin, extraordinary Polish composer of the Romantic era, upon the event of his death, had his heart reserved inside a jar of Cognac.

This glorious nugget of information was found in this fun list from The Drinks Business. The round-up seems to have been inspired by this expedition, which is set to salvage around 50 bottles of wine from a shipwrecked British cargo vessel torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1918. The list covers “remarkable drinks-related discoveries,” and it’s a great, great read, but man, Chopin’s boozy floating heart is the winner of the pack.

Advertisement

The “remarkable discovery” in this case isn’t the fact that the heart was preserved in booze, but that scientists were later able to use a photo of that heart to determine Chopin’s cause of death. (Their verdict: pericarditis, caused by tuberculosis.)

This particular fact is so bonkers that we wanted to confirm it. Mission accomplished. Here’s a fascinating piece from Atlas Obscura, which includes pictures of the Warsaw monument behind which Chopin’s freakin’ heart resides. In the recently published biography Fryderyk Chopin: A Life And Times, author Alan Walker writes that “Dr. Cruveilheir... in accordance with Chopin’s own wishes, removed the heart, which was placed in a crystal jar, preserved in alcohol, and eventually taken to Warsaw by Ludwika [Chopin’s sister].”

The book doesn’t detail the booze, but Atlas Obscura also says the spirit was “most likely Cognac.” The heart went back to Warsaw, but the body was buried in Paris.

There’s one more anecdote, just as nuts but considerably less cool. Here’s another piece of the heart’s journey, per TDB:

During the Warsaw uprising in 1944, his heart was removed by the Nazis and given to the S.S. officer Heinz Reinefarth. It was subsequently returned to the Church of the Holy Cross in Warsaw in 1945, where it remained until it was secretly exhumed in 2014. Photos were then taken of the heart.

Advertisement

The exhumation wasn’t nefarious, though it was apparently quite the covert affair. It was intended to make sure that the jar hadn’t cracked, so that the Cognac could keep on working its magic to keep that heart fully alcoholic. Atlas Obscura has a piece on that, too.