It is believed that the great composer and pianist Frideric Chopin (1810-1849) died of tuberculosis, but tuberculosis is still called the most likely cause of death. Chopin was ill and ill for a long time, but what exactly, experts argue so far – some believe that the composer had cystic fibrosis. The relative point in the disputes is a fresh article being prepared for publication in The American Journal of Medicine, in which researchers from the Polish Academy of Sciences, the Wroclaw Medical University and other scientific centers in Poland claim that the composer died of tuberculosis complications. Their conclusions are based on the results of the examination of Chopin’s heart.
The posthumous fate of Chopin turned out to be very intricate. To begin with, he had a tafefobia, or a fear of being buried alive. The problem of tafefobii in those times was solved in different ways: someone, for example, was made a coffin with an alert system, which was taken out from under the ground outside. Chopin, just before his death, asked that an autopsy be performed with his body. The composer’s sister fulfilled his last will, and at the same time took the heart, placing it in a jar with some alcohol-containing liquid. Chopin died in Paris, and was buried at the famous Pere Lachaise cemetery, but he managed to take his heart to his homeland, to Poland.
Such “funerals in parts” were not anything very unusual. It happened that the body of the deceased for some reason could not be transported entirely to the place where it should be buried. Sometimes the will of the deceased person became the reason for this strange burial, as was the case, for example, with the writer Thomas Hardy: he bequeathed to bury himself in the grave of his first wife, and his relatives and friends gave their consent. But Hardy’s executor interfered with the case, insisting that he should be buried in Westminster Abbey, in the Corner of Poets, where poets, prose writers and playwrights are traditionally buried. In the end, they managed to reach a compromise: the body was buried in the Corner of the poets, and the heart – in the grave of his wife.
Chopin’s heart was walled in the column of the Church of the Holy Cross in Warsaw, but during World War II he was taken out by a Nazi officer from the SS troops – he was a fan of Chopin’s music and did not want the heart of his beloved composer to happen. The heart really survived and after the war returned to the church, and in 2014 he was taken out again and allowed to study medical specialists.
According to the researchers, the immediate cause of death was pericarditis, an inflammation of the outer shell of the heart. Pericarditis usually occurs as a complication of other diseases, and could well develop in Chopin, with his chronic tuberculosis. True, the researchers did not give DNA analysis, and since cystic fibrosis occurs due to a certain mutation, the cystic fibrosis hypothesis remains valid for the time being. Probably, it will be possible to check up Chopin genes in 50 years: the heart is regularly taken out in order to assess in what state it is and the next check is planned just in half a century.