Researchers did not open the jar, but they could see that Chopin’s heart was “massively enlarged and floppy,” they wrote in the article. It was also covered in a white substance that gave it a “frosted” appearance, leading the researchers to conclude that Chopin had suffered from pericarditis, an inflammation of tissue around the heart that was likely the result of tuberculosis. Previous theories held that he may have died from cystic fibrosis.
The heart has a long and contentious history. Chopin, who died in Paris in 1849 at the age of 39, dreaded being buried alive, and asked that his body be cut open before burial and his heart sent to Warsaw. Accordingly, his heart was cut out, sealed in a crystal jar and smuggled past the Russian authorities into what is now Poland.