Frédéric-François Chopin

1 March 1810 – 17 October 1849

My favorite headstone in Pere Lachaise is Chopin’s. I was there while someone was working on touching up the details on the memorial, painting the engraved words so they would be sharp and readable (you can see both the worker and the work they had completed so far in the third picture). According to, his gravesite is festooned with flowers year round by visitors and admirers which was definitely true when I was there in mid-March 2008. The headstone is crowned by a sculpture portraying Euterpe, the muse of music, weeping over a broken lyre.

Chopin was born Fryderyk Franciszek in Poland and gained fame as a child prodigy. He moved to Paris at the age of 20 and adopted the French version of his name, Frédéric-François. He remained based out of Paris for the rest of his life, and though he spent extended periods of time in other locations, he never returned to Poland.

Chopin suffered from lifelong ill health, but he had many adventures, travels, and romances (including with the equally famous Georges Sand, a romance wittily fictionalized in the film Impromptu with a young Hugh Grant playing Chopin and the incomparable Judy Davis as Sand). He was called “a Second Mozart” in his prodigy days, had friendships with the other greats of his day including Mendelssohn, Berlioz, and Liszt, and was hailed as a genius by his peers including the much-revered Schumann.

Chopin shortly before his death in 1849

He died at the age of 39 from complications of chronic tuberculosis and his body was buried at Pere Lachaise following a grand funeral that included a performance of Mozart’s Requiem. At Chopin’s own request, his heart was removed and sent to his homeland where it was entombed in a pillar at the Church of the Holy Cross in Warsaw.

As there are many resources online to learn more about Chopin, I’ll recommend the article and Wikipedia as well as performances of his music that can be found on various platforms including YouTube.

RIP and happy belated birthday, M. Chopin


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