The romance and prestige of 400-year-old, lead-lined love
Sure it’s easy to pledge one’s love, one’s heart, forever, but actually figuring out the logistics for such an arrangement are another matter. Aside from questions of fidelity or devotion, sharing the heart in your chest is a lot more complicated than a love song might get into. It is doable though, as long as your beloved also finds herbal preservatives or lead urns to be romantic.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, some Europeans took this concept to heart, er, very seriously. In the Convent of the Jacobins in Rennes, Fance, for instance, archaeologists have found five human hears embalmed in heart-shaped, lead urns. Inscriptions on the metal casings identify their original owners, such as a Knight of Brefeillac. Unlike the organs preserved alongside Egyptian mummies in canopic jars, these armored hearts truly did have some romantic motivations behind them. They were usually found buried not alongside their bodies, but with the body of their husband or wife instead, so the couple could always be together.
Less personal cardiac crypts
Special burials for hearts haven’t always been so warm and fuzzy though. For centuries, people of greater political or financial import have had their hearts removed for separate burial. In some cases it was to allow more opportunities for people to pay their respects to the deceased, as the heart (or other body parts) could be located away from the body, almost like spin-off or satellite tombs. In some cases, the hearts were placed in more fantastic “tombs” than you could do with a whole body, such as the memorial to René de Chalon, from 1547. The Prince of Orange’s heart was enclosed in a heart-shaped box, which was then held by a creepily-realistic statue of a corpse holds it aloft, like hard won prize. The heart has since been replaced with a facsimile, since the original was stolen during the French Revolution.
So clearly, if your aim is to give your heart to another for eternity, it’s best to have them buried alongside your love, having safely encased them in a vandal-safe container that can withstand the ages as well as your devotion.
Source: 400-Year-Old Embalmed Hearts Found Under French Convent by Megan Gannon, Live Science