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Work on Verviers fountain uncovers heart of former mayor

The box containing the heart. © Belga

Restoration works carried out on a fountain in Verviers in Liege province have led to a discovery that solves a long-standing mystery: what happened to the heart of the 19th century mayor Pierre David?

The story so far:

David was the mayor of the city from 1800 to 1839, exactly on the cusp of the creation of the Belgian state, and a period of political upheaval. David was apparently highly thought of by his people.

When he died in 1839 – in an accident on his farm when he fell from a hayloft – it was decided to honour his service by placing his heart, removed three days post mortem, in some sort of memorial.

However, municipal procedures being what they are, that resolution never came to fruition, and the heart remained in a jar in the town hall, preserved in alcohol, for the next four decades.

There we lose the thread of the narrative, until now.

In 1889 a fountain was erected on the Place Verte in Verviers, and last summer, 131 years on, the fountain came in for some restoration work, and during the dismantling of some of the stones, a small metal box was discovered.

According to inscriptions on the box, it contained the heart of Pierre David, apparently solving a century-old mystery.

The university of Liege took on the investigation, and using a scanner so as not to have to open the box, they were able to confirm the presence of a human heart. According to emeritus professor Jacques Boniver of the university, a renowned pathologist, the heart is still in good condition, still preserved in ethanol.

The box itself, with its contents, is now on display in the fine arts museum in Verviers.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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