The Surprising Distance Rene Descartes’ Corpse Has Traveled

At the end of his life, Descartes settled in Sweden where he became part of the court of Queen Christina in October 1649. The 22-year-old demanding royal insisted that the 53-year-old Descartes tutor her in philosophy at 5 a.m.—a hard time for a man used to sleeping his mornings away. Descartes allegedly became chilled one February morning while conducting his teaching duties before becoming sick with pneumonia. He worsened quickly and died on February 11, 1650, in Stockholm (via Britannica). His first burial site was a small church, St. Olof’s Chapel far from the city’s center; it turned out that finding a place to inter the body of a Catholic practitioner in a predominantly Lutheran country proved challenging, according to Atlas Obscura. 

Sixteen years after his first burial, his native country asked for the remains, brought them back to France, and buried Descartes in the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés (see in above photo). But the story doesn’t end there. Descartes’ remains continued traveling.

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