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Verviers' first mayor captured the town's heart. So his was entombed in a fountain.

Workers renovating a fountain in the small Belgian city of Verviers have confirmed a century-old urban legend after a box said to contain the heart of the town's first-ever mayor was discovered.

Pierre David (1771-1839) was appointed "bourgmestre" or mayor of Verviers in 1830, shortly after Belgium became an independent country and died just nine years later.

The official story goes that David was so well-loved by the population that after his accidental death it was decided that his heart should be entombed in a fountain dedicated to his memory.

The monument was completed in 1883.

During work to renovate the fountain last month, "in a cavity obstructed by a stone we found an engraved metal box," Angélique Koop, a spokesperson for the municipality said.

On the box, an inscription reads: "The heart of Pierre David was solemnly placed in the monument on 25 June 1883."

City officials chose not to open the box "out of respect for the deceased and his family" but have put it on display until September 20 in the city's Fine Arts Museum as part of an exhibit retracing his life and achievements.

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