Let’s finish the construction of the St. Vitus Cathedral, the symbol of the Czech Republic.

The New Organ Play video Adopt a pipe

News / Records from the Chronicle

26/11/2018

Koncert pro svatovítské varhany po týdnu

Již je to více jak týden od v pořadí druhého Koncertu pro svatovítské varhany. Setkali jsme se s pozitivními ohlasy ze všech stran. Jsme rádi, že si spousta nových mecenášů vybrala jako možnost podpory svatovítských varhan Adopci píšťal. Přinášíme Vám statistiku k průběhu sbírky po tomto benefičním koncertu.

21/11/2018

Píšťala jako vánoční dárek

Děkujeme všem mecenášům svatovítských varhan, kteří si adoptovali jednu z 6500 píšťal. Každý mecenáš od nás jako poděkování obdrží krabičku se symbolickou píšťalou a certifikátem. Jsme si vědomi, že právě v nadcházejícím Adventu připravuje mnoho ze štědrých mecenášů svou píšťalu jako jedinečný dar pro někoho ze svých blízkých.  Prosíme však o pochopení, že z kapacitních důvodů jsme schopni do Vánoc vypravit a garantovat expedici jen těch píšťal, které budou adoptovány a zaplaceny do neděle 9. 12. 2018. Velmi proto prosíme, pokud zvažujete adopci píšťaly jako vánoční dárek, adoptujte si ji co nejdříve.

15/11/2018

Svatovítské varhany dostanou světově unikátní podobu

Design nástroje navrhlo studio ŠKODA Design

Dílna předního varhanáře Gerharda Grenzinga zatím hlásí tři pětiny vyrobených píšťal nových svatovítských varhan. Ty nyní získaly i jedinečnou uměleckou podobu. O vzhled nástroje se postará designérský tým společnosti ŠKODA AUTO, která je jedním z generálních partnerů celého projektu.

13/11/2018

Program benefičního Koncertu pro svatovítské varhany

Už v pátek 16. 11. proběhne ve svatovítské katedrále benefiční Koncert pro svatovítské varhany, na kterém bude oficiálně představena prvotní tvář varhan a budeme moci slyšet i jejich zvuk. Zveme Vás ke sledování tohoto koncertu živě na ČT2 ve 20.00 hod.

The New Instrument

It would be difficult to find a structure in our country, which could be the equal of the cathedral of St. Vitus. It is a spiritual institution that shapes our relationship with the Creator. It is the first basilica in the country. Moreover, while it may be seen as a visual textbook of Christianity, at the same time it is at the crossroads of our history, where decisions were made about historical outcomes in our land. It is one of the greatest works of art in our country, which in a minute space, concentrates many artistic stages in many contexts. The cathedral is a visual witness to past events and helped to shape our own identity. It is also, however, a living organism, which evolved over half a millennium and even today is still not complete.

It is hard to imagine Prague today without the silhouette of the cathedral. And yet, this silhouette actually looked quite different until recent times. Half of the building (the nave) was missing and was not completed till 1929. The Metropolitan Church is such monumental work, that it will probably never be absolutely completed. Nevertheless, something very significant is missing to this day because, at the completion of construction, there were insufficient funds to install a new organ in the western choir loft of the cathedral. Several attempts have been made; all have been unsuccessful. Finally, today we have a new opportunity. It is up to us to in a time of peace and freedom to fulfill the legacy of our predecessors, in particular, that of the father of the nation, Charles IV and to ‘complete’ the cathedral.

The organ, because of its magnificence, is called the ‘king of instruments’. But is not the instrument of earthly kings for the organ speaks in the voice of God that sometimes gently whispers and infuses our soul with peaceful joy and at other times roars and thunders, sending shivers up our spine. The beauty of the organ lies in the fact that in spite of its monumentality it fulfills the word of Him who did not come to be served, but to serve. Anyone who listens to the music of the organ, is taught humility. It leads one to the art of listening and of harmonizing one’s relationship with his neighbor through singing and prayer. The organ leads us to a more genuine relationship not only with God, but also with our neighbor. For this reason, we want to work together to contribute to the glory of God, to the renown of St. Vitus Cathedral and to the further evolution of the famous musical traditions of our nation.

Dominik Duka OP, Cardinal Archbishop of Prague

An Organ for the Cathedral

The idea of the building of a new organ never disappeared completely: it repeatedly re-emerged, only to be postponed to more favourable times as a result of adverse society-wide events of the war years and also due to the post-war conditions.

The New Instrument

A new instrument may be regarded as a testimony to the capabilities, experience and knowledge of the present generation as well as acting as a legacy to future generations.

The builder of the new organ

The organ building company of Gerhard Grenzing is one of the most experienced companies in this field: it has successfully completed 220 restoration and building projects across continents.

Let’s finish the work of our ancestors. Let’s finish the building of the St. Vitus Cathedral, the symbol of the Czech Republic. The cathedral is missing a dignified voice. Support the building of its organ.
The St. Vitus Organ

Sponsorship / Support

90%

To this day, we’ve successfully raised: 71,635,483 CZK

Thank you!

The Old Organ

The Current Organ
HISTORY OF PIPE ORGANS IN THE CATHEDRAL
WHAT IS THE PIPE ORGAN

The Fund

The St. Vitus Organ Fund was established in accordance with Act No. 227/1997 Sb. by its registration into the fund registry administered by the Municipal Court in Prague, file ref. N 1123, on 19 March 2014.

The registration number of the fund is 02794471.

The bank account of the fund is 2109930876/2700.

Registered office: Hradčanské náměstí 56/16, 119 02 Prague 1 – Hradčany

Purpose of the fund: acquisition of a new representative organ for the St. Vitus Cathedral

 

Contact:
ICLic. Mgr. Ondřej Pavek
Chairman of the Managing Board of the St. Vitus Organ Fund
e-mail: pavek@svatovitskevarhany.com
phone: + 420 603 235 606

František Falta
Coordinator of the Organ for the Cathedral project
e-mail: Frantisek.Falta@apha.cz
phone: +420 733 164 063

 

Members of the Managing Board:
ICLic. Mgr. Ondřej Pávek
Prof. JUDr. Jan Kříž
JUDr. Pavel Müller    
Ing. Robert Kolář    
Ing. Arch. Marek Štěpán

 

Members of the Supervisory Board:
ThLic. Ing. Zdenek Wasserbauer, Th.D.
Mgr. Vojtěch Mátl
Mgr. Milan Badal
Prof. RNDr. Miroslav Vlček DrSc.
Ing. MgA. Pavel Farský

Contacts

Media inquiries:
Hedvika Čepelová
Project press agent
e-mail: hedvika.cepelova@amic.cz
telefon: +420 731 072 634

Contact for others parties involved in the Organ for the Cathedral project:
Vojtěch Mátl
Vice-chairman of the Supervisory Board
e-mail: vojtech.matl@apha.cz
telefon: +420 737 215 326

Jakub Skřejpek
Bohemian Heritage Fund
e-mail: skrejpek@bohemianheritage.cz

HISTORY OF PIPE ORGANS IN THE CATHEDRAL

The Organ in the Romanesque Basilica of St. Vitus

On the site of today's St. Vitus Cathedral stood a Romanesque Basilica, built in the 11th century and also dedicated St. Vitus. Founded by Duke Spytihněv II in the year 1060, it was consecrated in 1096 by Bishop Kosmas. Although we do not know from direct or indirect sources, whether the church was equipped with an organ, it is likely that after the turn of the millennium, the first instruments were introduced to the Czech lands from Western Europe.
The use of the organ to accompany singing in churches was introduced on the directive of the papacy in the 9th century. There are reports of organs in the most important shrines closely associated with royal palaces, for instance in Paris in the year 580. Also it is known that the first organ for the monastery church in Malmesbury was installed in 680. In Rome the first organ was built in the year 880 ordered by Pope John VIII himself, with an organist from the Bavarian town of Freising sent to Rome by Bishop Anno.
By the 10th century organs had appeared in a wide area of (Western) Europe. However, the first documented report of organs in the Czech lands appears in the years 1255-1256. At that time the, Canon and the Dean of the Chapter of St. Vitus Cathedral, commissioned a ‘new’ organ for the Prague basilica for the cost of 27 talents of silver; records inform us that in 1277 the organist was Canon Peter. This instrument was allegedly located on the site of an older organ from the year 1142, or perhaps even from the year 1068. From the fact that the organ is referred to as ‘new’, it is generally assumed that it replaced an earlier instrument. The year 1142 appears to be feasible, given that in that year the basilica was badly damaged by fire, after which the interior of the church had to be renovated. The identities of the first organ builders in the Czech lands is unknown. Organ building at that time was mainly the domain of the clergy, as this art/craft required a good education and knowledge of many disciplines.
There is no further documentation of any other instruments.

The Organ in the Metropolitan Cathedral of St. Vitus

The establishment of the Prague archbishopric, which was consented to by Pope Clement VI and confirmed by the papal Bull of 5th May 1344, raised the basilica of St. Vitus to the status of a Metropolitan church. Plans for the construction of a new cathedral had already been discussed some years earlier. The initiators of this project were the then Bohemian king, John of Luxembourg and his son Charles.
It was in their presence during a festive mass in the old basilica of St. Vitus, that the first archbishop of Prague, Arnošt of Pardubice, received the pallium which was the symbol of his office; immediately after, the foundation stone for the new cathedral was ceremoniously laid. The construction of the new Gothic cathedral had progressed so far by 1369 that part of the Romanesque basilica had to be demolished and main church services were transferred to the newly built Gothic choir. It is not known whether at this point a new organ was built or whether the existing organ of the Romanesque basilica was transferred to the new Gothic structure. We do know, however, that liturgies were sung to the accompaniment of the sound of the organ and we know the names of some of the organists from the time of Emperor Charles IV. These organists were always members of the clergy and held the title of "Director of the Organ”; they were provided with their own servant.
In the pre-Hussite period, in the year 1416, we know that a certain organist by the name of Prokop played on the cathedral instrument. On the 17th August 1419, a mob of Protestant Prague citizens attempted to destroy the organ, amongst other objects, as an expression of their desire to renew a corrupted Christian religion. We know that while a number of Prague organs were damaged, the cathedral instrument was probably undamaged. After the defeat of the Hussite Protestants at the Battle of Lipany, "normal" conditions were gradually reinstated, the organs in damaged churches were restored and it is even recorded that in 1436, the organ of St. Vitus Cathedral was played by a "priest organist".
During this time, the general expansion of organ construction was considerable. New technologies were introduced, the tonal register was expanded and a greater emphasis was placed on the use of the pedals. Registers with new tonal characteristics were developed. In the St. Vitus Cathedral, a new organ was built at the start of the 16th century and installed in the choir loft opposite the main altar and in close proximity to the Royal Tombs. The largest contribution towards the construction of this organ was made by the then King Vladislav Jagiellon. Unfortunately, this organ did not last long, for in 1541 a devastating fire incinerated the instrument which collapsed onto the choir stalls beneath destroying them as well.

The Renaissance " Ferdinand" Organ

Several advantageous factors lead to the construction of a new instrument in the ‘Prague Castle church’ which was without peer in Europe at that time. Among these factors was firstly, the restoration of the internal fabric of the cathedral after the great fire in 1541; secondly, the transfer of the Imperial Court choir and musicians from Vienna to Prague in 1543 and thirdly, the renewal of the See of the Archbishop in 1556.
Negotiations about a new instrument were conducted in 1547 with a master organ builder from Amberg, Friedrich Phanmüller, who at the time was building new instruments in Tachov and Pilsen. Phanmüller came to Prague and promised to construct an instrument within two years for a price of 600 silver talers plus the cost of necessary materials. Phanmüller failed to meet the deadline because of his many other commitments and also perhaps because of information about insufficient funds for the instrument. Phanmüller was probably already working on the instrument even before he arrived in Prague at the end of 1555, a visit which was not without complications. He had already received complaints about his slow progress with the organ, though he stated in his defense that he had neither an apartment nor a workshop ready for him when he arrived in Prague.
The organ was meant to be located in the new choir loft built from 1557 by the imperial architect, Boniface Wohlmut and completed four years later in 1561. This probably means that the partly completed organ was already in situ from 1560 and from that same year a position of ‘organist for the new organ at Prague Castle’ was instituted. The resident organist, Cyprian Waldek, brother of Burian Waldek, assistant to Phanmüller, was appointed to this position.
Phanmüller did not live to see the completion of the instrument as he died in 1561. The organ builder, Georg Ebert from Ravensburg in Würtenburg, was invited to complete the instrument. He arrived to Prague in 1562, but left later that year to complete a contract in Constance. In the same year the organ case was completed by the court carpenter and woodcarver Hans Sauerloch with the help of carpenters Jan Risspaur and Andre Schober and locksmiths Jiří Schmitthammer and Matej Handschuhe. The organ case was adorned with paintings by the court painter, Francesco de Terzio, for the cost of 150 Bohemian kopeks.
After Georg Ebert, Archduke Ferdinand, regent of Bohemia, chose Jonas Scherer, a burgher and organ builder from Klosterneuburg, to continue with the construction of the organ. After delays caused also by an illness, which had to be treated at a spa, he finally arrived in Prague in June 1563 together with ‘his wife, workmen, wine and household goods contained in two wagons drawn by four horses’.
Scherer, immediately took charge of the work, but because of poor health requested for the assistance of Jachym Rudner, burgher and organ builder from České Budějovice. This, however, was rejected ‘and so he worked alone with his wife and two helpers’. Consequently, due to the fact that the specifications continued to grow and payment was tardy, the organ remained unfinished. Master Scherer did not live to complete his work as he died in August 1565.
The afore-mentioned Jachym Rudner was then summoned to complete the instrument. Following his arrival in Prague from České Budějovice, he was examined by the archduke as to his competence for the completion of the organ and when he passed the test, he received the key to the instrument. In order for the work to proceed as quickly as possible, he and his workmen were allowed to remain in the Prague Castle precinct during the night and to tune the organ during the quiet hours of darkness.
This monumental organ was completed in November 1567. Since the start of construction, twelve years had passed, four master organ builders had worked on the instrument consecutively and the project had been constantly expanded and improved. Moreover, the cost of the project grew significantly. From the original contractual sum of 600 talers, costs had grown by another 3000 talers by the time Scherer was working on the organ. Little wonder, then, that there were problems in paying the invoices. Costs were originally covered by the estate of Queen Anne, and later, following the death of Emperor Ferdinand (1564), covered by taxes imposed on the Royal towns. For many years after the completion of his work on the organ, Rudner had to repeatedly defend his accounts and fight for the payment of the amounts owed.
The organ was located on the upper level of the choir loft built by Wohlmut. From the original instrument of three manuals and about 40 registers it had expanded into a huge instrument of four manuals and 71 registers. In the center of the great organ was the Oberwerk and on either side, enclosed in two towers, was the Hauptwerk. Under the Oberwerk the Brustwerk was located. The pedals were divided into two separate large enclosures behind the 16 ' pipes in front. The Rückpositiv was situated on the railing of the choir loft.
The Imperial organ soon became famous throughout Europe. Contemporaries agreed that the Prague Imperial organ was the largest and the most beautiful instrument in the Christian world and could be regarded as the apotheosis of the art of organ building of the Renaissance period. The testimony of Bohuslav Balbín speaks volumes about the general admiration for the instrument, which he describes as ‘an admirable instrument with an incredibly sweet voice, which today's or yesterday's organ-builder cannot achieve’. The instrument was visited by many renowned musicians and also later by famous European organ builders. For example, in the year 1610, it was examined by Gottlieb Fritzsche, in 1683 Heinrich Compenius and even in 1741, by the renowned Strasbourg organ builder Johann Andreas Silbermann.
At the end of the 16th century the instrument was maintained by the son of Jachym Rudner, Albrecht, who was required to repair the organ after a fire in 1581. Even at that time, there were frictions between the organists, choir masters and the tuners, who debated the sharpness of the tuning, the temperature, the heaviness of the action of the keys, inadequate capacity of the bellows and other "artistic requirements." It was because of these disputes the renovations were not commenced in a timely manner and therefore, during the ceremonies investing Emperor Rudolf with the Order of the Golden Fleece on the 2 June 1585 ‘the organ was unavailable and a smaller portable instrument had to be borrowed from the Castle’.
The organ was repaired several times in later years, for example in 1621, following the plundering of the cathedral on 21st December 1619 by the Calvinists and after the depredations of the Thirty Years War. In the second half of the 17th century and 18th century, numerous Prague organists maintained the instrument and it is due to them that the grand organ served until 1757, even though its technical condition gradually deteriorated. Consequently, recommendations were being put forward for the construction of a new, more appropriate instrument.

The fate of the Rennaisance organ was sealed on 3rd June 1757, when a heavy Prussian artillery bombardment of Prague set fire to the cathedral of St. Vitus and the Imperial organ was reduced to ashes. Drops of tin from the pipes that had melted into the rails of Wohlmut’s choir loft, was all that was left of it.

The Disposition of the Renaissance Organ

Hauptwerk         Oberwerk Brustwerk Rückpositiv Pedal
Principal 16´ Quintadena 16´ Gedackt 8´ Principal 16´ Gross-Principal 32´
Gross-Gedackt 16´ Principal 8´ Gedackt 4´ Salicional 16´ Principal 16´
Octava 8´ Gemshorn 8´ Quintadena 4´ Principal 8´ Octava 16´
Gedackt 8´ Hohl-Flöthe 8´ Octava 2´ Quintadena 8´ Salicional 16´
Octava 4´ Octava 4´ Repet. Quinta 1 ½´ Rohrflöthe 8´ Octava 8´
Offene Flöte 4´ Nachthorn 4´ Sedecima 1´ Octava 4´ Grosse Quinta 6´
Quinta 3´ Superoctava 2´ Cymbel scharff 3x Blockflöth 4´ Superoctava 4´
Superoctava 2´ Coppel 1 ½´+1´ Regal 16´ Quer-Flöthe 4´ Nachthorn 4´
Spitz-Flöthe 2´ Rausch Pfeifen 3x Jungfern-Regal 8´ Quinta 3´ Spitz-Flöthe 2´
Super-Quinta 1 ½´ Mixtura 6x   Superoctava 2´ Bauer-Flöthe 2´
Kützial-Flöthe 1´ Sordun 16´   Gemshorn 2´ Coppel 3´+2´+1 ½´
Sexta Krummhorn 8´   Wald-Flöthe 2´ Mixtura 8x
Mixtura 10x     Sifflet 1´ Gross-Posaune 32´
Cymbel 4x     Sexta Posaune 16´
      Mixtura 5x Dulcian 16´
      Dulcian 16´ Trompeta 8´
      Trompeta 8´ Schallmey 4´
      Cornet 4´ Cornet 2´

 

The instrument was equipped with shutters for each part of the instrument, couplers between all parts of the organ with the Rückpositiv, Pedal and Hauptwerk each having its own Tremulant. To achieve special sound effects the instrument was equipped with a Zimbelstern, birdsong imitations and timpani.

The Baroque Gartner Organ

After the conclusion of a peace treaty with the Prussians and following repairs to the cathedral from the damage caused during the war, the question of acquiring a new large organ came to the forefront. On the 18th August 1762 a contract was signed with Antonin Gartner, a master organ builder from Tachov. The contract stipulated that he would receive 6 000 gold florins for his work, which excluded the carvings and painted decorations on the organ case. The cost was borne by the cathedral dean, Ondřej Kneisel. The organ was completed in 1765 with the organ builder actually being paid 6 400 gold florins for his work.
The organ was located on the upper level of the Wohlmut choir loft and comprised 3 three manuals, 40 registers and a total of 2619 pipes. Care and maintenance of the instrument was entrusted to Prague organ builders, among whom were Franz Kolb, Anton Reiss and Josef Gartner III, the great grandson of the organ builder, Antonin Gartner.
The last successful overhaul, coupled with a minor change to the sound of instrument, was carried out in 1884 by the organ builder Karel Schiffner. This was linked with the start of the construction to complete the cathedral. In 1859, the Association for the Completion for the Cathedral of Saint Vitus at the Prague Castle, was founded. Among the founding members were ‘Czech revivalists’ from the ranks of the Czech aristocracy, town burghers and religious circles. The aim and task of the Association was the completion of the structure of the cathedral and the furnishing of its interior. The question of a new organ appeared on the agenda much later, nevertheless, it was assumed that a new instrument would be commissioned. In the area of liturgical music, the second half of the 19th century was a time of tumultuous change. The Regensburg reforms banned all musical instruments from organ lofts, except for the organ itself. Consequently, a great change occurred in the concept of an ideal organ because the organ was now required to replace all of the eliminated musical instruments. The old organs with their bright and clear voicing were no longer suitable for the expression of the ‘dignified gloom of the choir loft’. Innovations in organ design and a bedazzlement by new mechanical inventions along with a change in aesthetics brought pressure to bear on replacing the old, albeit high-quality organs, with modern instruments which allowed the organist to manage and exploit the capability of the instrument more efficiently.
Along with these new ideas, at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the old Gartner organ happened to be out of action and according to contemporary reports, even the pipes had gradually been removed and had been misappropriated over a number of decades. In spite of this, the instrument was still in place in the upper level of the Wohlmut choir loft when work was continuing on the completion of the cathedral. Then, in 1923, due to the progress of construction in the cathedral, it had to be dismantled. While the large tin pipes were transferred and stored in the new western choir loft, the organ case and all internal mechanisms were placed in three storerooms within the area of the Prague Castle.
Although there were thoughts of reconstructing the old instrument, be it in a modified form, and to locate it on the upper level of the transferred and relocated Wohlmut choir loft, in the end, as a result of a series of circumstances, the decision was made in 1929 to rebuild only the facade of the Gartner organ case and to include the original show pipes.
The fate of most of the old organ mechanism including almost two thousand pipes, stored in the Prague Castle, is unknown; all that remains of one of the largest Baroque instruments in the Czech lands is the decorative case front.

 

Disposition of the Gartner Organ of 1765

Hauptwerk, C,D-f´´´ Oberwerk Positiv Pedal, C-a0, 18 tones
Principal 16´ Principal 8´ Copula major 8´ Subbass apertus 16´
Octava 8´ Copula major 8´ Principal 4´ Subbass clausus 16´
Quintatön 8´ Salicional 8´ Copula minor 4´ Octavbass 8´
Flauta dulciana 8´ Octava 4´ Octava 2´ Violonbass 8´
Gamba 8´ Copula minor 4´ Quinta 1 ½´ Quinta 6´
Viola 8´ Waldflaute 4´ Mixtura 3x Superoctava 4´
Quinta major 6´ Fugara 4´   Quinta minor 3´
Superoctava 4´ Quinta 3´   Mixtura 4x
Nachthorn 4´ Superoctava 2´   Bassbard 16´
Quinta minor 3´ Kleine Quint 1 ½´   Schnarrbass 8´
Klein Octav 2´ Mixtura 4x    
Mixtura 8x      
Cembalo 4x