Organs not played in churches in the 13th century?
  • Geremia
    Posts: 224
    St. Thomas Aquinas says that sacred music is to foster devotion, so (Summa Theologica II-II q. 91 a. 2 "Whether God should be praised with song?" co.)
    that the souls of the faint-hearted (infirmorum) may be the more incited to devotion.

    Interestingly, Cdl. Cajetan's early 16th cen. commentary on that Summa article says:
    quod tempore divi Thomae Ecclesia non utebatur organis. In cuius signum, adhuc Romana Ecclesia coram Summo Pontifice non utitur.

    that in St. Thomas's time the Church did not use organs. A sign of this is that the Roman Church still does not use it in the presence of the Supreme Pontiff.
    By organs he clearly means pipe organs (not musical instruments in general) because he goes on discussing
    an pulsare in organis inter officia ecclesiastica sonos sæcularium vanitatura sit peccatum mortale.

    whether playing vain, worldly melodies on the organ during the divine office is a mortal sin.
  • Geremia
    Posts: 224
    a different opinion:
    "Organ, Liturgical Use of" New Catholic Encyclopedia:
    St. Jerome (400) mentions an organ in Jerusalem so loud that it could be heard nearly a mile away at the Mt. of Olives. […]

    Although it is not known exactly when the organ was first used for religious purposes, the writings of St. Julian of Toledo, a Spanish bishop, indicate that it was in common use in the churches of Spain by the year 450. We know that in the 7th century Pope St. Vitalian (666) introduced the organ in Rome in order to improve the singing of the congregation. As an aid to the introduction of Roman Rite into the churches of France, Pepin (714–768), the father of Charlemagne, ordered an organ from the Byzantine emperor Constantine Copronymus and had it installed in the church of St. Corneille at Compiègne (757). Charlemagne also received a similar instrument from the Eastern Emperor in the year 812, and a copy of the instrument at Compiègne placed at Aix-la-Chapelle c. 811 is reputed to have been the first organ in Germany. Apparently the art of making and using organs developed rapidly in Germany in the latter half of the 9th century, for in the year 880 Pope John VIII requested Anno, Bishop of Friesingen, to send him a good organ and, along with it, a competent player to instruct Romans in the art.

    Although the organ has never been prescribed for use in the Roman Catholic Church by canon law, it has apparently been used in the Church consistently since the 9th century. By the 13th century the organ was certainly in general use throughout the Latin Church and thus was deeply involved in the development of the musical and liturgical tradition of the Church. Many of the important liturgical books refer to the organ frequently, and the fact that, though never specifically prescribed, it is assumed to be present and an important aid to the liturgy is seen by the frequent instructions of the Church that direct that it shall be played at specific times. The high esteem in which the Church holds the organ is perhaps best summarized in the following excerpt from Vatican Council II: "The pipe organ adds a wonderful splendor to the Church's ceremonies, and powerfully lifts up men's mind to God and to higher things."
  • The eternal lesson:

    We may be farther away in history from those times than was Cajetan, but we have better indexed archives of primary sources across a wider geography than he ever dreamed of.
  • A very nice resume', Geremia. It seems that the organ was widespread throughout the Middle East and North Africa quite early on since its IIIrd century B.C. invention by Ctesibuis - both in hydraulic and bellow's induced wind pressure. Commonly used for entertainments it seems first to have been gentrified by the Romans in ceremonies surrounding the emperor.

    Before Vitalian there are records of requests for organs by bishops in parts of Germany (Sumner). Some were even gifts of the Arabs, who knew the organ well. The rest is very well documented by Geremia above here. All will surely have noted that many organs had doors that covered the pipes, some of the loveliest of which are those in the Fugger Kappel in Augsburg. Such doors were not only decorative, but were to shut the organ off when it was out of play, which other than on great feast were seldom played - and to keep the rats out.

    The use of of organ every Sunday or feast is a relatively recent development..
  • CatherineS
    Posts: 690
    Interesting tidbit - once at a centuries-old church in Brazil the power went out mid-Mass. The organ fell silent, as the air pressure was generated by an audible electric motor of some kind. Puzzled, I asked how it was played a century ago, when there was no electricity. Apparently slave boys manually pumped the air. Obvious perhaps, but I'd never considered it.
  • Some organs are now being supplied with stick-pumped bellows as well as the more usual electrical blowers. We have at least one of these in Houston. It is by Paul Fritts and is in St Philip's Presbyterian. It is surprising the difference in sound when the bellows is used. The sound is much more nuanced and seems to breath more naturally, which affects to tone, making it seem more 'alive', or human.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,053
    I see that Notker Balbulus (c840-912) wrote about organs, including de mensura fistularum organicum, the size of organ pipes. And here is a 13th century illustration.
    300 x 243 - 35K
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,532
    I played a Cabezon recital in Antelope with the electric blower, but was told on Sundays the children of St Andrew's line up for the chance to earn 25¢.
  • Would you share the program of your de Cabezon recital? This sounds most interesting. I have played only one de Cabezon piece in recital, three or so years ago. It was the Magnificat Septimi Toni, done alternatim. Unfortunately, due to almost no rehearsal time, the chant was just plain old tone VII without any XVIth century touches - except singing it very slowly. It probably isn't news to you that while in England during Philip II's marriage to Queen Mary, he and Tallis became quite good friends.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,532
    I can't find the original, but here's what I played a half year later at St Luke's: