Szostak Michał, "The Organ of Notre Dame, Paris”,
in: "The Organ”, No 389, August-October 2019, Musical Opinion Ltd, London, ISSN 0030-4883, pp. 12-28.
The majestic Parisian Notre-Dame cathedral is one of the indisputable symbols of the civilizational and cultural achievements of mankind. Although it is located in the centre of Paris – and for every Frenchman is an undeniable proof of the greatness of the French nation – it is also a reference point for humanity throughout the world, which occupies an important place in the heart of every person sensitive to the eternal beauty.
For us, the organists, the instrument of the cathedral is also one of the most important works of organ-master art, with which there were and still is many great organ-makers and organists. This article – in reference to the fire of April 15, 2019 – aims to synthetically collect facts about the great organ of the Notre-Dame cathedral and to familiarize the reader with its rich history.
The origins of the Paris cathedral Notre-Dame date back to the 12th century; the building was erected in the years 1163-1345, as a masterpiece of early Gothic architecture, on the site of the Merovingian cathedral dedicated to Saint Stephen.
The history of stationary organs in this sacral space begins in the 13th century. Before that date, musicians like Léonin, Pérotin and others have been using small portable instruments only. The presence of the first instrument is attested from 1357. The historical sources called it was suspended in form of swallow's nest under the high eastern window of the nave, and had to be there probably since almost hundred years; it was finally sold for scrap in 1425. On October 25th, 1403, the new second organ – built by Frédéric Schambantz (Fredericus Schaubantzis, Schaubankes) on the high narrow tribune above the doors at the west end of the nave – was finished; it had 1M+P, scale b1-b4 and 600 tin pipes. Probably, this instrument served in this place for more than next 300 years.