Szostak Michał, "Implementation of the Aristide Cavaillé-Coll’s Vatican project in Poland”,
in: "The Organ”, No 383, February-April 2018, Musical Opinion Ltd, London, ISSN 0030-4883, pp. 33-47.
Particular attention should be pay on the project from 1875 of monumental organ for the Basilica of Saint Peter in Rome made by the great French visionary of the symphonic organ, Aristide Cavaillé-Coll (1811-1899). This 124-stops colossus was to crown the work of Cavaillé-Coll and was “to complement the artistic achievements of the greatest masters of architecture, sculpture and painting, because music, the most religious of fine arts, did not have a worthy monument in this place”. Unfortunately, this project has never been implemented at its destination. However, at the beginning of the 21st century, around 130 years after the idea came into being, in the small village of Lichen Stary, located in the geographical center of Poland, in the largest Catholic temple of the country, the vision of Cavaillé-Coll materialized. In the years 2002-2007, the Polish company „Zaklady Organowe Zych” according to the concept of prof. Andrzej Chorosinski reproduced the sound of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll's organ in a monumental instrumentarium with 157 stops managed by a six-manual console.
This article describes in detail the design of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll's organ for the Basilica of Saint Peter in Rome, completed organ of the Basilica of Our Lady of Lichen in Poland and a comparative analysis of these two sound concepts.
Cavaillé-Coll, after realizing the monumental instruments in the Parisian Basilicas Saint-Sulpice (100, 5M+P) and Notre-Dame (86, 5M+P), in the race for the title of the creator of the largest instrument in the world, he wanted to do this work in the most famous and the prestigious church of the world, as proof of the power of the idea of French symphonic organs.
Cavaillé-Coll thought about constructing of this instrument already at the time when he designed the reconstruction of the organ in Saint-Sulpice, i.e. around 1860 (in 1862, the first official mentions of these plans appeared in the Paris-based newspaper “Le Monde”). The scale of such a venture was enormous, which is why the organ master did not stop at just designing the instrument only, but gathered around this idea a large group of patrons and protectors, among whom there was no shortage of aristocracy and world-renowned organists. The prospectus of the instrument was designed by a friendly architect, Alphonse Simil.
Cavaillé-Coll has three times tried to interest the Vatican's governors to implement his idea. The first attempt took place on November 6, 1875, when the publication „Projet d'orgue monumental pour la Basilique de Saint-Pierre de Rome”, in which he described his entire idea, sent to Pope Pius IX. Soon afterwards, in a private audience on December 22, 1875, he personally presented the project to the Pope, who accepted the idea with favourable interest, but eventually suspended its implementation. The second attempt was to send March 18, 1881 to the next Pope, Leo XIII, a petition reminiscent of the new organs. This request, together with a brochure on the project, was presented to the Pope by Bishop Cataldi, Prefect of the Holiness ceremony. This attempt brought more hope for the execution of the project, due to the upcoming exhibition of products of Catholic art and industry, which was planned for 1887 on the occasion of the priesthood jubilee of Pope Leo XIII. This exhibition, as the third attempt to bring the Pope's attention to the idea, mobilized Cavaillé-Coll to build a model of the instrument in the 1:10 scale. This model was made and mounted in a workshop at rue du Maine 15 in Paris. Many prominent clergymen and people from the world of art and science came to admire the model. At the request of Cavaillé-Coll, the French Ministère de l'Instruction publique, des Cultes et des Beaux-Arts set up a special commission at L'Académie des beaux-arts to study this model. The committee included: from the musical composition sections Ambroise Thomas, Charles Gounod, Ernest Reyer, Gilles Massenet, Camille Saint-Saens and Leo Delibes, from the sculpture section Pierre-Jules Cavelier and Louis-Ernest Barrias, and from the architecture section Charles Garnier, Léon Ginain, Questel, Daumet and Baron Haussmann. The third attempt to make the decision to build this instrument, extended to the finished model, took place in 1888 in front of Pope Leo XIII; unfortunately, it also did not have a positive effect. The instrument's model is placed to this day in the vaults of the Vatican Basilica. Finally, for his project Aristide Cavaillé-Coll received the medal of Saint. Silvestre only.