The medieval organ 1357-1609

The history of the organs of Notre-Dame de Paris began in the 13th century. As early as 1357, the first instrument was found, suspended in a "swallow's nest" under a high window of the nave, and which must have been there for nearly a hundred years. It is probably this organ that theOrganized by of Notre-Dame, Pierre de LA CROIX, used in 1299. It is still a modest instrument with a small keyboard (perhaps 36 keys), a full progressive play and whose largest pipe was 6 feet high. In 1392 the Chapter appointed the organist Renaud de Reims who obtained a visit from experts the following year, concluding that considerable reparation was needed. Restored in 1394 thanks to the generosity of King Charles VI, it was then considered insufficient to feed the vast nave of the cathedral; the canons found in the person of the Duke of Berry a generous donor and ordered a new instrument from organ builder Frederic Schambantz.

In 1401 it was therefore decided to place the new instrument on a high and narrow stone platform above the large west portal, while the old organ continued its function. Thus for several decades there were two instruments in the large nave of the cathedral. On 25 October 1403 the new organ was completed; a drawing of the choir of the Cathedral, of Israel Sylvestre, shows the buffet in the background at the back of the nave.

Three turrets 12 to 15 feet high, the highest in the centre (probably 18 feet), surround four platforms, all 20 feet wide. The instrument is powered by 12 small bellows placed behind the buffet. The lower part is decorated with ornaments but also with automatons (a rotating sun and a little man playing). It includes a 46 note keyboard and already a pedalboard. The organist Renaud de Reims thus has a large blockwerk but nevertheless more modest than the organs of the cathedrals of Amiens and Reims: about 600 pipes with 8 pipes per note in the bass and from 15 to 18 at the top in the top.

Three years later, to protect the buffet not equipped with shutters, a curtain was put in. In 1415, the instrument was repaired and a new organist, Henri de Saxe, was appointed by competition. His obligations are also specified: 23 feasts in the year at first vespers and mass (Kyrie, Gloria, Séquence, Sanctus, Agnus); he must also maintain the organ. To these services ordinary The participation in exceptional events (such as the coronation of the young King of England Henry VI crowned in Notre-Dame in 1430) is already added.

Meanwhile the old 13th century organ, still hanging in the nave, was abandoned and finally, in 1425, it was decided to sell it by weight (800 pounds of tin). Several organists followed one another in a short period of time: Jacques Lemol (1436-1440), Arnoul Gréban, organist and music master for children (1440-1453), Jean Bailly (1453-1458), Jean Campana.

The latter, appointed in 1458, had the organ reviewed by organ builder Jean Bourdon of Laon. In 1463 the organist of the Sainte Chapelle was called upon and the instrument was raised by the Trojan maker Jean Robelin, thanks to the patronage of the Bishop of Troyes. In the decades that followed, four organists would successively hold the keyboards: Jean Hannyn (1475), Etienne Farcilly (1477), Jean Peu (1504), Jean Regnault (1515). To the latter, the canons criticize too much modernism with regard to musical modes because it changes the tone of the Antiphons: then, on March 14, 1527, we thank him! For two years he was replaced by Pierre Mouton (1527-1529) then took his place and had the instrument raised by the Pasquier Bauldry factor. He will not see the completion of this important work (new bed bases, protection against dust, softer harmonization at the request of the Dean of the Chapter, replacement of pipes). Loys Regnault succeeded his uncle and in 1564 obtained a new lift from Nicolas Dabenet: the keyboard was extended, pipes were repaired, the bellows were revised, the drawbar mechanism was equipped with an abstract.

Thereafter many pipes were replaced, most often identically; thus the organ builder Valéran de Héman intervened in 1619 and replaced 300 pipes eaten from rusting. Nevertheless, the windchests and the general layout remain intact (and will thus be in place until 1730). New organists followed one another on the keyboard: Henri Bérenger (1568), Jean D'Oisy (1570) who obtained from the chapter the purchase of a small organ for the training of children of the master's degree, then Pierre Chabanceau de la Barre (1579). Finally in 1600 Guillaume Maingot became the last owner of the medieval organ still intact.

Light a candle at Notre-Dame