Organ, Liturgical Use of
ORGAN, LITURGICAL USE OF
While ancient writers clearly indicate that the organ played an important part in the ceremonial life of the people of the ancient world, little is known about the early form of the organ prior to the instrument known as the hydraulus, generally attributed to the Greek engineer Ctesibius, active in Alexandria c. 250 b.c. The organ pipe itself and a primitive form of wind-chest, in which the flow of air from the common supply to the pipes was controlled by a system of wooden slides, was known much earlier; the unique feature of the hydraulus was the system of maintaining steady wind through the use of hydraulic pressure. For its time the hydraulus was an
ingenious and almost perfect device. Complete details of its construction are given by Vitruvius (a.d. 60) and Hero of Alexandria (a.d. 120). Although the organ continued to increase in size during the first few centuries of the Christian era, we know very little else about the organ of this period except that its outstanding feature seems to have been its loudness. St. Jerome (400) mentions an organ in Jerusalem so loud that it could be heard nearly a mile away at the Mt. of Olives. By the 4th century, wind was being supplied by bellows. In 951 a very large organ was built for Bishop Elphege in the cathedral at Winchester. With its 400 pipes of bronze, 26 bellows, and two sets of 20 keys, each key controlling ten pipes, it is reputed to have taken 70 men to maintain the wind supply and two organists to play it.
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."
Bibliography: m. praetorius, Syntagma musicum, 3 v. (v.1 Wittenberg 1614–15; v.2, 3 Wolfenbüttel 1619), fac. ed. by W. Gurlitt (Kassel 1959–). m. mersenne, Harmonie universelle, 2 v. in 3 (Paris 1636–37), Eng. tr. r. e. chapman (The Hague 1957) v.3. f. bÉdos de celles, L'Art du facteur d'orgues, 4 pts. in 2 v. (Paris 1766–78) fac. ed. by c. mahrenholz, 4 v. (Kassel 1934–36). w. ellerhorst, Handbuch der Orgelkunde (Einsiedeln 1936). w. l. summer, The Organ: Its Evolution, Principles of Construction and Use (3d ed. London 1962). w. h. barnes, The Contemporary American Organ (7th ed. Glen Rock, N.J. 1959). c. sachs The History of Musical Instruments (New York 1940). d. j. tarrant et al., eds., Proceedings: Symposium Liturgy and Architecture (Clarke College, Dubuque, Iowa 1964). j. e. blanton, The Organ in Church Design (Albany, Tex. 1957). b. sonnaillon, King of Instruments: A History of the Organ (New York 1985). p. williams, The Organ in Western Culture, 750–1250 (Cambridge 1993).
[l. i. phelps/eds.]