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The Great Organ of the Cathedral

Built in 1979, the Great Organ of Beauvais Cathedral is a true masterpiece of organ craftsmanship. With over 5,000 pipes, the Great Organ of Beauvais Cathedral is considered one of the ten largest organs in France. It offers a powerful and majestic sound that fills Beauvais Cathedral, making it a unique musical site.

The Old Organs

Traces of the existence of organs in Beauvais Cathedral date back to 1530. Indeed, it is mentioned in the chapter assembly of July 8, 1530, to replace the old organs with new ones. The organs built between 1530 and 1532, installed at the corner of the south transept in the chapel of the baptismal fonts, were contemporary with the erection of the transept. Little is known about the composition of this organ, renowned for over two centuries, as the chapter register was destroyed in a fire in 1940. It likely had 3 keyboards and 1 pedalboard.

In this stereoscopic Bruguière photograph, we can see the former instrument.

During the bombings of June 6th, 7th, and 8th, 1940, which devastated Beauvais, several bombs fell on the church. One of them completely destroyed the instrument, which remained silent for over thirty years!

In November 1970, the organ builder Danion-Gonzalez began the dismantling and inventory work of the organ.

After lengthy discussions, it was decided, following the project of J.-P. Paquet and then by Y. Boiret, the architect of the historic site, to rebuild the organ in its normal position, that is, at the “back” of the nave.

The new instrument

The Great Organs of Beauvais Cathedral, built in line with the choir by the Danoin-Gonzalez company under the direction of the Ministry of Culture, contain some pieces of the old organ. Today, thanks to the care of the organ builder Bernard Dargossies, it sounds its best with its 77 stops, comprising approximately 5,500 pipes. The longest bass pipes in the façade measure 11.70 meters (38.38 feets), with a diameter of 40 cm (1.31 feets)! This makes the instrument one of the ten largest in France! The case is made of oak. This instrument is highly regarded for its tonal qualities and the flexibility of its use. It can showcase a rich variety of musical styles. The virtuoso organist Jean Galard is the current titular organist.

Historical Background:

In 1827, the organ builder Cosyn, under the direction of Harmel, constructed a large experimental organ in the south transept of the cathedral, incorporating some older stops. In 1850, a small organ was installed in the choir (bottom medallion). It is still in working condition. During the bombings of 1940, the large organ was too damaged to be restored. Only a few pipes were reused for the new organ. The top medallion shows the entrance of a large pipe into the cathedral while the large organ is being assembled (large photo).

Construction of the Gallery:

The wooden background of the cathedral, on the west side, was completely rebuilt, allowing the wooden arch and rose window to be placed at the right height to harmonize with the organ. These works required digging beneath the cathedral floor to anchor the four pillars supporting the gallery. Excavations were extended to a large part of the north transept, leading to the discovery of the foundations of the transept and part of the apse of the old cathedral.

Jean Galard:

His repertoire, very rich, spans all periods from the Middle Ages to the present day. Jean Galard is also an excellent improviser. For him, the organ of Beauvais Cathedral has extremely bright tones and important playing conveniences for an instrument of this size. True orchestration can be achieved. In 1989, Jean Galard created an “Oratorio of Genesis” at Beauvais Cathedral. He currently teaches organ and improvisation at the Eustache Du Courroy Conservatory in Beauvais, as well as at conservatories in Paris and abroad, through masterclasses.