Sunday, 6 June 2010

The Organs of Taizé

1960s organIn the Church of Reconciliation at Taizé there is a large pipe organ. I blogged about it last summer when it was installed, but I have come to learn so much more about it and its predecessors and yet now I seem to know so much less! By finding old photographs, I have seen that the organ in Taizé has changed a number of times over the years and it does beg the question why?

From this very old photo probably from the 1960s you can see what I am fairly sure is the original organ. The niche in the wall fits it perfectly, or it fits the niche perfectly, whichever way you would like to put it, but in any case it looks like it belongs. I can’t find out who made the organ, but that will come with time.

1974 organInterestingly, I have found information about what is possibly the second organ in Taizé. This organ was built specifically for the church in 1974 by Jürgen Ahrend a German organ builder, however, that had a very short life in the church because it was dismantled and put into storage in the Bressse in 1979. Via a monastery in Switzerland this organ eventually ended up in Lyon Cathedral in 1996, where it still is today. I suspect it was rather too loud for Taizé if it can be used in a cathedral!

What happened in 1979, I have no idea, but when I first visited the church in 2006 there was definitely an organ, I never heard it played, but it was there. Obviously no one thought it interesting enough to take a picture of because I have scanned the web and can find nothing. 2006 organ However, a friend of mine did find this photo in her collection, rather out of focus, but clearly an organ. Apparently this organ became “unreliable” due to the hot air heating system in the church and so it was removed when the church was refurbished in the winter of 2008/2009.

I personally thought the church was a better place without that organ. An organ of that size seems to be out of place and too overwhelming for the services in Taizé. However, a new organ had been commissioned from Gerhard Grenzing, an organ builder from Catalonia. Rather unusually for a organ, part of the specification was that it had to be “quiet”! When I saw the new thing arrive I thought it looked as if it could blast you out of the church, but apparently the sound is very much in keeping with the quiet meditative nature of the chants. 2009 organ Also interestingly the organist sits sideways on to the church so that he does not have his back to the congregation. This must make it easier for the organist to still feel part of the community of singing.

Finding all this out, has made me hanker for more information. What happened in 1979? Why have there been so many organs over the years? How many have there actually been between 1979 and 2006? Maybe some of our new friends who have been coming to Taizé for years will be ale to fill in some gaps, I don’t know, but I will certainly keep digging. So anyone with any information or any photos throughout the years, let me know!

La Tuilerie Website


  1. Oh, if only we were still there and could be part of your investigative team!

  2. The first organ was build by a brother of Taize. In the early seventies he left the community and wrappped up his organ and took it with him. This I heard of someone who went to Taizé in that time. The brothers are not very eager to share this information.

    Kind regards

    Philip Wintrip

  3. Gosh, how interesting, I'll have to follow that lead up, thanks for the information.


  4. The only part of the puzzle I'm aware of is that when the church was most recently refurbished (was it really as long ago as 2008 / 9 ?) the floor was raised in the old part of the church to accommodate the new under-floor heating system. This is why there are no longer steps down and railings at the back of the church. As a result, the existing organ loft would have been too low to pass underneath. There were clearly other issues with the organ, but I think this was the final straw which motivated its replacement at that point in time.

    1. Thanks for that comment Andrew, some interesting extra information.


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