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Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments

Pipedreams Euro-Tour

  Pipedreams Euro-Tour 2006

April 28 - May 11, 2006

Day 7 -
Schramberg, Freiburg &
Saint Blasien



Schramberg (Saint Maria)


In 1774, a first organ has been mentioned for the Saint Nikolaus church. In 1838, it was decided to build a new church next to the existing Saint Nikolaus church. The new organ for this new church, Saint Mary, was built in 1844 by Eberhard Friedrich Walcker (Ludwigsburg) with 35 stops on three manuals and pedal and it is preserved with only minor alterations. In 1900, Walcker rebuilt the instrument: the pedal slider chests were replaced by cone chests, the key action became pneumatic and a new console had to be built, the division “Manual II” was put in a swell case, all pipes were put up for one or two halfsteps. In 1917, the original tin facade pipes were replaced by zinc pipes, except for the even pipes in the center tower.

After WWII the organ fall into decay, and temporarily, plans were underway to build a completely new organ in neo-baroque style, a common trend in those years. But fortunately, after careful examinations of the instrument, it was decided to restore the Walcker organ. The Swiss firm Kuhn Orgelbau completed these works in 1996. Most of the original pipework was preserved, several later changes could be reversed. The original cone chests of the manual divisions were preserved, the entire key and stop actions (with barker-levers) and the five bellows of the wind system have been reconstructed. The one and only stop on the third manual, Physharmonica, is located in the console - a harmonium reed stop with a wind swell system that allows different dynamics. The console has been built entirely new after original Walcker drawings.

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Freiburg (Saint Maria)

Freiburg is a city in Baden- Württemberg, on the western edge of the southern Black Forest (German: Schwarzwald) with about 214,000 inhabitants. Freiburg has a sunny microclimate and popular opinion has it that Freiburg is the warmest, sunniest city in Germany. It straddles the Dreisam river, among the foothills of the Schlossberg. The city is surrounded by several Black Forest mountains.

  Freiburg minster
The first parish church at this site was built in 1120. The cornerstone for the transept for the present minster was laid in 1200, followed by the completion of the nave in 1260, the tower in 1330, and, much later, the completion of the chancel in 1515, when the minster was inaugurated and consecrated. It has a length of 116 meters, a width of 30 meters, and a height of 116 meters. During the sixteenth century, small side chapels were added, and in the early eighteenth century the interior received a Baroque rebuilding. In 1827, the minster became a cathedral with the bishop’s seat for the new archdiocese, and neo-Gothic altars were added. In the interior, a wealth of stained glass windows has been preserved. The oldest windows in the transept were made in the thirteenth century. The windows in the chancel are from the time that part of the church was completed (early sixteenth century); the side nave’s windows date from the fourteenth century. The main altar was made by Hans Grien in 1512. Another altar in one of the chancel chapels is by Hans Holbein.

The minster has four organs, located in various places. They can be played separately, but also all together from a general console at the south side of the chancel.

  Freiburg minster
In the fifteenth century, a swallow’s nest organ was mentioned, hanging on the north wall of the main nave. In 1548, this instrument was replaced by a new organ built by Jörg Ebert from Ravensburg. The case and some pipes from this organ were preserved until 1929. In the seventeenth century, there was another organ built in the chancel. It was rebuilt in 1708 and 1813 as well as 1881 by Walcker from Ludwigsburg. In 1929, the nave organ was enlarged and later transferred into the north transept on a screen. The rest of the pipework was placed into a small continuo organ in the west gallery where the choir used to sing. After severe damage in WWII, the instruments became increasingly unreliable. Therefore, at the beginning 1960s, plans were made to built new instruments. Since one got used to having several organs spread over the entire room, the new instruments were built between 1963 and 1965 at these places respectively. The Choir Organ was built in 1964 by Rieger and was located first on the north gallery of the chancel, playable only from a general console. After the renovation, Fischer & Kraemer from Endingen rebuilt the organ in 1990, keeping most of the Rieger pipework and windchests, and the instrument (II/P/25) with its new case was transferred to the opposite side of the chancel in the south gallery.

The Nave Organ (swallow’s nest at the north wall) was built in 1965 by the Danish company Marcussen & Son from Apenrade (II/P/21) in a neo-Baroque style with tracker actions. The case has been formed similar to the Ebert organ case from 1548. The West Gallery Organ (Saint Michael’s Gallery) was built in 1965 by Gebr. Späth from Ennetach (with II/P/28) in a case which was formerly part of the 1929 Nave Organ.

Finally, the largest of the four instruments, Saint Mary’s Organ, in the north transept, was built by the Austrian company Rieger from Schwarzach in 1965 (IV/P/62), and renovated in 2001 by Caspar Glatter-Götz and Beat Grenacher. The instrument can be played both with a mechanical action console and from the general console in the chancel. The facade mirrors the inner structure of the various divisions: In four pipe towers underneath the console, the Positiv is placed (the lowest tower), flanked by the Hauptwerk. Directly above the console is the Brustwerk, above the three towers, the Schwellwerk, and on the left side, the Pedal division.

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Saint Blasien (Cathedral)

  Saint Blasien

The first monks settled at this site as early as the middle of the ninth century, and eventually a Benedictine monastery was founded in 983. At the end of the eleventh century, a new abbey church was built, however, it was replaced by the present Baroque church in 1786 by the famous Alsacian architect, P. M. d’Ixnard, under Abbot Martin Gerbert. Along with Rot an der Rot, the abbey church of Saint Blasien is one of the largest Benedictine monumental church buildings in Southern Germany. With the appointment of a French architect, it was guaranteed that, instead of an old-fashioned Rococo architecture, the extraordinary modern style of the Early French Classicism would be applied to the new church building. Ixnard had studied in Paris, where he may have been inspired by such buildings as the church of Saint Sulpice with its columns of the west facade or by the dome of the Pantheon. The spacious interior with its large rotunda is overwhelming beautiful. Also, on the opposite side of the main entrance, another nave was added - the chancel or monk’s choir, separated by a choir screen.

In 1775, the newly-built abbey church received an organ of enormous reputation, built by the famous Johann Andreas Silbermann as his opus magnum, with 47 stops on three manuals and pedal. Its place in the gallery in the chancel dominated the view upon entering the church and it “substituted” for a High Altar, as abbot Martin Gerbert had wanted.

After the secularization of the church in 1807, the new owner of the church, the Grand Duke of Baden, gave this unique organ, along with the 12 big bells of Saint Blasien’s abbey church, to the Roman Catholic Church of Saint Stephen in Karlsruhe in 1814. The organbuilder F. Stieffell from Rastatt rebuilt the instrument and maintained the Silbermann organ until 1856. In the following decades, the firms of E. F. Walcker from Ludwigsburg and Voit & Sons from Karlsruhe rebuilt the instrument several times, replaced the slider chests with cone chests, and added several new stops. In 1944 the organ was destroyed by bombs in WWII.

  Saint Blasien
Back to Saint Blasien: After the Silbermann organ had been removed to Karlsruhe, the parish replaced the large 1822 instrument with a very small used organ from a Franciscan church in Freiburg. It was used until 1874, when a fire destroyed parts of the monastery building and the abbey church, including the organ. After restoration was completed in 1879, a new mechanical action organ (II/24) was built by Louis Voit & Sons.

The present organ in the front gallery of the chancel was built in 1913 by F. W. Schwarz from Überlingen with a facade that freely adopted the old Silbermann facade from 1775. Only 47 of the front pipes sound, and the architecture of the front stands in no relation to the inner structure of the organ’s divisions. The instrument was repaired and restored several times by Welte, Späth and Klais. Still today this nearly unaltered organ has preserved its unique symphonic character, underlined by the huge cathedral-like acoustics with a reverberation of c. 10 seconds.

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