Collection for huge new St. Vitus Cathedral organ close to target

Photo: archive of St Vitus Organ Endowment

For centuries, Prague’s St. Vitus Cathedral, a symbol of Czech statehood, lacked a suitable pipe organ whose sound would fill its monumental space. Now, nearly 700 years after construction began, the cathedral is set to get a huge new organ. More than 74 million crowns have already been raised in a public collection to build the instrument.

Photo: archive of St Vitus Organ Endowment
The cost of the new pipe organ for St. Vitus Cathedral has been estimated at around 80 million crowns. So far, more than 74 million crowns have been raised in a public collection launched by the St Vitus Organ Endowment in April last year. Although most of the sum has been covered by the Czech Catholic Church, private sponsors and small donors have contributed a significant amount as well.

Štěpán Svoboda is an organologist from the Prague Archdiocese.

“We have dozens of thousands small sponsors, who donated symbolic amounts of several hundred or more, and they still continue to contribute. We appreciate every donation, because it becomes part of the instrument that belongs to all of us.”

Photo: archive of St Vitus Organ Endowment
The current provisional organ with its 4,500 pipes, built by Josef Molzer in 1932 and located in the left wing of the cathedral, is not strong enough to fill the whole church, which is 125 metres long and up to 60 metres wide.

The newly built organ, with over 8,000 pipes, will become one of the largest in Europe. It will be installed in the neo-Gothic organ-loft from 1929, located above the main entrance. The instrument is being built by renowned organ-maker Gerhard Grenzing from El Papiol in Spain, who won a public tender announced two years ago. To date, his company has made around 5,000 pipes.

The author of the design is Slovak car-designer Peter Olah, who found inspiration in Panská Skála, a basalt hill in North Bohemia near the town of Kamenický Šenov, which resembles an organ pipe.

Panská Skála,  photo: Magdalena Kašubová
The ornamental parts connecting the individual pipes will be made of glass, to resemble ice crystals that appear on the rock when water trickling on its surface freezes in winter. They will be manufactured by a Czech glass company.

Štěpán Svoboda again:

“The connection of organ pipes and crystal glass is quite unusual and it will make the design really unique. But its sound will also be unique, because just as the sound of every language is different, so is the sound of different instruments. Although the St Vitus organ will be suited to our Czech ears, it is still being made abroad, so its sound will be quite special.”

The new organ will be heard for the first time on the eve of Czech Statehood Day, October 27, 2019, while still in the factory in Spain. In January 2020, the instrument will be transported to the Czech Republic, where it will be played at St. Vitus cathedral for the first time in the spring of 2020.