The Organ in the St. Vitus’ Cathedral in Modern Times

The organ in the St. Vitus’ cathedral has always excelled over others in the whole Czech kingdom and the Austrian Empire. The Prague organist Karel Schiffner, who repaired and adjusted the big Gartner’s organ on the upper floor of Wolmut’s choir in the third quarter of the 19th century (see this quarterly 3/2000), enthusiastically admired the chromatic extent of this instrument, as it equalled that of the newest instruments in Leipzig, Schwerin and Frankfurt. But in 1909 this organ was partially taken to pieces in connection with the completion of the cathedral building; all that has remained to the present day is its splendid cupboard, which stands there as scenery.

Another organ stood on the lower part of Wolmut’s choir, built by the Riegr brothers of Krnov in 1887. However this organ was not capable of resounding throughout the completed cathedral, which was to be celebrated in 1929, the millennium of St. Wnceslas. The problem arose as to how to continue in the new area in the tradition of outstanding organs that would correspond to the importance of the cathedral and contemporary views on art.

The Union for the Completion of the St. Vitus’ cathedral dealt with acquiring a huge organ. There were in fact to be four independent organs. Each organ machine was to have its own keyboard, so that they could be used independently, but a central keyboard was to be built in as well, from which all these organs could be played. The Union announced the conditions for building this huge organ in 1928.

But even before negotiations on offers were started grave objections were made to the whole proposal. The art department of the Union for the Completion of the St. Vitus’ cathedral considered these objections and decided to have only the cabinet of the big baroque organ on the upper floor of Wolmut’s choir repaired and enlarged for the money of this civic union (the choir was transferred from the western wall to the northern one in 1924) and to order a small double manual with 35 registers from the organ-maker Josef Molzer in Kutna Hora for the arcade of the lower floor of the choir. Later it was permitted to enlarge the organ to a three-manual instrument.

The organ on the first floor of Wolmut’s choir was used until 1997, when it had to be repaired. Today a reconstructed romantic organ from 1929 stands on the lower floor of Wolmut’s choir. Its peculiarity is a carillon that was bought when the organ was constructed by the Molzer firm from the USA, and also an original electric pump. The meticulous restoration of the organ by the firm of Brachtl – Kansky was completed just this autumn.

Besides this organ there is a small organ by Josef Gartner, bought in 1848, that stands under the royal oratory. This organ has a closed prospect, so the pipes are not visible.

In addition there is to be found in the St. Vitus’ cathedral a positive bought by the Chapter of St. Vitus and coming from under the Giant Mountains. Unfortunately it is no longer in its original condition and is still awaiting careful restoration.

In 1997 the Chapter of St. Vitus acquired in addition a new portable positive made by the firm of V. Slajch.