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date: 19 November 2019

Cathedral organs in Spain and Latin Americalocked

  • Sing d'Arcy


Spanish and Latin American cathedrals are distinguished by their broad hall-like interiors, their gilded and polychrome Retables, the central position of the enclosed choir (coro), and the pairs of monumental organs that flank each side of the choir. The construction of twin organs reached its apogee in the middle of the 18th century. Typically, these organs have two façades, one facing towards the choir and one facing out towards the lateral aisles. The earliest extant example of this design is found in the double-façade organ (1469) of the cathedral of Saragossa. This organ is noted for its red-and-gold Gothic case.

The technical development of the Spanish organ, though distinct in detail, parallels the general trends found throughout Europe. The 17th, and particularly, the 18th century saw the modest size of cathedral organs evolve into large and complex machines. The enlarging of the sound palette (organ stops) resulted in an increase in the space needed to house the pipes. The position of the organ in Spanish cathedrals—in the nave arches—intrinsically constrained the organ builders’ ability to expand the depth of the instrument. The solution was to stack the internal division of the organ vertically, and most innovatively, externally. Organ cases grew higher and wider, eventually occupying the entire space of the arch. Examples of this are the monumental mirror-organs of the Andalusian cathedrals of Seville (...

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