Organs in Croatia

The organ is a musical instrument on which the sound is produced by pressing the keys on its keyboard and by the circulation of the pumped air coming from the bellows through the pipes, generated in a mechanical, pneumatic or electric way. The air is being stored in the bellows under the constant and precise level of pressure, and drawn inside the bellows that are being pumped by the calcant (the person who pumps the bellows).
Each of the keys of the keyboard has its corresponding pipe, and the range of these pipes from the lowest to the highest is called one rank. Organ has more ranks, and each is made in a way that the sound of its pipes gives the tone a different sound colour. By closing the one and opening the other or opening more manubrijs at the same time, the keys of the keyboard are being connected to one or more new registers and in that way not only the colour but also the power of the pipes is being changed.
Through the console, which consists of one or more keyboards, all the parts of the organ are being managed. Besides the keyboard, the manual, that is played manually, organ has the, so called, pedal, the keyboard which is played by feet.
The reed is the part of the organ, in which the dense air vibrates vertically, and produces the sounds of various pitch and colour. It is built of wood or metal lime. Besides these basic construction elements of this, above all, complicated instrument, there are numerous other important parts for functioning and producing of the sound, such as linkages or kopulas, which enable that the ranks of the one manual are played on the keys of the other manual, alikvots or blends that enable adding more ranks thus enhancing the wholeness and the shine of the basic rank.

Organs in Croatia

The significant part of the historic development of organs can be traced on 800 or so preserved organs, mostly of monumental value. The oldest archival data about organs in Croatia come from the 14th century, when they were mentioned as existing in Gradec in Zagreb, and in Dubrovnik city. At that time the Church of St. Stosija in Zadar got one into its possession. Frier Urban, the builder of the organ in the Church of St. Marco in Venice, had built the organ for the Church in Trogir, of which only the casing doors, painted by Gentile Bellini in 1489, have been preserved until today. Around the year 1480 the Zagreb cathedral also got one organ, in Pula one are mentioned in 1417. In the year 1647 the Zagreb Cathedral got into possession the organ built by Gregor Strukl.

The oldest organs that have been preserved until today in Croatia are dated to the beginning of the 17th century, and these are the six small organs and positives from Lepoglava, Varaždin, Zlogonja i Vukovje.

The 17th century organs

The organs from that time have one manual, the same range of keyboards, the number of ranks is from 5 to 10 and the manual keyboard has 27 full tones. It usually starts with E or D
For the architectural concept, it followed the enrichment of the form. Although it still maintained the traditional cubic form of the 16th century, the case was gradually being decomposed and was losing its static. In the spirit of the new Baroque aesthetics its shape was enriched. At the beginning, the organ followed especially the shape of the wing altars. The pipes were covered by one or two-part carved shades.

The Church of St. Florian

The organ is mentioned in the visitation from the year 1760, and in 1808 it was mentioned that it had five ranks and that it was brought to the chapel from another place. The organ had been several times rebuilt during which the pedal was removed. Although the disposititon was corrected, the 90% of the original material is still preserved. Among other things, there are the pipes, the cuttingness and the sharpness, which are typical for the 17th century South-American, that is, Austrian organ artistry school, the result of which is this organ.
The console locked in the closet, the hands of manubrium in the shape of the key holds, carved flower of five small granules at the top of the pointed arc of the lip on the pipe are the details which contrast this organ from the instruments of the 18th century.
The style of the base also corresponds to the style of the 17th century. Most of all: the emphasis of the square surface of the towers, the ending broken-like gables with the narrow prismatic pyramids in between, and the richly decorated shades.

Donja Višnjica
The Rectory

The small positive, today situated in the Rectory in Donja Višnjica, came originally from the Chapel of St. Florian in Zlogonja, at the border with the Stajer region where it was brought in 1777. As one of the five preserved instruments of the 17th century, and the qualitative work of an unknown builder, this organ has a huge organological and historical value. The mechanics, ranks and artistic style correspond to the middle of the 17th century.
The positive is placed on the square base one meter high. The console is built in at the front side of the prospect. At the each end of the keyboards there are two narrow iron ranks that end with the round apple. The prospect is closed by the wing doors on the pointed iron hinges. The pyramid of the pipes is covered in the prospect by the two-part carved shade with the motives of bilettes and broad beans. The composition is ended with the slightly profilated cornice where in its freeze, at the front, three triglifs are situated. Renewed at the beginning of the 19th century, the positive is well preserved in its shape, mechanics and decorations.

The 18th century organs

At the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century significant changes took place in the construction of the instrument and its case. Following the new acoustic ideals of the high Baroque, the marking profilation of the earlier sound and the pipes of wide menzurs are replaced by the richer array of sound colours and more diverse types of ranks. The expressiveness of the instrument was broadened with the two manuals and their corresponding range/row of ranks contrasted by the colour of their sounds.
In the style of the time, characterized by the vivacity of lines and many new shapes, the cases from the 18th century left behind the cubic form and the statics typical for the 17th century. They are being divided into 2, 3 or 5 towers. The carved shades above the pipes, the wings on the cases’ sides and the positive in the fence of the choir were being decorated with asymmetrical motives of the rocaille within the play of the variety of the shapes.

The Parish Church of St. Maria Magdalena

As part of the Baroque renewal and the supply of the inventory, the Romanesque-Gothic Church in Cazma got the organ. It was brought to Cazma in 1767, presumably from Vienna.
Phonically, this organ is one of the most important cultural-historical monuments of the second half of the 18th century in Croatia. The large late-Baroque instrument with 14 ranks is composed out of the two independent parts: main organ with the pedal and the positive built in the choir fence.
In accordance with the composition of the instrument itself, the base also has two separate parts. In the purpotrated middle console-like part of the choir, the base of the positive is built. Above it, the five towers of the main prospect are standing proudly, being richly decorated by skillfully carved shades above the pipes, perforated lace-like with the motives of rocaille. On the high towers plays the ensemble of bigger and smaller angels. D. Baricevic estimated that the figures on the prospect of the organ are the closest to the ones of the anonymous author of the altar of the St. Three Kings built in 1765. Comparing the Cazma organ to the instruments in Herzogenburg, Bruck on Leitha, Rothengrube and Vienna, L. Saban concluded they belonged to the famous builder from Vienna, Johann Hencke. The organ was restored in the Heferer workshop.

Sveti Petar u Šumi
The Paulinian church in Sveti Petar u Šumi

The signature of the builder I. J. Eisl that was discovered in 1991 confirmed the assumption set already in 1979. The organological characteristics of the instrument, as well as the Northern type base, led L. Saban to connect it with the famous artisan from Ljubljana, born in Salzburg. The organ has the mechanical system with one manual and a pedal.
The base is of Northern-type, small dimensions, but with two rich prospects from the 18th century. The rich architectural composition, ornamental decoration and valuable figures, give the base in St. Peter’s Church the status of one of the most richly decorated bases of the 18th century that were preserved in Croatia. The base has two prospects, in front and at the back. Everything is consumed by the ornamentals of rocaille. There has been so far no known data about the builders. They were, as is obvious, competent artisans whose strength lied mostly in the decorations and illustrations. The refined beauty, art and tradition, as well as the craftsmanship, are all the reflections of the accomplishments of the Middle European cultural circle, with which the Paulines had the connection via the branches of their order in the Middle European countries.

The 19th and the 20th centuries

The 19th and the 20th centuries brought significant technical innovations, the organs were developed to the gigantic sizes and these are called the „universal organs“, on which the music of all sorts and styles can be played. After 1850, the Romanticism was becoming the dominant style in Europe. It is to be seen, mostly, in the disposition of the organs, which then mainly consisted of accentuated number of eight-foot ranks, while aliquot ranks were being reduced drastically or dismissed altogether. If there was another manual built, it lost the significance of the Baroque positives.
The new era left its mark also in the shapes of the organ cases. Horizontality, verticality, right angle, meander in the ornaments, acant of the pointed leaves and rosettes were leading into the classicistic mainstream and its tectonic morphology. However, the rapid shift of stylistic mainstreams, that is, the derivates of the Classicism, Bide Meier and Neo-styles, with the Secession marking the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, was also reflected in the shaping of the organ cases.

Veliki Bukovec
The Church of St. Francis of Assisi

This organ is one among the several most valuable instruments from that period in Croatia. It was built in 1855 by the famous builder Carl Hesse, who came from Baruth, near Berlin, where he learned his craft. Later on, he moved to Trieste where he started a workshop and studied in detail the mainstream of the classical Venetian building craft (Nakic-Callido) and applied much of it in his later work. That was how he created a mixture of Italian and German style.
The organ in Veliki Bukovec is characterized by the richness of the registers of eight-foot size, which reflects the Romantic Period. The lines of the base reflect the high Classicism. On the high base there is a prospect divided by the pilasters into three fields with the pipes.

Sveta Marija na Muri
The Parish Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary

The interesting Neo-Gothic organ was built by Leonhardt Ebner, coming from Maribor. The instrument was being built from 1869 till 1870, and has 22 ranks, two manuals and a pedal. The abundant possibilities of expression as well as the monumental base, make it one of the most significant monuments of the kind in the Medjimurje Region.
On the high base there is a three-part prospect. The three fields with the pipes are part of the rich Neo-Gothic decoration, which covers the pipes in braid-like laminated tendrils, encompasses the towers and ends with the crosses on top of the trabeation.

Text authors: mr. sc. Jagoda Meder, Tomislav Heferer
Photos: Nino Vranić, Goran Bekina, Tomislav Heferer
(c) Ministry of Culture of the Republic Croatia –

(D.H., 09.01.2009)