French Organ in Luxeuil-les-Bains

French Organ in Luxeuil-les-Bains

French style at St-Pierre et St-Paul basilica - Jean DELOYE, Philippe HARTMANN, Michel FORMENTELLI workshops

A Flemish origin, a French character, an unhappy episode and a reconstruction due to Jean Deloye and Philippe Hartmann – the historic organ of Saint-Pierre Saint-Paul Basilica in Luxeuil-les-Bains has just been inaugurated , after the very recent lifting carried out by Michel Formentelli and Jean Deloye.

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In 1617, under the Abbey of Antoine de la Baume, was built the first layer of the current organ. We do not know the name of the organ builder, but an inscription inside the crown of the Positive tells us about the person who made the buffet : “Ioan Dognadec / 1617”.

The sideboard produced at that time corresponds to the central part of the current large body, with three turrets, and it was fitted with shutters opening onto the facade pipes. According to Claude Aubry, the Positif sideboard then had the same volume on a reduced scale, with the largest turret in the center.

Nothing is known about the original instrumental part. The pipes still dating back to 1617 appear to be Flemish, which may be plausible given the close relationship between Luxeuil Abbey and Afflighem Abbey in Belgium. In addition, the County depended on the House of Spain at the time, just like Flanders at the time.

During the reconstruction of the convent buildings, the main entrance door located under the organ was walled up while the current two side entrances were drilled in 1668. It was to hide the condemned door that was built between 1668 and 1695 , under the abbatial of Charles-Emmanuel de Bauffremont, the gigantic pedestal, bottom of lamp which seems to support the platform.

This decorative element, surprising for its originality and richness, has two parts: the Atlas, which on the ground appears to support the whole, and the long acanthus leaf surmounting it, carved from a single tree trunk.

Various musical instruments appear between the acanthus volutes: violin, trumpet, cornet, recorder …

The median part, largely curved, is divided into three panels by four caryatids supporting the platform with their powerful arms. Each of the three compartments is intricately carved with a medallion. On the right, Saint Cecilia at the organ accompanied by a violinist angel. In the center, Christ hands Saint Peter the keys of Heaven, Saint Paul standing behind him. On the left, King David plays the harp.

These enlargements of 1695 were entrusted to the postman Philippe Picard and his sons Antoine and Joseph, in particular with the aim of rebalancing the proportions of the sideboard against the imposing gallery. It is therefore from this period that the two side wings of the large body date. According to Claude Aubry, who analyzed the assemblages before the 1980 restoration, this expansion was carried out in two stages: first a flat-face and a turret on each side, the outer platform being added afterwards.

It was also during this work that the Positif sideboard took on its current form, with the two large turrets at the ends. The instrumental part seems to have also been modified because Claude Aubry dates part of the piping from this period.

It is currently unknown what work was carried out in the 18th century. The organ suffered from revolutionary disturbances: the Positif’s piping was then looted, the wind tunnel damaged by hay deposited nearby, the building having served as a fodder store at that time. The sources identified by Claude Aubry provide information on the instrumental part after the Revolution: the Grand-organ keyboard went up to F5, that of Positif only included 4 octaves and 7 stops, including the Cromorne, Fourniture, Nazard , Doublette and Tierce.

The instrument was restored in 1808 by the factor Jean-Baptiste Gavot. He adds a Bassoon-Oboe playing in the Positif, the range of which is carried to F5 as on the Grand-organ keyboard. He returned in 1829 to install an Echo keyboard with a Cornet set and a Trumpet. Jean-Baptiste Gavot’s son revised the instrument in 1835.

Significant work was then undertaken by the postman Joseph Callinet. The archives of the Fabrique council mention an estimate dated 20 October 1840, to which two addenda were attached on 6 January and 3 June 1841, all for an amount of 4000 francs. The reception took place on July 23, 1841.

Unfortunately, none of these quotes have been found, and the exact scope of this work is unknown.

The organ case was classified as a Historic Monument in 1846.

Following a donation from Napoleon III for the restoration of the abbey, the organ was again the subject of work in the 1860s, which Claude Aubry attributed to Claude-Ignace Callinet. It is at this time that the wall which supports the current platform and on which is keyed the one originally fixed directly to the wall is built.

Cleaning and general tuning works were carried out in 1903 by the Didier house in Épinal.
During the First World War, the reconstruction of the instrument was entrusted to Jules Bossier. The work was unfortunately of the order of destructive DIY: rear of the large body gutted, positive emptied of its piping and reduced to its facade, the window console is replaced by a separate pneumatic console. Painted in fake stone pipes are posted outside the buffet. The swell and the new positive overlap prominently on the left back side of the sideboard, as evidenced by period photos, as do the 16-foot tall pipes protruding from the ceiling of the tall body. The inauguration of this work took place on Quasimodo Sunday 1917.

As the operation of the instrument quickly became uncertain, work was entrusted to Louis Georgel in 1949, who rebuilt the wind tunnel and lowered the Swell plane into the base of the large body. In order to accommodate the choir in the gallery, the base of the wings of the large body is truncated and the carved spandrels are removed. Despite this work, the organ quickly became unplayable.

Eager to remove the mutilations experienced by this instrument, the municipality, supported by organist Michel Chapuis, launched a restoration project in the early 1970s.

The instrumental part is classified as Historical Monuments on May 19, 1972. On August 9 of the same year, specifications are drawn up by Claude Aubry, consultant technician for the Ministry of Culture. Based on the existing old piping, the sideboards, and inspired by the arrangements of Callinet’s organs, he proposes a composition of classical French inspiration, but with additions allowing the execution of the European Baroque repertoire on the basis of five sound shots including a “Raisonnance” (sic) inspired by the Isnard organ in Saint-Maximin (Var).

The work is entrusted to the factor Jean Deloye, assisted by Philippe Hartmann for harmony.

The entire sideboard has been restored, with a significant amount of reconstruction for the mutilated parts (back and sides of the sideboards, spandrels). All the bed bases and the suspended type mechanics are also rebuilt as new. The use of modern materials (metal for the reconstruction of the frame, mechanics of industrial manufacture) has been ruled out in favor of a reconstruction in the Rules of the Art such as those used under the Ancien Régime (abbreviations in wood, usage wrought iron …), an exceptional approach for the time. The wind tunnel was rebuilt from the existing one, with parallel folds and not wedge-shaped for economic reasons.

From 2018 to 2020, the City with the support of the State entrusted factor Michel Formentelli in collaboration with Jean Deloye, with the complete lifting of the instrument (removal and dusting of the piping, overhaul of the springs and mechanics). The work program includes the installation of four wedge-shaped bellows for better wind distribution. The mechanics also benefit from significant improvements. Michel Formentelli ensures the harmonization in strict compliance with the achievement of Philippe Hartmann and proceeds to the general agreement.

According to Claude Aubry and Eric Brottier, consulting technicians for the Ministry of Culture

Sources documentaires

  • Sources manuscrites :
    Projet de reconstruction du Grand-orgue et plan de charges pour la réalisation, par Claude Aubry, le 9 août 1972
  • Sources imprimées :
    AUBRY Claude, Luxeuil les Bains, Le Grand-Orgue, 360 d’histoire, pas de date, édité à l’issue des travaux de reconstruction par Jean Deloye

Anonyme, 1617
Philippe Picard, 1695
Jean-Baptiste Gavot, 1808 et 1829
Joseph Callinet, 1841
Claude-Ignace Callinet, vers 1860
Jean Deloye et Philippe Hartmann, 1980 (reconstruction)

Relevage Jean Deloye et Michel Formentelli, 2020


Episode I
Episode II
Episode III

sound illustrations

Nicolas de Grigny – A solis ortus cardine – Plein jeu – Fugue à 5 – Trio – Point d’orgue sur les grands jeux, Jean-Charles ABLITZER – concert d’inauguration
Louis Marchand – Fond d’orgue, récit (1er Livre d’orgue), Jean-Charles ABLITZER – concert d’inauguration