Jean-François Lépine | Cathédrale St. Pierre . Montpellier [France]

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Photography by João Valério
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The Montpellier cathedral organ was built from 1776 to 1778 by Jean-François Lépine, in order to substitute an older organ by Frères Eustache, built from 1648 to 1651 but at that time already severely damaged. In 1 July 1776 the chapter decided to order a new organ, choosing Dom Bédos to draw the construction plans and Lépine to build them. Days later, in 10 July 1776, two contracts are signed – one for the main case and for the Positif, with a total cost of 6000 French livres, and another for the mechanics, pipes and wind system, in fact the entire organ mechanism, for 16500 French livres.

Two extracts from the text of the contract document are presented below, as directly transcribed from a digital facsimile:

“Devis et Marché d’un buffet d’orgue de seize pieds pour etre posé sur la tribune qui est dans le fond de l’église Cathedralle St. Pierre de Montpellier”

“Sera construit un autre buffet separé pour le positif qui aura douze pieds de largeur(…)”

During construction it was decided to add some extra registers and also one tower on each side, due to an excessive size of wall left uncovered by the organ. The construction involved a reconstruction of the tribune in order to support the additional weight.

After the construction it is made an additional contract specifying that, for 250 French livres paid yearly, Lépine would go twice a year to tune and do minor repairs in the organ and would do a major restoration from ten to ten years.

In 1878 there is a reconstruction by Joseph Merklin, where the majority of the organ interior was replaced. The inauguration was made by Alexandre Guilmant in 1880.

In the 20th century, in 1944, the organ is restored because of an extreme dust accumulation inside pipes and on the mechanics that made it unplayable, due to a ceiling repair. In 1978 the Positif is again repaired by Alfred Kern, this time seeking to attain the Lépine original state.

The instrument contains currently 4 manuals and pedal, 71 stops and electrical action. The façade has 140 pipes and instrument sculptures, some of them being played by angels, including horn, trumpet, viola da gamba, lyra, harp and bassoon.


1776-1778 – organ construction
1878-1880 – organ changes by Joseph Merklin
1923 – electrical blower installation
1944 – organ restoration by Maurice Puget
1959 – electric traction installation by Léopold Troseille
1965 – new console and addition of fourth manual by Edmond Costa
1978 – “Positif a dos” repair by Alfred Kern
1981 – installation of a combination system by Manufacture des Grandes Orgues
1992 – case gilding
1993 – organ changes and repairs
2011-2014 – organ repair


Positif de dos Grand-Orgue Récit expressif Solo Pédale
Montre 8’ Montre 16’ Quintaton 16’ Montre 8’ Soubasse 32’
Bourdon 8’ Bourdon 16’ Principal 8’ Bourdon 8’ Flûte 16’
Prestant 4’ Montre 8’ Cor de Nuit 8’ Gemshorn 8’ Flûte 8’
Flute 4’ Flûte harmonique 8’ Voix céleste 8’ Octave 4’ Flûte 4’
Nasard 3’ Bourdon 8’ Octave 4’ Nazard 2 2/3 Bombarde 16’
Doublette 2’ Prestant 4’ Flûte 4’ Doublette 2’ Trompette 8’
Quarte 2’ Flûte 4’ Flageolet 2’ Tierce 1 3/5 Clairon 4’
Tierce 1 3/5 Grosse Tierce 3 1/5’ Plein-Jeu harmonique III-V Piccolo 1’
Larigot 1 1/3 Voix Humaine Plein-Jeu IV
Fourniture IV Bombarde Trompette 8’
Cymbale III Doublette 2’ Grand Chœur expressif Clarinette 8’
Cornet V Grande Fourniture II Cornet V
Trompette 8’ Petite Fourniture III Basson 16’
Cromorne 8’ Cymbale IV Trompette 8’
Voix Humaine 8’ Cornet V Basson-Hautbois 8’
Clairon 4’ Bombarde 16’ Clairon 4’
Trompette 8’
Clairon 4’

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