The Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar is one of the most outstanding exponents of organ building in Catalonia. The diversity of influences which was assimilated into the Catalan organ building tradition – Central European elements were especially notable from the 14th century on -has greatly enriched its heritage. In fact, by the 16th century, Catalan organ building had a fully developed and unique “style” of its own. Castilian organ building, on the other hand, had to wait until the 18th century before it reached its peak. This was primarily the result of stylistically differentiated paths.

On the basis of research, especially the work done by Francesc Baldelló in his study on “La Música en la Basílica Parroquial de Santa María del Mar, de Barcelona” (1962), we have been able to confirm that many important organ-builders worked on the large organs. Outstanding names include: Bernat Pons, a priest fromNarbonne, France(1393): the first documented evidence of an organ in Santa Maria not even ten years after the first Mass was celebrated in the newly built Gothic church, Frater Leonardus (1464), a Franciscan from Mainz, Germany, Johan Spinn von Noyern (1484-1487), Pere Bordons (1547), Perris Arrabasa and Salvador Estrada (1500-1564), a prestigious Aragonese builder José de Sesma fromSaragossa (1677), Andrés Barguero (1691) from Flanders, Josep Bosch (1719-1721), Antoni Boscà -who, since 1734, had repaired the organs in Santa Maria; in 1741 he built an entirely new instrument, a magnificent synthesis of the Catalan and Castilian traditions: divided manuals, en chamade reeds and a full-compass manual instead of the short octave-, Jean-Pierre Cavaillé and Dominique Cavaillé-Coll (1794-1797)- and Joan Puig (1854).


The church housed two instruments:

1) The Great Organ [Jean-Pierre Cavaillé and Dominique Cavaillé-Coll] inaugurated on Christmas Day 1797, was played for important celebrations. This went up in smoke on 20th July 1936 at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).

2) The Smaller Organ whose historical role was to accompany the clergy’s chanting during the liturgy. The smaller instrument is documented between 1495-1672 and was replaced by the Royal Gallery which was destroyed in the same fire that destroyed the large organ during the Spanish Civil War.

The present instrument was originally built for the Trinitarian Convent in Vic. The style of the case and its decorative elements correspond to the second half of the 18th century although, up to now, it has been impossible to confirm either its builder or determine a precise date of construction. According to the English architect, Simon Platt, the instrument was built during the period 1730-1750. Sometimes it seems paradoxical that a place such as Catalonia which once took pride in a lively organ building tradition and over the years has offered scholars a wealth of organ-related documentation, is now only able to boast a handful of extant early organs.

This instrument was dismantled by non-professionals and removed from its original location. Up until 1983, some of the parts were kept in the store-room of an antique shop where they might have easily been purchased by someone and then shipped off to some unknown destination, never to be heard of again. Other parts of the organ, such as the manual and the bellows, were found in an old farm house near Vic. In fact, at the time, it all looked more like a pile of scrap iron than a musical instrument

Apart from restoring the case, a number of pieces were missing and had to be reconstructed. A new organ loft was also required. The design is in accordance with the style of the case and is built over a side chapel on the south wall between the buttresses, as close to the choir as possible, allowing for an unobstructed view of the nave. Of the original pipework, only 80 wooden pipes remained, 6% of the whole. None of the metal pipes survived. Reconstruction work of the remaining 94% entailed an in-depth study of the pipe racks on the façade, the rack boards and the windchests to establish a probable stop-list and determine the lengths and diameters of the corresponding pipes. The sizes coincide on numerous occasions with those found in the organ at Talarn (Lleida/1748), an instrument attributed to Josep Boscà Seriñena, if, indeed, the signature on the case is authentic. All the elements –mechanical, structural and decorative- have been restored according to period techniques within the Catalan and Majorcan organ building tradition. Significant features of this tradition are the manual division between bº-c1 [as opposed to the typical division c1-c#1 in Castilian organs] plus the presence of a wooden principal/diapason. The wedge bellows had to be rebuilt since the original ones could not be used. These are, -along with those in the Sanctuary of El Miracle near Solsona, la Pobla de Cérvoles and Ulldemolins-the only wedge bellows in Catalonia.

One interesting feature of Catalan organs is the presence of a second division: the “Cadireta” or Chair organ (Positive). There are many examples: Sitges, Torredembarra, Montblanc, Cadaqués and Montbrió. On smaller instruments this division is often never completed, but rather, the case is built and left as it is, serving as a simple decorative element. The organ in Talarn is one example of this kind; Santa Maria del Mar is another one. The original instrument only had one manual but, given the physical dimensions of the Basilica as well as the liturgical and concert roles the organ is expected to fill, a fully functional second division (Cadireta) was deemed necessary.

The restoration project was carried out in two stages: work on the “Orgue Major” or Great manual was finished in 1997 and the instrument started being used regularly in the church’s musical activities. A few years later, the pipework was finally installed in the Positive or “Cadireta” and the instrumentwas officially inaugurated on 31 May 2005.


Gerhard Grenzing, Master Organ Builder

And all those on the workshop staff

Simon Platt, architect

Translation: Neil Cowley, organist at the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar



45 notes (short octave)

Compass CDEFGA – c’’’

Manuals divided between b and c’

a’ = 412 Herz at 20ºC (temperament aprox. 1/5 mean-tone)


Orgue Major / Great organ (upper manual)

Baixons–Clarins 4’–8′ en chamadedivided between b and c’
Corneta VII half stop, c’-c’’’
Cara 8’ undivided;façade pipes
Octava 4’ undivided
Flautat de Fusta 8’ undivided; wooden pipes
Quinzena 2’+1’ undivided
Corona IV divided between b and c’“Terzzimbel”
Tapadet 4’ undivided ;C-b wooden pipes, c’-c’’’ chimney
Nasard 17ª 1 3/5 half stop, d’-c’’’
Nasard 12ª 2 2/3 stopped bassdivided between b and c’
Nasard 15ª 2’ stopped bassdivided between b and c’
Ple IV undivided
Cimbalet III undivided
Trompeta Real 8’ divided between b and c’inside the case



8 Contres IIVent al Pedal 8’ Wooden; 2 pipes per note. Compass: C-D-E-F-G-A-B·flat-B·natural.Pedals permanently coupled to upper manual


Other stops on upper manual (Orgue Major)

Ocells: Nightingale (pipes suspended in water)Trèmol: according to Dom BédosGaita: Bagpipe (open fifth E-B)

Tambor: Drum ( tuned in E)

each stop sounds automaticallywhen it is pulled 

Cadireta / Positive (lower manual)

Cara 4’ undivided; façade pipes
Bordó 8’ undivided;
Flauta Xemeneia 4’ undivided; chimney
Quinzena II / 2’+ 1 1/3 undivided
Nasard 19ª 1 1/3 undivided
Cimbalet III undivided
Regalia 8’ undivided