medieval organ

The medieval organ

Most medieval organs are known only through illustrations.  There are also a few treatises preserved that tell us more about how they were made and used.

In the early middle ages predominantly smaller organs were built, called positive and portative.  Portatives could easily be moved from place to place, and were used mostly as melody instrument in smaller ensembles.  Minstrels took these instruments along on their travels.  For that reason there are no original organettos extant.

In the 13th and 14th centuries larger organs were built.  These were called “blokwerk”.

Characteristics of medieval organs

Medieval organs differ in many respects from modern organs.  They had no modern registration possibilities.  They often had front pipes that could be played alone, with behind them rows of pipes in octaves and fifths that could be added by opening a valve.  The tuning was pythagorean.

Making a medieval organ

Orgelmakerij Van der Putten has built quite a few portatives and positives.  Several were for Jankees Braaksma, founder of “Super Librum”, a medieval music ensemble in Groningen.

We also make reconstructions of larger medieval organs, for example for exhibitions.  Look at our portfolio to get an idea of some of our projects.

More info?

Contact us.  We’d love to tell you more about the possibilities.