Pipe organ at the cathedral of Notre Dame at Lausanne

Construction of the cathedral at Lausanne began in the year 1170. This magnificent pipe organ was inaugurated in 2003. It is composed of 6737 pipes, required 60,000 hours to build, and is unusual in that it is the first organ to have been manufactured by an American company (C.B. Fisk‘s Opus 120) for a European cathedral. I intend to post a few other photos of this cathedral but thought that this particular view provided a good starting place. Joanna and I had spent the morning and early afternoon scouting the city for photographic fodder. When we entered the cathedral, the exterior of which I had captured the day before, I was like a kid in a candy store. There was so much potential, I tried to turn in all directions at once. My immediate thought was is it OK to take pictures here? Once I saw the sign which indicated that only flash photography was prohibited I went to work. I wondered what the others who walked the nave thought of the slightly deranged looking fellow, running about with a fully extended tripod, and dangling camera bag. I wondered whether they noticed when I dropped my lens cap, fumbled with my glasses, and searched my pockets for my wireless release and lens cloth. I began at one end of the nave for a view of the vaulted ceiling. Then to the other end to capture the ceiling again. Then to the chancel. Then one transept and the other. And back to the nave for additional long-views of the ceiling. When I reconnected with Joanna and prepared to depart the sacred space I stopped short to realize just that – I had been cavorting about in a sacred space for nearly an hour without stopping once to appreciate its significance. I paused to consider the fact that the glorious volume within which I had been scurrying had existed for more than eight centuries. Eight centuries! I was ashamed. What a gift to have been given the chance to experience such a place, solemn and reverent. A place which had seen so much human emotion. Then I wondered about those who had come to worship so many centuries ago, or yesterday. What fear, what joy did they bring as they stepped through the intricately carved doors? How were they dressed? Why had they come? Was their presence a matter of routine? Did they come to worship? Did they seek guidance or nothing more than the comfort of fellow parishioners? So much emotion, experienced alone and in the company of others. The volume could surely bear witness to the gamut of human feeling and for most of the time I walked the space I was unaware. Perhaps if I had stopped to listen I could have heard whispers, secrets which clung to the stones beneath my feet. I am sorry to have been carried away by the awesome beauty of the place. Perhaps in that way, by being carried away, I did pay my due respect?



22 thoughts on “Pipe organ at the cathedral of Notre Dame at Lausanne

  1. You know what I think? I think each of us had their own response system to “awe.” For some it will be to sing and dance with joy, for others, to sit quietly and marvel. For you, perhaps, it is to examine, in intricate detail, each and every visual aspect. Later you will take the time to process it. Perhaps the zoologist is coming through here or maybe that is your essence which led to your chosen field and now leads to this. At any rate, I admit to having a chuckle as the imagery your words layered over the image you chose to share. I added the sound effects myself (scuffling of feet, muffled noises as the tripod legs found rest on the floor, faint clicking of shutters. All in all it was a fine, grand production šŸ™‚

  2. This image captures the perfect combination of the ancient gothic structures and the modern elements – like the metal pipes and the halogen spots! It feels ‘timeless’ in the best possible sense! Again an image for the travel guide!

      • If I recall correctly an organ is the instrument capable of the highest number of octaves. But due to some reason I feel you hear glitches rather easily so it takes a skilled player. Entering an empty church and listening to somebody ‘practicing’ can be a rather unnerving experience in my opinon šŸ˜‰

  3. This is indeed paying due respect, David. I like the way you captured the symmetry of the construction. The inner architecture of European churches from previous times are marvels in so many different ways. Nothing today begins to compare. I have never tried to shoot the inside of one, but I can just imagine your excitement and enthusiasm to capture so much of the detail and beauty contained within. Like you, I am just amazed at the complexity of what was wrought there. The conception in planning and executing the design and achievement of the physical requirements I think would elude most if not all of today’s undertakings … mostly the expense as I don’t believe the craftspeople of those days were well compensated. As well, I think most of the skilled trades of those days are now either non-existent or watered down to a disappointing level. There are few dedicated and historically attuned craftspeople practicing today.

    • Yup … these constructions are certainly the sorts which, in my opinion, will never be matched (for many of the reasons you point out). As I indicated in my post, I am sorry that I didn’t really take time, while in the cathedral, to fully appreciate the place for all that is was. Perhaps next time I’m in Lausanne?

    • A person is still required to play this magnificent instrument Gin. Here are a few more statistics … if you’re interested. The pipe organ is composed of two consoles, five claviers, and one pedalier. It is the first organ in the world to contain all four of the principal organ styles (classical, French symphony, baroque, and German romantique). The organist is Jean-Christophe Geiser. D

  4. I think most definitely there is due respect here. The lighting is fabulous – and is it just me, or do those central pipes look like the outstretched wings of an angel?

    • Silly me … yet another aspect of this magnificent installation of which I was unaware. I think you are correct, and now that I look more closely I see the wings of an angel in both the sets of longer pipes to the side and in the small set center/top. The thing still amazes me. Thanks for checking in. D

  5. There is no comment I can make that will do this one justice … a picture really is worth a thousand words! It never ceases to amaze me how captivating human craftsmanship can be, even for those who come centuries later. Especially religious art and architecture … it always speaks of such tremendous sustained effort, focus and persistence that I, as a modern-day human, find it hard to wrap my head around. You’ve captured it perfectly here!

    • I’m always impressed by display of skill the artisans-of-old clearly had. Constructions such as this would be difficult today (even with all of our modern tools, computers, and techniques). Imagine the skill required to do this … hundreds of years ago. D

  6. Such a majestic shot. It is amazing to see such craftsmanship and appreciate it. The organ and the architecture have certainly stood the test of time. The marigold yellow and blues make this otherwise stone-colored photo POP! I love how it seems to be illuminated!

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