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Versailles :
History of the Organ  - The Organ class at the Conservatory - Prepare a visit of the organ at the Royal Chapel

The Royal Chapel, the last major project of the King Sun

If Louis XIV announced the construction of the Royal Chapel from 1682, when the court moved to Versailles, the work will be completed in 1710 under the direction of architect Robert de Cotte and at the end by Jules Hardouin-Mansart in 1687. The Royal Chapel of Versailles, the fruit of a long maturation, is probably the most successful part of the Castle. Considerable financial efforts were made (more than two and a half million pounds) to enable its implementation, while France was engaged in the War of Spanish Succession. The obstinacy of Louis XIV to carry this project forward was all the more remarkable that he met the opposition of his entourage, to Madame de Maintenon.

The nobility of its architecture and the exceptional quality of its decoration make this chapel one of the great masterpieces of sacred art in the world. In accordance with the tradition of the Palatine Chapels, it has two levels. The main stand over the entrance was reserved for the royal family, the side galleries to royal princes and the principal dignitaries of the court; the other faithful stood on the ground floor.

The chapel dedicated to Saint Louis, ancestor and Saint patron of the royal family, is the last building built at Versailles during the reign of Louis XIV. Until the end of the old regime, it served as a framework for religious ceremonies of the court of France: Masses of the Order of the Holy Spirit, Te Deum for the military victories, princely baptisms and weddings, the most famous was that of the Dauphin, the future Louis XVI, and the Archduchess Marie-Antoinette.

This major project of the kingdom is also by far the one that concentrated more effort and talent: two architects, seven painters and sculptors hundred twenty were mobilized to erect this building so long envisioned and prepared by the aging sovereign. The decoration shows mainly the Passion of Christ and the glorious Trinity. Dedicated to St. Louis, the chapel was blessed 5th April 1710, five years before the death of Louis XIV. It is his true spiritual testament.

The Organ at the Chapel Royal in Versailles

Louis XIV was a music lover and wanted the most beautiful ceremonies in the royal chapel. It strengthens the musical numbers and shall itself to recruiting musicians and singers. It installs the organ on the floor of the gallery in front of him, above the high altar reredos. This privileged situation is quite unique. Installed in 1711, this instrument of Robert Clicquot and was inaugurated Tribuot Easter day by François Couperin. By its rich tone and white gold, the organ extends the high altar reredos and provides a link with Christ's Resurrection painted by Charles de La Fosse on th celling. The buffet was directed by talented sculptors-decorators: Marin Belan, Robert Lalande, Andre Legoupil and Pierre Taupin, under the direction of Jules Degoullons.

1711: modifcation of the organ by Robert Clicquot and Tribuot

1736: Louis-Alexandre Clicquot adds a Grosse Tierce and a third stop at the Pedal

1762: François-Henri Clicquot deeper changes the composition. At the Grand Orgue he replaces the Bourdon 16 'by a Montre 16?, at the Récit he replaces the Trumpet by an Hautbois, at the Positif he replace the Larigot by a trumpet and at the Echo manual he adds a Flute 8 'and Trumpet.

1817: Pierre-François Dallery removes Mixtures from Grand Orgue to place a Flute.
He also adds a Flute on the Récit.

1873 : Cavaillé-Coll modifies the instrument to build a two manuals organ (II/P/23). The instrument is currently in Saint-Martin Rennes.

1936 : Victor Gonzales build a new instrument

1994-1996: Jean-Loup Boisseau and Bertrand Cattiaux build an instrument in the minds of those of Clicquot in the respect and authenticity of the Art of the invoice of organ at the time.

Disposition of the Organ

37 stops, four manuals and pedal

1st manual POSITIVE (11 stops)
50 notes (C1 to D5 without first C #)
Montre 8 - Bourdon 8 - Prestant 4 - Flûte 4 - Nazard 2 2/3 - Doublette 2 - Tierce 1 3/5 - Larigot 1 1/3 - Plein-jeu VI - Trompette 8 - Cromorne 8

2nd manual GRAND ORGAN (16 stops)
50 notes (C1 to D5 without first C #)
Bourdon 16 - Montre 8 - Bourdon 8 - Dessus de Flûte (Ut3) - Prestant - Grande Tierce 3 1/5 - Nazard 2 2/3 - Doublette 2 - Quarte 2 - Tierce 1 3/5 - Fourniture IV - Cymbale IV - Grand Cornet V (ut3) - Trompette 8 - Clairon 4 - Voix Humaine 8

third manual Récit (3 stops)
32 notes (G2 to D5)
Cornet V - Trompette 8 - Hautbois 8

4th manual ECHO (3 stops)
32 notes (G2 to D5)
Bourdon 8 / Prestant 4 (on the same register) - Cornet III - Voix Humaine 8

PEDAL (4 stops)
30 notes (A0-C1-D1 to F3)
Flute 8 - 4 Flute - Trumpet 8 - Clarion 4

Tremblant doux, tremblant fort (à vent perdu), accouplements à tiroir : I/II et II/III, tirasse G.O.

The Organists of the royal chapel

Under Louis XIV
January Area: Jacques Thomelin (1656-1678) and François Couperin (1693-1730)April Area: Buterne Jean-Baptiste (1678-1721)July Area: Guillaume-Gabriel Nivers (1678-1706), Louis Marchand (1706-1708) and François Dagincourt (1708-1736)Quarter October: Nicolas-Antoine Lebègue (1678-1702) and Gabriel Garnier (1702-1721)

After Louis XIV and until 1790
Guillaume-Antoine Calvière, Claude Balbastre, Jean Landrin, Louis-Claude Daquin, Nicolas Paulin, Pierre-Claude Fouquet, Armand-Louis Couperin, Nicolas Sejanus, Pierre-Louis Couperin, Jean-Jacques Le Bourgeois, Jean-François Dandrieu from 1721, Jacques-André-François d'Agincour.

On 1 January 1764, Louis XV asked to hear the young Mozart playing the organ in the royal chapel. The child hits a prolonged note, then another, followed by a deluge of harmony. The king is stunned! In 1778 he was offered the post of organist of the Chapel for six months a year, but Mozart refused.
After the reconstruction of the organ in 1995: Michel Chapuis is appointed titular organist 1995-2010.
From june 2010 Michel Bouvard, Desenclos Frédéric François Espinasse and Jean-Baptiste Robin are appointed organist of the royal chapel.

More about the Royal Chapel

In French monarchy, the king was chosen by God and through his coronation became his "lieutenant" on earth. The paintings and sculptures in the chapel at Versailles evoke that idea in a series which starts at the nave and ends at the gallery where the king would sit.

Louis XIV only used this chapel for five years since it was only completed in 1710. The one he went to most often, built in 1682 on the site of the Hercules salon, quickly proved to be too cramped. The wars however delayed the construction of the large chapel, opened in 1689 by Hardouin-Mansart. The architect did not see the end of construction as he died in 1708. That year, his brother-in-law Robert de Cotte replaced him, but the general lines of the architecture and decoration had been decided since 1699: a floor plan with a nave, side aisles and an ambulatory, an elevation with galleries, a harmony of white and gold contrasting with the polychromy of the ornamental marble tiling and paintings of the vault; resulting in an original work where influences of gothic architecture and baroque aesthetics mix.

Each day, generally at 10 a.m., the Court would attend the king's mass. The king would sit in the royal gallery, surrounded by his family. The ladies of the Court occupied the side galleries. The 'officers' and the public sat in the nave. The king would only go down to the nave for important religious celebrations during which he received communion, for the Order of the Holy Spirit ceremonies, the baptisms and weddings of the Children of France which were celebrated there between 1710 and 1789.
Above the altar, around the Cliquot organ played by the greatest maestros like François Couperin, the Music of the Chapel, renowned across Europe, would sing motets each day throughout the entire church service.
In French monarchy, the king was chosen by God and through his coronation became his "lieutenant" on earth. The paintings and sculptures in the chapel at Versailles evoke that idea in a series which starts at the nave and ends at the gallery where the king would sit. Indeed, above the pillars of the nave angels are represented carrying the instruments of the passion of Christ which leads to his death, a theme which is illustrated by the large low relief of the high altar; above, the altarpiece expresses the splendour of the resurrection with the divine symbol of the triangle with the name Iahve written in Hebrew, in the middle of rays of light. In the half dome above the organ, Christ appears in the glory of the Resurrection, then on the vault God the Father and finally above the gallery, the descent of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity, symbolized by a dove, which must inspire the king's actions.