The Church

This masterpiece of early-Gotic architecture was built between 1163-1345, replacing a Merovingian Cathedral, St. Stephen. During the reigns of Louis XIV and Louis XV, the cathedral was much altered, as Gothic style was considered outdated. During the revolution, many of the treasures of the cathedral were destroyed. The cathedral's organ and great bell Emmanuel (15 th century) managed to avoid being destructed.
The badly damaged cathedral was restored in 1845-1870 by Lassus and Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. In fact, quite a few parts of the present cathedral do originate from the 19th century! From 1991 onwards, a major program of maintenance and restoration has been carried out and is nowadays almost completed.

Notre-Dame-de-Paris exterieur

The great organ

The first instrument is mentioned as early as 1357. Till 1730, there is a history of many transformations and extensions. The present organ originates from a new organ constructed by François Thierry in 1730-33. This instrument was renovated and extended in 1783-88 by François-Henri Clicquot. In 1864-68, the positive was taken away by Violet le Duc (it is still stored somewhere in the cathedral) and the Clicquot organ was transformed into a symphonic organ by Cavaillé-Coll. He introduced a novelty here by extending the harmonics using a 7th and its octaves. In the years 1959 - 1968 the instrument was electrified, extended and reharmonized par Jean Hermann and Robert Boisseau and lost its symphonic character. In 1990-92, a large-scale restoration was carried out by Boisseau & Cattiaux, Emeriau, Giroud, returning the organ to its symphonic character of the 19th century, while maintaining the classical 32' grand choeur as reconstructed in the past century.
In 2012-2014, the organ was restorated and enlarged by Bertrand Cattiaux and Pascal Quoirin. They installed a new computer traction, repaired the sunken pipes, cleaned the organ and modified the "small pedal" into a ‘resonnance’ board. A register system motorized by high-pressure pneumatic actuators was supplied to replace Cavaille-Coll's action stop ties and the pneumatic stop tie machines were completely restored.
33 stops are from before the revolution, around 50 are from Cavaillé-Coll.
This organ is superb! Together with the great acoustiscs of this cathedral, the organ sounds incredibly beautiful and its power goes beyond all imagination.
A video with Philippe Lefebvre presenting the organ (2013) (French spoken)

Read all about the restoration works 2012-2014.

Read all about the choir organ.

Notre-Dame-de-Paris interieur

The organ loft and renovated console

Maurice Duruflé:
... placed an a dais situated in the middle of a spacious organ loft with thé immense nave of the cathedral in het organist's view. Like a ship's captain on the bridge, he takes in the great open sea. It is an absolutely intoxicating experience.
(L'Orgue, no 162, april-june 1977)
Louis Vierne:
At Notre Dame, with the console about seven feet out from the case, the player hears the sound directly and in all its power. It is a joy seldom experienced elsewhere.

Main builder History Latest restauration
1784 - Francois-Henri Clicquot
1867 - Aristide Cavaillé-Coll
1733 - Thierry
1784 - Clicquot
1812 - Dallery
1838 - Dallery
1867 - Cavaillé-Coll
1931 - Beuchet
1959 - Hermann
1965 - R. Boisseau
1992 - JL Boisseau, B Cattiaux, Ph Emeriau, M Giroud
2012-2014 - Bertrand Cattiaux et Pascal Quoirin

See a more comprehensive overview of the history of this organ.

V/113 - Electrical traction
Stoplist [97 KB]

For the Great Organ: Vincent DUBOIS, Olivier LATRY, Philippe LEFEBVRE. Organiste Titulaire émérite: Jean-Pierre LEGUAY.
For the Choir organ: Titulaire: Yves CASTAGNET, Suppléant: Johann VEXO.
Famous organists in the past: Louis-Claude Daquin, Claude-Bénigne Balbastre, Nicolas Séjan, Jean-Jacques Beauvarlet Charpentier, Louis Vierne, Léonce de Saint-Martin, Pierre Cochereau.

Concerts: each Saturday at 8 PM (free) and on weekday-evenings (paid) irregularly
Masses with organ: saturday 6.30 PM, sunday 10.00, 11.30, 12.45 AM, 6.30 PM; on sundays, the great organ is also being played during the evening prayer at 5.45 PM.

AUDIO: Lefebvre: Magnificat-Versets improvisés

Specific links:
History of the organ
FiIm In the belly of the organ of Notre Dame (in French)

Jean-Pierre Leguay: présentation de l'orgue (2010)

Spectacular vids of masses and evening prayers (Cochereau, Devernay, Latry, Lefebvre, Leguay)