Main façade of the organ of La Seo in Zaragoza
Inside Positive façade
Detail of a Façade pipe built by Roqués according to the treatise by Dom Bedos
Photomontage of the main façade before and after restoration.
Pipes of the Órgano Mayor
Detail of pipework on the Órgano Mayor
The extant documentation on this organ allows us to state with a certain degree of confidence that, at least from the period 1469-1474 up until the present day, the external features of the instrument have changed very little - the Gothic case - and even, in some ways, the fact that the organ was originally conceived as the sum of three organs. The case has not been altered for the last 150 years.
We can divide the history of this organ into four periods according to what different organ builders did or what type of work was done on it between the 15th - 19th centuries.
1) The "Gothic" Organ by Johan Ximénez Garcés or Johan de Berdún ( from 1469 on). This 15th century instrument was already conceived in modern terms, with differences (the stops) on some of its manuals, as opposed to earlier medieval tendencies.
2) The "Renaissance" Organ by Gullaume de Lupe ( from 1577 on) who brought all the stops of the different divisions together onto one manual. De Lupes son, Gaudioso, may have been the one who added the first divided stops (registros partidos) in 1610.
3) The "Baroque" Organ by Joseph Sesma (in two phases): the first one in 1681; he began a second phase in 1693/94, but was unable to complete it since he died in 1699. Sesmas work was finished, however, in 1720 by Bartolomé Sánchez, and in 1755, Silvestre Thomás continued with further work. In the 18th century the organ adapted its possibilities to the exuberant sound aesthetics of the Baroque Period.
4) The organ today. The instrument we hear and see today is the product of Pedro and Miguel Roqués (1857). In spite of the Romantic sound that was prevalent throughout Europe at the time, Roqués built a classic style organ with a few novel stops such as the Euphone. Juan Roqués made a few more minor changes in 1919.
The Restoration Process
New, more figurative decorations, covered up the original Gothic polychromy on the rear façade and the entire case was repainted in 1857 using a dark imitation wood colouring. After making all the necessary analyses and taking samplings, a commission of specialists decided to eliminate the paint work done by Roqués and to proceed with a restoration of the original Gothic polychromy on the front façade as stipulated in the original contract, and restore the Baroque polychromy on the rear façade.
The instruments different technical elements are all part of the work done in 1857. The elaborate soundboards, the stop action, the manuals, the two large bellows and the two original feeders showed evident signs of significant deterioration. This was worsened by decades of work in the Cathedral. The lead windtrunks were notably damaged by rust. These supply wind to the façade pipes or to those placed outside the soundboard.
Without a doubt the extant pipework is one of the most interesting aspects of this instrument; its quality justifies Roqués decision to preserve it. There are at least ten different kinds of pipes from different periods. There are even some from the very first 15th century instrument. The reeds are more homogeneous, Romantic in character, although there are still a few resonators from earlier instruments.
The state in which we found the instrument at the very beginning of the restoration process created a number of logical limitations. Despite all that, the organs warm, velvet-like voicing - so typical of the 19th century - was evident. On top of that, you can also perceive a clear, bright sound; this is a feature of the Iberian classical tradition. Roqués took only one liberty: that was to slightly nick most of the pipework, both old and new, so he could put more nuance into its bright sound.
This restoration was a serious commitment to the preservation of a fine instrument, its material and its original techniques.
Before and after the Restoration Process