Sunday, January 6, 2013

Pipedreams Organ Tour, Day 5b


Pipedreams group, amphitheater at Nimes
From Uzès, we drove to Nîmes, once the Roman colony of Nemausus, which boasts some of the best-preserved Roman structures outside of Rome itself, including a huge aqueduct (the spectacular Pont du Gard), a well preserved Roman temple, and a large amphitheater, still used for community events (including bull-fights). We visited the aqueduct first, which was amazingly intact for a two-thousand-year old structure of that size. It crosses the Gard River, and in antiquity, it carried water from Nîmes to Avignon. The aqueduct was a tourist draw, but uncrowded, as were the other Roman structures we visited. I recommend Nîmes as a destination for those interested in ancient Roman artifacts who don’t like to hassle the crowds. The Roman temple, called the “square house” of Nîmes, was built in 02– 05 AD when Augustus was emperor.

Pont du Gard, Nîmes


The two churches (with organs) we visited that day (Friday, May 14) in Nîmes were the Église Saint-Paul and the Cathédrale Notre-Dame & Saint-Castor. Both had classic Cavaille-Coll organs (19th century) which have been recently restored, to good effect.

The organ in the Église Saint-Paul was one of my favorites of the entire trip. The low, vibrating tones resonate through the church and through the body, giving a reassuring sense of grandeur and protection, as if the tones offered the power of a massive, surrounding shield. Even the higher, lighter tones of the organ have a masculine sound.

The Cathédrale Notre-Dame & Saint-Castor was a Romanesque cathedral built in the 11th century, partly destroyed during the religious wars (Reformation), and reconstructed in the 17th century. It was embedded in a conglomerate of buildings in the center of the city, with shops attached to its walls like accretions or parasites on the side of a whale. The church was quite dark inside, and I couldn’t get a good, in-focus picture of the organ. Moreover, the organ seemed to have a rather more tinny sound than some of the others we’ve heard.


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