Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pipedreams Organ Tour, Day 6

Lunel: Eglise Notre-Dame du Lac
On day six (Saturday, May 15), we left Nîmes and headed deeper into Languedoc, to the town of Lunel. Our first stop was the Eglise Notre-Dame du lac; this church boasted another 19th century Cavaille-Coll organ. Lunel was considered a troubadour town. The image of St. Bernadette is in the grotto and one of Mary is in a side chapel.
Organ, Eglise Notre-Dame du Lac

Our next stop, Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert, with its church, Abbaye Saint-Guilhem, was perhaps my favorite spot of the whole tour. It is an absolutely enchanting village, high in the southern French hills. It felt more spiritually intense to me than any other we visited – perhaps because it was embedded in wilderness and blended with it. Flowers, particularly poppies, grew out of rocky outcroppings and constructed stone hedges indifferently, and in the middle of the town was a very ancient platane (plane tree or sycamore) that had already been measured at 6 meters (~ 6 yards) in circumference in 1855. The abbey so enchanted one of the Rockefellers, that he moved part of it, in toto, to New York. There it forms the nucleus of The Cloisters in upper Manhattan, the world-renowned museum of medieval art. The organ was beautiful, with mellow low tones - if a bit tinny in the higher register. Apparently, with its “cuneiform bellows” one can only play music from the classical period. I wish I could include many photos from this gorgeous town. Maybe in another blog post.

The last two stops of the day were in Montpellier, Cathedrale Saint-Pierre, and Beziers, Cathedrale Saint-Nazaire. The Cathedrale Saint-Pierre is very large, a true cathedral, and the organ, a restored early 19th century Cavaille, has a very rich sound throughout its range and reverberates extensively in the huge stone building. The organist did have some technical problems, though, and had to stop the concert. I did not get an in-focus photo of the organ, but did get a couple of photo of the massive nave and stained-glass windows.
Abbaye Saint-Guilhem, organ

Thecathedral in Beziers was begun in the 13th century, on a site where many Catholics and Cathars were slaughtered in 1209. St. Dominic led a “crusade” against the Cathars – an “heretical” group in southern France – and that crusade is seen by many as the beginning of the Inquisition. There was some WWII veterans’ celebration at the cathedral as we were arriving, which delayed our entry. I took no notes on the sound of the organ, but the play of light from stained-glass windows onto the church pillars was captivating.

Montpellier, Cathedrale Saint-Pierre

Again, Ian Cook, our intrepid organ aficionado from Australia, made the organ recordings and posted them on YouTube.


  1. what an interesting idea for a tour....organs! We traveled all over Europe and I didn't pay attention! Totally should have!

    1. I've always loved visiting churches (and cemetaries) in Europe. This tour was offered through the PBS program, Pipedreams, which I usually listen to on Sunday afternoons. I just decided to go on the tour in 2010, because it fit into my schedule that summer. It was wonderful, and we had the good fortune to hear several skilled organists play those historic organs.