2017 10 Doc Mese

A beautiful organ in honour of the magnificent city of Milan

The Document of the Month, October 2017

The Duomo has always been a cathedral full of music, both in thought and deed.

In fact, when the enormous monument was just beginning to take shape, as a complex combination of the cathedral it would become and the ancient Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore that it was, the Veneranda Fabbrica made sure to embellish the liturgy of the most important holy days with music and even decided to have an organ built.The Annals include the brief but evocative text of the chapter's ordination from 18 July 1395, which reads: «Have a beautiful organ built, well-proportioned to the opulent structure of Milan's church, at the Fabbrica's expense, for its use and in honour of the magnificent city of Milan.

Over the centuries this passion for music continued, as did care of the organ, and, as with every aspect of the cathedral's impressive history, traces of this too are found in the archives.

The document that we are presenting this month is a mere fragment of a story that dates back centuries: the history of the Duomo's organs. It is a contract which the Veneranda Fabbrica stipulated on 6 October 1627 with one Cesare Ferrario, entrusting him with the tuning and maintenance of the Duomo's organs for the next five years. [AVFDMi, AS cart. 187 fasc. 38]

The text of the contract, or convention, specifies in detail all of the duties which such a position entails.

Ferrario was expected to "tune the pipes of the organs of said church every time they go out of tune" and to "keep said organs and pipes free of dust so that they may function well and freely".  Furthermore, he had to "keep the keys well-maintained, so that they play well and individually".

Pipes and keys, but that's not all.The organ is, in fact, one of the most complex musical instruments in the world, both in terms of musical performance and maintenance. It was also necessary to check the bellows and the wind chest to ensure that "there are no major breaks".

Ordinary maintenance, which as per the contact included a monthly inspection, also demanded his availability "every time he is required by an organist or other deputy".

The organ that is currently played in the Duomo is no longer the same one looked after by Ferrario, but the care and maintenance it requires is the same if not greater, given its complexity.
The result of such care and attention is the beauty that resonates within the Duomo, a harmony of melodies that exalt every artistic detail of Milan's cathedral and that the Veneranda Fabbrica works hard to introduce to the city and the world, especially in the month of October, when a rich program of concerts are featured as part of the music festival, "The Month of Music”.