The Medieval Organ of the Nativity Church in Bethlehem: Interconnections Between Intellectual Culture, Technology, and Church Ritual
David Catalunya (University of Oxford - Universität Würzburg)
The Terra Sancta Museum in Jerusalem preserves substantial archaeological remains of a twelfth-century organ and bell carillon from the Nativity Church in Bethlehem. Considered the oldest and most complete exemplars surviving in Christendom, they shed unique light on a particularly obscure period in the history of these musical instruments. While their study and reconstruction project are currently in a preparatory stage, in this presentation I will report the results of my initial exploration. Preliminary analysis has already uncovered fascinating details relevant to the dating and origins of the instruments, and has allowed to reconstruct the original structure of the organ. Most surprisingly, the measurements of the Bethlehem organ pipes match the mathematical model described by William of Hirsau (c.1060), who improved the algorithms proposed by Gerbert of Aurillac (c.980). William’s treatise was meant to assist organ builders make an instrument according to the numerical proportions that govern the Divine Creation. The Bethlehem organ thus provides evidence that medieval scholars and craftsmen finally managed to reconcile theory and practice. I will discuss the implications of this discovery for the history of empirical science, highlighting the interconnections between ars musica, cosmology, technology, and church ritual.
Meeting ID: 849 5219 5617