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History of the Pipe Organ 2 of 6: 800 - 1000 AD

In a previous article we learned about the 250 BC ύδραυλις (hydraulis) οργανον (organon), precursor to our modern-day pipe organ. These machines were fascinating and the source of much entertainment. There were contests to see who could play them cleverest! In the West, the hydraulis organon disappeared around 400 AD as the Roman Empire faltered. However, it continued to flourish in Constantinople and the East. There are countless images of these machines found on ancient coins, artwork, books, and mosaics.


In 757 AD, as Western civilization began to re-emerge, Constantine V sent from the East to Pepin the Short King of the Franks, one of Constantine’s ύδραυλις οργανον, reintroducing the novelty item into the old Roman Empire. Monks took an interest in developing the hydraulis organon further and figured out how to use bellows instead of water pressure, to force air into an airtight reservoir, the top of which was weighted with stones or bricks. The weight of the stones, instead of water, forced air from the reservoir, into the wind chest on which the pipes sat.


Exactly when the word οργανον (organon) took on a more specific connotation with the music instrument we know today as the organ, is unknown. We can only say with surety that by the 11th and 12th centuries, the transition had occurred. 

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