Strengths of the project

  • A unique baroque organ in an exceptional high hall

    Since 2018, the Contius Foundation, a foundation of public interest, has installed a Baroque Bach organ in the Sint-Michielskerk in Leuven.
    This unique instrument has two manuals, thirty eight registers, 2021 pipes.
    On the recommendation of internationally renowned organists at home and abroad, the organ is being recreated after the example of an instrument by the important 18th-century organ builder Heinrich Andreas Contius.
    H.A. Contius was close to the Bach family, and left for Riga in Latvia with a letter of recommendation from Johann Sebastian Bach, in which he is considered one of the very best organ building had to offer at the time.
    The organ being built in Leuven is a reconstruction of the instrument that H.A. Contius himself built in 1774-1779 for the Holy Trinity Church in Liepaja (Latvia).
    This is done with materials and the techniques used by Contius, with the intention of reconstructing an instrument that was missing in our country and far beyond, significantly enriching the cultural heritage of Leuven and Belgium, but above all is the missing link for the study , training and the best possible performance of the music of the whole Bach family, and by extension baroque music.
    In an idea of ​​Sigiswald Kuijken, the seven-ton organ was erected on a fully wooden high hall specially designed by architect Jan Mannaerts, at historic height, on top of the new entrance.
    Thus, for the first time in our country, soloists, choir and orchestra will be able to make music around the organ.

  • A scientific project

    The Leuven organ was built on the basis of an in-depth scientific and historical research, which was largely carried out on site, in Liepaja.
    The excellent relationship with the Renovation Fund of the Holy Trinity Church in Liepaja, the beautiful church that houses the original Contius organ, obviously played a crucial role in this.
    The entire research was shared with the enthusiastic group of young people, who gathered around this special church in Latvia, and thanks to this input were able to stimulate their environment for the preservation and restoration of this piece of High Baroque architecture.

  • A Bach-organ in Leuven

    The results of this research in Liepaja served as the guideline for the construction of the organ that will be built in St Michael's Church and tuned (in the church).
    The first phase and part of the second phase of the organ were built together by Flentrop Orgelbouw BV from Zaandam in the Netherlands and Joris Potvlieghe, organ and clavichord builder from Tollembeek, specialized in the 18th century.
    Joris Potvlieghe completed phases two and three and tuned the organ completely in the style and tuning of the Liepaja organ as built there by Contius.
    The instrument is a unique element in the layered functions of this special church.
    As a liturgical and concert instrument, of course, but also as a pedagogical instrument, particularly suitable for recordings, and to support the special project that the Saint Michael's Church promotes as “Church of Peace” in a broad international movement.

  • An International Contius-Bach festival

    In addition, the organ is the central point of the International Contius-Bach Festival in a biennial cycle, with one year a summer academy for young musicians, a scientific symposium, concerts, master classes.
    There is room for experiment, discovery and adventure.
    The second year focuses on the international organ competition, which also includes masterclasses, lectures and concerts.
    The 10-day Festival takes place in the first half of the month of July.
    The first edition will take place from 1 to 9 July 2022.

  • More than just a replica

    The organ is partly a copy and partly a historic and scientific reconstruction of the baroque organ built between 1773 and 1779 by Heinrich AndreasContius (°1708+1792/95?) for the Church of the Holy Trinity in Liepaja (Latvia).
    With the consent of the local authorities the organ was subjected to painstaking analysis and was subsequently catalogued in great detail (construction, materials, pipes, and all other technical aspects).

  • International link with Latvia.

    The only remaining organ built by H.A.Contius represents the final ‘Bach style’ of organ-building.
    J.S.Bach was well acquainted with the Contius family and at the end of his life (1749) endorsed the career of the younger Contius with a significant reference.

  • What makes Contius so special

    A certain gravitas in the tonal foundation, but with a definite rococo flavor.
    This is not only due to the alloy used for the pipes, but also to a variety of details in the voicing.

    In comparison with earlier Silbermann and Wagner organs, this style of instrument is perhaps slightly more elegant and less weighty than its predecessor, yet still remaining firmly rooted in earlier German traditions.

  • From the ashes...

    The Leuven Contius organ is a symbol of the resurrection of Saint Michael’s church.

    It had always been a focus for music until it was devastated in 1944 by misguided allied bombing, which also destroyed the 1744 Le Picard organ.

    The Flemish Administration gave permission for the new organ to be placed exactly where the original instrument had been positioned.

    This required the construction of a new wall-to-wall wooden organ gallery, allowing soloists, choir and orchestra to be grouped around the organ, as in former times.