at St. Stephen’s Cathedral

The first document of organ music at St. Stephen’s Cathedral dates from 1334. The 14th century instrument was moved to the magnificent organ gallery built by Master Anton Pilgram in 1513. In 1507 Burchhard Tischlinger from Bolzano built a new organ on the balcony above the ‘Füchselbaldachin’ canopy next to the large sacristy. For many years this was Cathedrals main organ.

In 1701 the imperial organ builder Ferdinand Römer built a new choir organ with 10 stops. This was located above the old choir stalls. In 1720 the same builder provided a large instrument with 32 stops at the gallery in the west end. In 1792 the two medieval organs were removed from the galleries mentioned before and the great organ in the west was enlarged and now contained 41 stops.

In 1886 Friedrich Walcker from Ludwigsburg created the famous ‘Riesenorgel’ (giant organ) named after the so-called ‘Riesentor’ (giant gate) located under the west gallery. It’s contained 90 stops within the old century case. This instrument fell victim to the flames when the cathedral burnt in April 1945. Fortunately another instrument by Walcker survives to this day in the Votivkirche, not far from the Cathedral.

In 1948/52 Johann Marcellinus Kauffmann of Vienna created a new choir organ and in 1956-60 a large organ in the west. The main organ had 4 manuals, 125 stops and about 10,000 pipes. At the time of its construction, it was already one of the last organs to have electric cone valve chests. The organ façade is one of the most striking examples of free standing pipes thoughout the world. The instrument went out of use after the new large choir organ in the front was completed in 1991.

The liturgical constitution of the Second Vatican Council spoke of church music as a “necessary and integral part” of the service, giving church music a new status. This also had consequences for St. Stephen’s: in 1991 a new cathedral organ with 55 stops on four manuals was built in the south aisle by organ builder Rieger Orgelbau from Vorarlberg. The tonal design draws on the usual devisions of great positive, swell and solo.

In 2017-2020 the large instrument in the west was rebuild by Rieger Orgelbau now containing 130 stops. Both the choir organ and the large organ can be played together from a mobile console located in the main body of the Cathedral.brWith 185 stops the Vienna Cathedral organ is one of the largest instruments in Europe.