Landesamt für Denkmalpflege und Archäologie Sachsen-Anhalt
Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte

Bells and Organs

Bells

In Saxony-Anhalt a large number of historic bells and chimes have been preserved, to a degree found hardly anywhere else. An unusual feature is the large number of early bells from the 11th to 13th century. These instruments, at first in beehive and then in sugarloaf form, are among the most outstanding examples of the bells of Saxony-Anhalt. Important beehive bells hang in Drohndorf near Aschersleben, in Merseburg Cathedral and in Theissen near Zeitz, among other places.

Bells of the 14th century, usually with elegant inscriptions in capitals, show familiarity with contemporary calligraphy and the art of the book. In addition, they often bear outstanding engraved drawings, for example in St. Nicolai in Quedlinburg. In the late Gothic period, the high-point of the art of bellfounding, we find names like Gherd van Wou from the Netherlands, Hinrich van Campen or Heinrich Ciegeler from Erfurt. These names represent exceptional artistic and musical achievements and at the same time reveal the wide geographical region from which the bells were commissioned. There were of course also local foundries, for example in Halle and Naumburg, and in the baroque period their number increased even further. In the 18th century the Ulrich family established itself in Laucha and its bells were commissioned from all over Germany into the 20th century.

Bells are not just unusually authentic early instruments, but also documents of the history of metalworking, which, especially in the Harz region, was supported by the rich metal deposits there. Thanks to their decorations and inscriptions they are inexhaustible sources for historians of the church, of liturgy, heraldry, seals and sealings, palaeography, for ethnographers and art historians. Hardly any other group of monuments has so many facets, especially as the bell-frame and belfry, too, are inseparable parts of the monument. This fact demands complex conservation approaches. Often the unity of frame, bells and mechanism has been broken up in later times. In particular, the re-hanging of bells on deeply arched or cranked steel headstocks has led to serious damage to the instruments themselves and to the bell-frames. This damage now needs to be repaired.

Historic Organs

Saxony-Anhalt wins a place among the regions of Europe renowned for their organs thanks to famous names like Zacharias Hildebrandt and Friedrich Ladegast. They were organ-builders of outstanding historic importance and their principal area of activity was in the territory of the present-day federal State. Hildebrandt's largest and best-preserved organs are in Naumburg and in the villages of the 'Hildebrandt Triangle' in the southern Harz region. The greater part of the output of Friedrich Ladegast's workshop is to be found in churches in the region around Weißenfels, Halle and Naumburg. Saxony-Anhalt's almost 2000 historic organs form an unusually large and varied collection.

The situation of the historic organs in Saxony-Anhalt has two sides: on the one hand there are some outstandingly well restored organs, but there are also instruments of equally high quality that are in acute danger of falling out of use and becoming dilapidated. Saving them, and ensuring ongoing appropriate use in services and concerts, are of existential importance for the State as a cultural region and for the musical identity of Saxony-Anhalt, and not least for its prospects for cultural tourism.

The greater part of the historic organs in Saxony-Anhalt is made up of organs of the 19th century, which was a high-point in the art of organ-building and compositions for the organ. Alongside major names like Ladegast, Sauer and Reubke, the State Office also focuses its attention on organs by less well known workshops like those of  Rühlmann, Lütkemüller and Strobel.

The State Office, in cooperation with church officials, provides advice to religious communities, support associations and organ-builders in the development of restoration concepts and strategies for sponsorship. The conservation needs of organ, art and architecture can thus be considered together in their common context. The State Office supports and coordinates research that examines the organs of Saxony-Anhalt. Through press and media work and through its own publications, it aims to establish the topic of organs firmly in the mind of the public and to focus its message on the challenges for organ conservation in the future.