The Organ

History Built in Germany in the first decade of the 18th century, the organ stayed in Portugal for a while and then was sold in 1747. The Portuguese king João V bought it from João da Cunha, the Court’s organ builder, with the intention of sending it to Mariana, but died before he could do that. His son, D. José I, presented it to the newly created Diocese of Mariana, the seat of a bishopric that had an organ player, Father Manuel da Costa Dantas, and a chapel master, Father Gregório dos Reis Melo, as early as 1748.

The organ traveled by ship and mule, and its arrival was precisely described: “… a large organ with its case and the carvings belonging to it that arrived in 18 large numbered crates with specific instructions for assembling it, and 10 large and small numbered parcels ….”

Since its installation in 1753, the Schnitger organ has been the center of an intense musical activity in the See of Mariana that is amply confirmed by the musical scores of the colonial period preserved in the Museum of Music. The composers represented in this collection worked in various cities and states throughout Brazil. After many years of working uninterruptedly, during which time the organ was modified to follow prevailing tastes, the organ stopped working sometime in the 1930s. In the 1970s, after research was done to establish its origin, and its importance was recognized in Brazil and abroad, efforts were orchestrated to restore the instrument.

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