|W. Hermans Organ (1678)
Church of Santa Maria Maggiore
Collescipoli, Terni, Italy
The restoration of the historical organ built by the Fleming Willelm Hermans in 1678 for the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Collescipoli (also referred to in these notes as “the Collegiate Church”) was an extremely important event that is part of a wider, coordinated plan of protection, preservation, and recovery of the works of art in Umbria. The instrument of the Collegiate Church by this extraordinary organbuilder can undoubtedly be counted among the most important ancient organs in Italy.
Hermans, born in Thorn (which is now a border town between Holland and Belgium) on March 6, 1601, entered the Jesuits as a lay brother, professing his vows in 1641, and moved to Italy in about 1648, having already built instruments in Jesuit churches in Holland, Belgium, Germany, and France. After the success of his first instrument for the Cathedral of Como in 1649–1650, he became active throughout the country, particularly in churches and Jesuit colleges. The Collescipoli organ is one of his last works; Hermans died in Rome on February 14, 1683.
We estimate that Hermans built approximately 90 instruments. In 1672, he built his opus 73 in the professed Home of the Jesuits. Of the organs built by Hermans in Italy, only two are left today: one in the Church of the Holy Spirit, and the one discussed here, in Santa Maria in Collescipoli. Of his other instruments, only a few cases, registers, or pipes are left. Until recently, another of Hermans’s instruments could be found in the Church of the Twelve Apostles, also known as “The Old Seminary,” in Orvieto; I dismantled it to protect it from rain. Unfortunately, when the restoration work of the church began, the rest of the organ disappeared.
In the files of the Collegiate Church of Collescipoli, an interesting piece of trivia describes the circumstances and the facts of the building of the organ. The organbuilder was called to Terni to build an instrument for the church of “S. Lucia.” He showed himself to be humble and generous, waiving the last part of his fee to annoy the “Ternani” (the people of Terni) who made fun of him, apparently “making him come to build a new organ but giving him instead an old one [to restore].”
Hermans built the Collescipoli instrument according to the contract, stipulated the previous year, which specified seven registers. He was assisted by the shop of the Roman organbuilder Giuseppe Testa, who died in 1677 after having completed only part of the instrument. Hermans continued the work alone, and it seems he was helped by the young Nicolò Perfetti from Orvieto. Particularly beautiful are the balcony, the case, and the front of the instrument with inlays by local carpenters (Lulli, Ricci, and Giuseppe from Terni): On the baluster of the balcony are four panels with scenes in oils bought for eight scudi in a Roman shop; other ornaments were made by the engraver Zuccarini from Terni (1682 and 1687) and by the gilder Lelio (1686–1687). The front is decorated with racemes, crowned with draperies supported by curtain-holding angels. After the long and painstaking restoration work carried out by Riccardo Lorenzini, the instrument has been brought back to its original splendor. All this pays homage to the hard work of those who wanted this instrument to be handed down to future generations, keeping it as an artistic treasure, which, with adequate cultural support, will always be more and more appreciated by the community. Our hope is that the organ, so precious because of its artistic value, can also give a deep sonority to the liturgy, the service for which it was built more than 300 years ago.
– Wijnand van de Pol
The Organ After Its Restoration
The case is made of wood, with painted faux marble. The tribune, supported by engraved wooden beams, has a parapet with four panels, representing scenes painted in oil and separated by golden engravings. The railings, which hide the organist, are also all engraved and golden. The front pipes, made of tin, are divided into three spans (9/7/9) with a flat profile, the mouths of the pipes aligned and the upper lip mitered.
The keyboard has a compass of 47 keys (C1-C5), with the first octave shortened and two accessory keys at the ends; chromatic, boxwood diatonic keys and accessory keys of ebony. Basso/Soprano Division: E3/F3.
A pedal keyboard with 9 keys (C1-C2) is permanently coupled to the keyboard.
The main organ case is made of walnut and divided into two sections; two other organ cases, placed at the sides of the main one, feed contra-bass 16, Drum, and Nightingales.
The keyboard action is suspended tracker.
The mechanical stop levers, which slide horizontally, are placed in a single column on the right of the keyboard. The names of the stops are handwritten on new labels.
The specification is as follows:
Flautino Bassi (1')
Cornetto (treble only, three ranks)
XXVI-XXIX-XXXIII (XXXIII only in the treble)
Accessories: Drum, Tremolo, Nightingales
Wind system: The original wind system was located in the room behind the organ but disappeared at an unknown time; three book-shaped bellows, in conformity with the sizes of those in Pistoia and Orvieto, have been built and placed in a room above the organ, where the electric blower is also located.
Wind pressure, pitch, temperament: The wind pressure is 60 mm. of water column. The pitch at 82ºF [28ºC] is a' = 440 Hz. The temperament is unequal.