Beethoven’s Organs

Information regarding the organs Beethoven played is incomplete. Details about the organ at the Church of the Franciscans are not available. Little is known about the organ at the electoral chapel except that after 1777 it was a small chamber organ; in that year a fire in the chapel destroyed the earlier organ. [1] Following the fire the elector temporarily used the Church of the Franciscans for court services. Even after the electoral chapel was repaired and the small organ installed, the Church of the Franciscans was used for court services on important occasions. [2]

The organ at the Minorite Church was probably the largest instrument Beethoven regularly used while in Bonn. Its console had three manuals and a 27-note pedalboard. The stop knobs were arranged in three horizontal rows above the music stand, out of reach of the seated organist. The central row of stops had somewhat larger knobs than the other two. To the right of the top manual was an additional knob, possibly a coupler or ventil. The specifications (fig. 65) account for two manuals and the pedal. William Leslie Sumner gives two possible explanations for the third manual: 1) it may have controlled a single rank of pipes–a flute rank for vocal accompaniment or a solo reed rank; or 2) it may have controlled a Rückpositiv, with the stop knobs on the case in back of the organist. [3]

Fig. 65. Specifications of the Minorite Church organ [4]

Top row ("Pedal")Middle row ("Manual")Lowest row ("Positiv")
Trompete 4'Floete 4'Trompete Disc. 8'
Trompete 8'Trompete 4'Krummhorn Disc. 8'
Posaune 16'Trompete 8'Krummhornbass 8'
Oktavbass 4'Viola da Gamba 8'Mixtur 1'
Floete 8'Cimpel 1/2'Quinte 1 1/3'
Oktavbass 8'Mixtur 2/3'Oktave 2'
Prinzipal 16'Terze 1 3/4'Gedackt 4'
Quinte 5 1/3'Prinzipal Disc. 8'
Cornet Disc. 4'Gedackt 8'
Oktave 2'Oktave 4'
Floete 8'
Tintinabula Disc. 4' (only Tintina is legible)
Gedackt 8'
Oktave 4'
Bourdon 8'
Prinzipal 8'


The original Minorite organ remained in use until 1904, when the Bonn organ builder Johannes Klais erected a new instrument, retaining only the original oak case. [5] In 1905 the minister of St. Remigius Church (the former Minorite Church) donated the original console to the Beethovenhaus in Bonn, where it now stands. The pipe work of the original instrument is not preserved. [6]


[1] Elliot Forbes, ed., Thayer’s Life of Beethoven, rev. ed., 2 vols. (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1967), 1:68.

[2] Ibid., p. 74.

[3] William Leslie Sumner “Beethoven and the Organ,” Musical Opinion 93 (March 1970): 323.

[4] Ludwig Altman, Orgelwerke (London: Hinrichsen, 1962), foreword.

[5] Cecil Austin, “Beethoven and the Organ,” Musical Times 80 (1939): 526. Austin includes a picture of the oak case.

[6] Altman, Orgelwerke, foreword. Altman includes a picture of the original console.

© Weldon Whipple. All rights reserved.

By Weldon Whipple