St. Matthias-Kirche / St. Matthew Church, Berlin

A short history of the organ:

Erection of an 18 stop interim organ originally from the "Reichshallen" theater (Berlin, Dönhoffplatz) on the left side balcony of St. Matthias, then still under construction

1913 - 1914
On the middle balcony a large new organ with 50 stops (+ 1 transmission) and 3,073 pipes is built by Ernst Seifert (D, Cologne)

1944 - 1945
The nazi regime demands the compulsory levy of the pipes "of all fingerboards". The resourceful pastor declares the pedal not to be a "fingerboard" so for the time being it is saved. In late 1944 the organ is heavily damaged by World War II bomb attacks and in 1945 completely destroyed by a fire.

As St. Matthias is destroyed the auditorium of a nearby school, the Sophie-Scholl-Schule, is used as an interim sanctuary. There a small organ with 8 stops on 2 manuals, built by W. Sauer (D, Frankfurt/Oder) is set up. This organ probably contains some older stops (the instrument or some of its parts may have stood in Berlin-Treptow before).

The interim organ is moved into the reconstructed church and gradually enlarged to 17 stops by several different organbuilders. Still the organ is too small for its sound to fill the spacious church.

The small organ is sold to the neighbouring parish of St. Fidelis. At the same time Romanus Seifert & Son (D. Kevelaer) build a large new organ with 69 stops (+ 2 transmissions) and 5,097 pipes on 4 manuals and pedal for St. Matthias. The organ is arranged on the middle balcony (Solowerk), both side balconies (Hauptwerk (Great) and parts of the pedal on the left, the rest on the right) and the sanctuary (Altarwerk).

1972 - 1974
The organ is enlarged by Seifert to be (what was then) the largest church organ in Berlin, containing 109 ranks and 74 stops + 2 transmissions

The church is renovated and on this occasion the organ is submitted to a general overhaul as well. There are some slight changes made in the stoplist, and a new console is built by Stockmann (D, Werl)

2008 - 2009
General overhaul, addition of 2 stops and extension of the combination system by Sauer (D, Frankfurt/Oder).

Installation of the prepared Flûte harmonique 8' in the Great division.

Organ stoplist:

With its at present 111 ranks and 76 stops + 1 extension + 7 transmissions, arranged on 4 manuals and a pedal it is one of the largest organs in Berlin. Thanks to the immense cathedral acoustics in St. Matthias it surely is the one with the most impressive sound by far.

è Detailed stoplist (will open in a new window).

Sound samples:

  Léon Boëllmann (1862-1897): Toccata c-moll from the Suite Gothique, op. 25 [1.137 KB]
  Eugène Gigout (1844-1925): Toccata h-moll from the 10 Pièces pour orgue [1.521 KB]
  Louis Vierne (1878-1937): Andantino d-moll from the 24 Pièces de fantaisie, op. 51 [961 KB]
  Louis Vierne (1878-1937): Toccata b-moll from the 24 Pièces de fantaisie, op. 53 [752 KB]
  Charles Marie Widor (1844-1937): Toccata F-Dur from the Sinfonie No. 5, op. 42.1 [1.249 KB]

The sound samples are taken from a Motette CD that Ludger Mai, then organist at St. Matthias, recorded after the organ was enlarged in the 1970s. For this reason the sound quality is not too good, but still you will be able to get an idea of what the organ sounds like.

Here are some complete works that the present organist, Ulrich Gembaczka played off the cuff for the Organ Site:
  Joh. Seb. Bach (1685-1750): Schübler Choral Prelude "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme" ("Wake up, the voice calls to us"), BWV 645 [4.159 KB]
  Ulrich Gembaczka: Improvisation on the Choral "Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten" ("If you but permit God to prevail") [14.407 KB]
  Jehan Alain (1911-1940): Litanies [5.938 KB]

  I also recorded my own sound samples at the great Matthias organ – to listen or download click here.

By the way:
You will find loads of organ music for download at the Organ Site's MP3 download portal
among others the complete CD program of Motette, Psallite, ifo and organ publishing companies.


An organist friend of mine, Stefan Weist from Munich, listed two little videos of his choral improvisations on the St. Matthias organ on YouTube:

  "For the Beauty of the Earth"
  "God of Grace"

Renovation and enlargement in 2008-2009:

•   General overhaul General overhaul and cleaning of the whole organ
Replacement of the about 4,000 little leather bellows (membranes)
Repairs on some of the largest pipes that collapsed due to material fatigue and are in danger of toppling
Renewal of all wiring and conversion to optoelectronics
•   Console remodeling Conversion to optoelectronics
Integration of a USB port
Integration of some additional super- and suboctave couplers and a coupler Pedal to I (!)
Extension of sequencer arrangements and playing aids
Change of the manual layout (II is to be I, III to be II, IV to be III, I to be IV)
•   Gamba 8' As the strings have been underrepresented in relation to the size of the organ this new stop will be an important addition to the sound diversity of the organ. The Gamba is to sit in the Hauptwerk (Great), it will be also playable in the Positiv as a transmission.
•   Prinzipal 8' Construction of a basic stop for the enhancement of the sound base in the Positiv

•   Flûte harmonique 8' New overblowing flute needed to display Romantic works.

Total costs: 190,000 EUR

The installation of the renovated console in pictures (2008-10-21):

Click on one of the pictures to view the whole set

Donations for the Flûte harmonique are heartily welcome :-)

The St. Matthias church and especially organist and minister of music Ulrich Gembaczka would be grateful for donations. They will be happy to issue a donation receipt for your donation.

Ulrich Gembaczka / Gemeindebüro St. Matthias
Goltzstraße 29
D - 10781 Berlin
Tel.: +49 30 / 216 30 57
email to Ulrich Gembacka

By the way: If you wanted to build this organ completely anew it would cost you some
2 million EUR!


St. Matthias: Homepage of the St. Matthias parish with information on church services, special events, small groups and the organ renovation
Organ Project: Up-to-date information on the organ project, how much has come in in donations by now and how work is proceeding
Dröhnich plays: Some sound samples, that I played and recorded by myself on the great Matthias organ in June, 2008
Picture gallery: 8 megapixel photo gallery of the St. Matthias organ on the Organ Site