St Fortuné's organ

Planning a new organ
for St Fortuné

1. History of the project
2. The existing organ
3. Fund

History of the project:

The parish St Fortuné in Marseilles' suburb of Montolivet formerly had a chapel, founded by Fortuné de Mazenod, the first bishop of Marseilles after the reestablishment of the diocese in 1823, and for that dedicated to St Fortunate. The actual church was built in the neo-gothic style during the years 1877-1879 to replace that old chapel.

The organ was probably built during the following years, as was the bell-tower. Indeed, the inventory drawn up in 1906 after the separation of the Church and the State shows that the present instrument already existed and that the contributor who had financed its building was dead. This instrument, partly built with materials of poor quality, is currently the prey of wood-eating insects and is not working properly. Besides, one of the wind chests (the wind chest is the master piece of an organ, which feeds the pipes with wind) is split on all its length.

In 1988, the City of Marseilles ordered a temporary repair which was completed by the organ builders Mattei & Barast. The matter was to carry out a minimal repair allowing some use of the instrument until it is entirely restored. Despite the insecticide processings comprised in these works, the worms have been going on damaging the console, the wind chests and some wood pipes.

(If the view on damaged parts of the organ remains motionless, please try to use another browser.)


Since 1991, the organists of St Fortuné have asked that the organ may be entirely rebuilt. In 1992, following the foundation of the Association des Amis de l'orgue, a fund was started, and the results showed the authorities that the residents of our neighbourhood were concerned in this project.

In 1999, thanks to the sustained efforts of our association and our representatives, the City decided to have the organ surveyed by Mr Jean-Robert Caïn and the necessity of a full restoration was admitted. Mrs M.-J. Fay-Bocognani, Deputy Mayor in charge of religious buildings, who carried out a policy of restoration of Marseilles' worshipping places, cordially received a delegation from our association and assured us that the restoration of the organ would be put on the agenda of the City Council before the end of the year. Indeed, the decision to rebuild the organ was made by the City Council of Marseilles in July 1999.

After months of hesitating and shuffling, the city department in charge of real estate realised they were not prepared to manage this case and resolved to call upon the services of a consultant from the Ministry of Culture as prime contractor. Therefore in October 2000 the City Council decided to invite bids for the choice of this expert. On February 7th, 2001, we were received by Mrs Fay-Bocognani, and we were informed that the envelopes enclosing the propositions of candidates were to be opened without delay.

After the municipal elections in 2001, Mrs Gisèle Weiss replaced Mrs Fay-Bocognani. Thanks to the sponsoring of several representatives of our neighbourhood, we were received in the town hall again on September 6th, 2001, and we heard that the appointment of a consultant for St Fortuné's organ, which was imminent on February 7th, was still so...

However, a few days later, the District Mayoralty could obtain some details which were conveyed to us: this case had undergone an important delay because the officials were contemplating modifications in the city administrative structures, but this by no means altered the will of the City to complete the restoration work. Far from such a change, the point was to give a new impetus to this project in order to compensate the negative effects successive delays had produced towards our association.

We were finally informed that the invitation to tender for the appointment of a consultant did not succeed because the candidates had judged the amount of money earmarked for this project too low. On the other hand, following the changes in the city administrative structures, on March 1st, 2002, Mr Jean-Robert Caïn was appointed at the newly created Deparment of Architecture and Communal Buildings with a special mission for the organs of Marseilles. He immediately asked the City Council for an extended budget and for an easier and faster (!) method to appoint a consultant. The vote took place on March 11th, 2002.


Finally in January 2003 Mr Michel Colin was officially appointed by the City of Marseilles as prime contractor for the building of a new organ in Montolivet. Mr Michel Colin is an organ teacher, the incumbent organist of basilica Notre-Dame-des-Victoires in Saint-Raphaël in southern France, and since two years he is acknowledged by the Ministry of Culture as official consultant for organ building. Mr Colin immediately set about preparing the request for subsidy from the City to the Ministry of Culture, and conceiving in its details the project already outlined by our association in collaboration with Mr Jean-Robert Caïn. This project consists in a 15-stop instrument with two manual divisions and pedals, using mechanical action and to be built in the existing organ cases. Moreover, it must be better suited for the performance of German baroque music, which is enjoyed in our parish. A modest part of the old instrument, notably the cases, is to be used in building the new one.

During the year 2003, it became gradually clear that the request to the Ministry of Culture was to further delay the project for two years or so; with the help of our association, the City of Marseilles negociated with the Département des Bouches-du-Rhône and the Région Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur to compensate for the absence of contribution from the Ministry. So the request to the Ministry of Culture was given up. On December 11th, 2003, the invitation to tender concerning our new organ was finally published. The published text forsaw the beginning of the building in March 2004, and the end 18 months later.

Candidates for this invitation to tender had to send their documents before Monday, January 5th, 2004, 04:00 pm. The sealed envelopes were opened and five organ builders were selected on Tuesday, February 17th. At the beginning of April, the five organ builders allowed to make a proposal had not yet been informed and had not received the specifications.


The existing organ:

Great organ

  • Bourdon 16'
    (lower pipes borrowed from the pedal)
  • Montre 8'
  • Flûte harmonique 8'
  • Gambe 8'
  • Prestant 4'

Swell organ

  • Flûte d'écho 8'
  • Salicional 8'
  • Voix céleste 8'
  • Trompette 8'

Pedal organ

  • Soubasse 16 '

Couplers Swell/Great, Great/Pedal, Swell/Pedal, Great/Great 4', Great/Great 16', Swell/Great 4' with Great/Swell 16', four general combination pistons.
Transposing manual keybords.
Pneumatic action.


Above: the console.

Below: pipes of Trompette 8'.


Since 1992 our association has been collecting money so that the residents of our neibourhood and their friends may take part to the expense. Our sincerest thanks to all the contributors !

1. History of the project
2. The existing organ
3. Fund


Association des amis de l'orgue de Montolivet
21, bd Saint-Jacques de Compostelle
F-13012 Marseille

Post Office account: Marseille 1965-65 X.

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