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The Organs at the
National Shrine

“The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even that that of any other art . . .  In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church’s ceremonies, and powerfully lifts up man’s mind to God and to higher things.” 


Pope Paul VI, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy

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      The M. P. Möller organs of the Upper Church were dedicated on April 25, 1965 at a mass celebrated by Francis Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York. 

      As a gift of Cardinal Spellman, the Catholic Chaplains, and military personnel of the United States, the organs are a resounding memorial to the many deceased chaplains and members of the armed forces.

South Gallery Organ Console and Pedals

      In the words of Cardinal Spellman, “may [the organs’] symphony remind us of the goodness, patriotism and faith of those who have gone before us.”

      Dr. Charles M. Courboin, from Saint Patrick's Cathedral in New York, played the initial concert prior to the dedication Mass.  The original instrument was a "thoughtful combination of several traditions in organ building."  Some thirty years later, these organs were modified, re-wired, and restored. 

← South Gallery Organ, view before renovation

      The image above is a view of the South Gallery Organ prior to the renovations, which coincided with the commissioning of a marble sculpture (The Universal Call to Holiness) for the south wall of the nave.  The image shows the two pipechests of the organ’s rückpositiv division still attached to the wall.

      Once removed from the wall, these two chests were reconstructed as two separable divisions, with new electro-pneumatic slider chests and installed into the main body of the organ on the same pipework level as the other divisions of the organ, at the left and right “front corners”. This relocation of the positives required modifications to the original façade evident in the comparison of this pre-reconstruction image with later images of the façade. 

      The installation of the reconstructed positive divisions and the additional large-scale pipes necessary for the re-designed façade began during the summer of 2001.  At this time, final details such as the gold tinting of all façade pipes and the installation of all new golden oak panels and molding across the base of the instrument were completed.  The work was carried out by Goulding & Wood of Indianapolis; Philip Klais from the Klais Orgelbau, Bonn, Germany, was engaged as design consultant for the project.

↓ South Gallery Organ actual view ↑

 Pontifical Trumpets
Pedal Pipes ↓


      The final phase, completed in 2003, was the re-wiring of the two manuals whereby both the West Chancel and South Gallery organs can be played from either manual.  The full specifications of the South Gallery Organ could be found here.

      The legendary Olivier Messiaen (1908 – 1992), who performed the world premiere of his Méditations sur le Mystére de la Sainte Trinité on the south gallery organ in 1972, remarked that it was a "very special instrument." 

      Other legendary organists who have performed on the Möller include Maurice Duruflé, Virgil Fox, Martin Baker, Flor Peeters, Thierry Escaich, Philippe Lefebrve, Frederick Swann, Stephen Tharp, and Jeremy Filsell.

Pedal Pipes Details  ↓

      The South Gallery Organ is a monumental instrument that houses 9,393 pipes, from which 157 stops play 172 ranks.  The largest pipe of the Möller, or Pedal Pipes, standing at nearly 40 feet, weighs close to 900 pounds.  The smallest pipe of this organ is no bigger than a simple pencil. 

      The trumpets, which we call Pontifical Trumpets, were moved up from their original position on the back wall to their housing right under the rest of the main pipes.  The full specifications of the Chancel Organ could be found here.

West Chancel Organ

      The Schudi organ of the Crypt Church is built in the German baroque style of Gottfried Silbermann (1683 – 1753) who was a contemporary and colleague of J. S. Bach (1685 -1750).  In his time, Silbermann was often referred to as “Silberklang” (“silver sound”) because of the enormous beauty he achieved in the tone of his instruments. 

      Completed and dedicated in 1987, this two-manual tracker organ boasts 1,355 pipes, with 23 stops and 25 ranks.  The full specifications of the Crypt Organ could be found here

Crypt Organ                                                              Crypt Organ Console 



For questions, comments, or concerns please contact our Music Department at 202-526-8300 or via email at music@nationalshrine.com.

 The National Shrine is not a parish church and receives no diocesan contributions.  The support for the production of concerts and maintenance of the organs depends primarily on donations.  Your contribution to the Shrine is vitally important to our daily operations and ministry.  Your generosity is humbly appreciated.   You can make your contribution using our secure donation form.  May you and your family be richly blessed.

Thank you for your support


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