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Helsinki National Museum
  • unknown 1664
  • 5 stops, 1 manual, no pedal
  • mechanical action and mechanical stop action

The medieval church of Nauvo was furnished with an organ in the mid-1660s. The exact building history of this instrument is not known. It was in use until a new organ was installed in 1791; at this point, J.A. af Petersén, a local dignitary, purchased it for his parish church in Dragsfjärd. The organ served in its new location for 90 years until finally being replaced by a new organ and moved to the belfry. In 1915, the instrument was moved to the National Museum. It was played in a recital as late as in the early 1960s, but today it is unplayable. It is known as the Nauvo Positive after its first location. Miraculously, it has been spared the ravages of both war and renovation.

The positive was repaired by Carl Petter Lenningh, organist of Turku Cathedral, in 1746. He constructed a new lower section and bellows. Oy Kangasalan Urkutehdas Ab performed restoration work on the organ in 1947, rendering some of the stops playable.

The builder of the organ is not known, and even its dating rests solely on stylistic historical features and dendrochronological examination. The Nauvo Positive has the distinction of being the oldest preserved organ in Finland.


The oldest portions of the positive are the façade and the narrow middle section. The façade is tripartite: a symmetrical central A-shaped field consisting of the largest pipes of the Principal is flanked by lower flats. The lengths of the feet of the façade pipes vary greatly, in Baroque fashion. In the smallest pipes, the foot is many times longer than the body. The top and bottom of the façade are fitted with sharply profiled mouldings, and there are coffered decorations in the pillars. The façade is fitted with shutters hinged at its outer edges; these were used to cover the façade during Lent, when the organ was not used in services. When the shutters were open, the paintings on their inner surfaces gave added width to the façade.

The suspended keyboard is placed at the lower end of the middle section; the narrow middle section itself thus contains only the action, including a small rollerboard. The massive lower section contains the bellows: the lower wedge-shaped bellows is the feeder bellows, while the upper one is the reservoir. The two bellows have a shared middle frame. The feeder bellows is operated with a pullstrap visible on the right end of the lower section. Behind the façade is the chest, which is organized in the same fashion as the façade.

In 1992, pipes from the Nauvo Positive were fitted to a temporary chest for the purpose of recording a programme of music about an hour long. It was observed that the sound of the instrument must have been clear and bright, obviously linked to the northern European organ tradition of the 17th century.

Technical features

The keyboard appears to begin at E in the great octave, but the lowest octave is a ‘short octave’, so the actual compass is C, D, E, F, G, A, B-c3. The naturals have a boxwood veneer, while the sharps have a thin ebony veneer. The keys are notably short, and even the octave span is slightly less than it is at present. Each key front is carved into a twin arcade on the bottom side. The rollerboard has a wood structure, and the wires are of brass.

The oak chest originally only housed five stops; space for a sixth has been added as an expansion to the back of the chest. The sliders extend through a low aperture in the right side wall to the outside, and levers hanging from them are used as stop keys to move them. The valves are of oak, and the valve wire lead-throughs are caulked with leather purses. The air enters the chest from the bellows through a wind trunk behind the organ case. A concussion bellows was fitted to the side of the wind trunk in the 1940s restoration.

Musical properties

It is noteworthy that there are no 8’ stops at all. The largest stop is the Gedackt 4’. In view of this, it is only ‘proper’ that the façade is only two feet high. The organ is thus pitched an octave higher than written, as it were. This was quite natural in the 17th century, when the size of the largest Principal was determined by the physical size of the organ and octaves as such were of little importance. The slider borings of the chest seem to indicate that the original five-stop disposition included a reed stop.

The pipe mensuration follows the ‘continually changing mensuration’ principle. The proportion of the diameters of two pipes an octave apart is 1:2 — the same as the proportion of their lengths — but the diameters have been slightly corrected with an arbitrary augmentation, the same in each pipe. The mensuration is relatively narrow in the mid-range in each stop, while the bass and treble ends are proportionally broader.

The manufacture and markings of the pipes, along with other factors, indicate that the pipes date from different times, according to a study by Juhani Martikainen. The façade stop appears to be of the same age as the case structure, and the Gedackt also probably belongs to the earliest layer. The short octave and the construction date indicate that the organ originally had mean-tone tuning; the lengths of the pipes corroborate this.


Present disposition

Manual C/E-c3

Gedackt 4’ (c. 1620)

Kvinta 3’ (c. 1600)

Principal 2’ in the façade (c. 1664)

Oktava 2’ (c. 1630)

Oktava 1’ (c. 1600)

Scharf 2x (Lenningh 1746)

Further information

Hülphers, Abr.: Historisk Afhandling om Musik och Instrumenter särdeles om Orgwerks inrättning. Wästerås 1773/Stockholm 1969.

Aarne Wegelius: Vanhimmat säilyneet urkumme. Suomen Musiikkilehti 2&3/1944.

Otto Andersson: Orglar och organister i Åbo Domkyrka intill slutet av 1600-talet. In Studier i Musik och Folklore, Åbo [Turku] 1964.

Juhani Martikainen: Nagupositivet. Licentiate thesis, Sibelius Academy 1994.

Juhani Martikainen: Orglar i Finland från tiden 1600-1800 – Deras byggare, historia, konstruktion och stil. Dissertation, Sibelius Academy 1997.

Pentti Pelto: Musiikkia Nauvon positiivin pilleillä. Kirkkomusiikki 8/1993.