As the world watched in horror as fire engulfed Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral, the musical community held its breath for news of the cathedral’s historic 8,000-pipe Cavaillé-Coll organ. Speculation has been rife as to the fate of the instrument, which was built in the 1730s by François Thierry and expanded in the 1860s by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll.

“I thought, that’s it, the organ’s destroyed,” Sydney organist David Drury told the ABC yesterday as he described footage of the fire in Paris.

Fortunately, it appears that the instrument has made it through relatively unscathed, with the cathedral’s heritage director confirming yesterday to the Associated Press that while the high altar was damaged by the collapsing spire, “the 18th-century steles, the pietas, frescoes, chapels and the big organ are fine.”

Notre Dame, OrganNotre Dame Cathedral organist Olivier Latry

One of Notre Dame’s resident organists, Olivier Latry – who was named titulaires des grands orgues in 1985 – has thanked everyone who sent messages of support.

“Like you, I feel terribly sad, with contained rage, total sorrow,” he wrote in a post on Facebook. “The images that we have seen are horrible. How not to think that we are in a bad dream? Reality comes back to us, unfortunately.”

“Despite all the damage in the Cathedral, the organ miraculously escaped the flames, as well as the water supposed to extinguish them,” he wrote. “It is very dusty, but will continue to enjoy [sic] us as soon as the building will be restored.”

So far more than $1 billion has been pledged for the restoration effort, with French president Emmanuel Macron saying he wants to see the Cathedral rebuilt within five years.