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Ē is for Ērģeles

So what does the third Latvian letter of the Family History Through the Alphabet challenge get us? Ērģeles!

I’ll admit, this one is a bit of a stretch. But there aren’t many Latvian words that start with Ē (a long E sound – not like the “ee” in “feet”, but rather an elongation of the “e” in “elephant”), so I had to be creative. “Ērģeles” means “organ” – as in, the type of instrument.

I bring them up because they were very important to the churches that our ancestors worshiped in. Latvia has a number of organs that are of global historical note, rather than just Latvian historical note.

The most prominent of these is the organ found in the Holy Trinity Lutheran Cathedral in Liepāja, on the west coast of Latvia. The organ was originally built in 1758, and then expanded in 1774 and 1885. After this last expansion, it was the biggest mechanical organ in the world until 1912, when it was surpassed by an organ in Hamburg, Germany. Now, the Liepāja Cathedral organ is the biggest non-reconstructed mechanical organ in the world, but it seems like reconstruction and restoration work might be starting on it relatively soon. See it in its original state while you still can!

Another well-known organ is the one in the Dom Cathedral in Rīga. It is the second-largest organ in Latvia, after that in Liepāja. It was originally inaugurated in 1884 and reconstructed in 1983. The first organ in the Dom Cathedral was actually the largest one of its time, but it was lost in a fire in 1547.

Have you experienced any organ music in Latvia? Do tell!

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