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25 Aug 2017

Ancient wood finds new life with Edmund Blochinger

Luthier Spotlight
Munich Frauenkirche as it appears today.

Edmund Blöchinger’s “Dome” guitar has a very intriguing back story, so we thought it would be a great piece of information to share with everyone. Among the fascinating details about this instrument, it is notably interesting that the soundboard comes from the spruce beams that resided for over 450 years in the roof of the Frauenkirche in Munich, Germany – probably the most iconic structure in that city that tourists today flock to with their selfie sticks and zoom lens cameras. From these antique spruce beams is where the story of this guitar begins…


Munich Frauenkirche “dome” with wooden beams exposed, circa 1945.

The roof of the Frauenkirche collapsed in 1945 after the allied bombings at the end of the second World War, and large sections of the spruce beams were lying in the ruins. After two hard winters where much of this wood was used for survival by the inhabitants of this beleaguered city (mainly for fires to cook and stay warm), in 1947 a substantial amount of the remaining wood was salvaged by a violin maker named Franz Fuchs (1899-1975), who had seen the wood on a visit to Munich. Fuchs clearly had a keen eye to the special sonic qualities lying dormant in this precious wood. After Franz’s death in 1975, his son, Gerald Fuchs (who is still alive today) inherited the remainder of the wood and has continued to fulfill the vision of his father – to find stringed instrument makers willing to use it and carry on the legacy and vitality of this amazing material. Indeed – 43 violins, 3 violas and 3 cellos have been built to date from this wood. This incredible story was the subject of a radio show that aired in 2013, and guitar maker Edmund Blöchinger, working one evening in his workshop, heard this story. He immediately contacted Gerald Fuchs and was fortunately able to acquire several of the best remaining beams for use in his master grade, concert classical guitar – the first to ever be done with this ancient wood.

Edmund Blöchinger with Gerald Fuchs and 2 beams of the “dome wood”.

Analysis of the annular rings dates the origin of the trees to about the year 1190. The trees were cut in the Bavarian alps around the year 1460 and floated down the river Isar to Munich where they were pulled out of the water and used in the construction of the roof of this church, which was completed in 1492. In other words, this wood is over 800 years old from the dating of its earliest rings, but was supporting the roof in this cathedral for 455 years, up to its destruction in 1945. During its centuries-long tenure in the roof of the church, it was absorbing the vibrations of the music that would have been performed in this sacred place – music from medieval times through the renaissance, baroque, classical, romantic and modern periods. Incredible to imagine the choirs, orchestras and chamber ensembles throughout the centuries whose sounds have been gently vibrating and therefore leaving their voices in this wood. Also, consider the vibrations coming from human speech – the countless sermons, weddings, baptisms, even funerals that would have taken place in this solemn structure – again, leaving their sound vibrations imprinted in this wood. And then the terrible destruction of 1945.

Well, thanks to the courage and vision of Franz and Gerald Fuchs, the wood has now been given a new beginning to continue vibrating once again, not only in the violins, violas and cellos built over the last 70 years, but now also in this Edmund Blöchinger “Dome” guitar. This incredible wood, with so many stories dwelling in its grains, has been given a second chance at life.

2017 Edmund Blöchinger “dome top” guitar.


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