The present organ was built by Rieger of Austria in 1978-9. Only the case remains from the original Father Smith instrument dating from 1680, a time after the Restoration of Charles II when organs which had been removed by the Puritans were being replaced. This case was used by Smith as a prototype for several of his organs, notably St Mary-the-Great in Cambridge. The organ has experienced two major moves and many renovations over the past 300 years, and stands on a fine screen dating from c. 1635, the time of Dean Brian Duppa.
Originally standing across the west end of the Chancel, the first move took place in 1856 when the screen and organ were moved to the South Transept. Then in 1870 a new Choir organ was added in a case designed after the manner of Father Smith.
Whilst the effect of the first move was to open up the church, allowing a clear view from West to East, the second move in 1884 to the organ’s current location in the West End had more radical implications.
The whole arrangement of the building was altered, so that now one would enter the ‘liturgical’ Chancel (rather than the Nave) once having passed under the organ. This effect was intended to deal with the increased number of students attending Christ Church in the 19th century, and who were required to sit in the Chancel for College services each day.
Since the first organist of the Cathedral, John Taverner (1526 – 1539) the organ and music has been central to the life and worship of the Cathedral.