200 Years of Silent Night
In 2018, “Silent Night” celebrates its 200th birthday. A special exhibition at Salzburg Museum, a musical play at the Felsenreitschule as well as the traditional Advent Singing all commemorate this anniversary year.
Probably the world’s most popular Christmas carol
Definitely a hit song: “Silent Night” has been translated into more than 300 languages and dialects – making it one of the world’s most popular songs ever. It was first performed on December 24, 1818 at St. Nicholas’ Church in Oberndorf near Salzburg. The text was penned by Salzburg clergyman Joseph Mohr, while the melody was composed by Upper Austrian teacher Franz Xaver Gruber. A special distinction: since 2011, “Silent Night” has been listed on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
Silent Night Landmarks in Salzburg City
“Silent Night” fans find additional clues to the history of the song in Salzburg itself, the city where Joseph Mohr was born. Joseph Mohr grew up at No. 31 Steingasse, and he was actually christened over the same font as Mozart, in Salzburg Cathedral. He attended the Lyceum (today, Salzburg University and the Great Hall). The young student earned a little additional income by performing at St. Peter’s Benedictine Abbey. Later, he entered the religious seminary located on Makartplatz Square. Salzburg Museum displays a manuscript by Mohr, upon which he confirmed that he had, indeed, written “Silent Night” in 1816.
A musical journey through Salzburg
Numerous towns and villages in Salzburg have ties to the story of “Silent Night”:
- Oberndorf: The Silent Night Memorial Chapel stands at the site where the song was performed for the very first time. The Silent Night Museum recounts the history behind the song. Christmas wishes can be sent to your personal bringer-of-gifts at the Silent Night Post Office.
- Arnsdorf near Oberndorf: It was here that Franz Xaver Gruber composed the melody to “Silent Night” at the schoolhouse. He was also sacristan at the pilgrimage church there. Today, the schoolhouse is home to a museum.
- Mariapfarr: As a curate here, Mohr wrote the poem “Silent Night” in 1816. Be sure to visit the Silent Night Museum with its nativity scene (1750) and reconstructed “Mohr Room” as well as the parish church!
- Wagrain: Mohr spent the last eleven years of his life in Wagrain. The Joseph Mohr Memorial Organ in the parish church, the Joseph Mohr Room at the Waggerl House as well as his grave, all remind us of this cherished parish priest.
- Hallein: This “City of Salt” was yet another important place in the life and work of Gruber, and also where he died. His former home in the Silent Night District houses a museum, while his grave lies right outside.
What are the song’s shared roots with Upper Austria and Tyrol?
- The “Silent Night” towns of Hochburg-Ach and Ried im Innkreis have close ties to teacher and composer Franz Xaver Gruber. In Steyr, the earliest-known version of the song in print was published.
- It was from the “Silent Night” towns of Fügen and Hippach in Zillertal that the “Nationalsänger” singers came, who made the song internationally famous. One of them, Ludwig Rainer, grew up in Zillertal, and, after his musical tours which took him around the world, made his home in the Achensee region.
If you would like to learn more about how the song came to be written and how it grew to be famous in every corner of the globe, you will find complete information online at www.stillenacht.com.