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Silent Night Chapel in Oberndorf in Salzburg | © Georg Strobl, Agentur Klartext

Land of Silent Night Salzburg

“Silent Night!” is a Christmas Eve tradition – one that’s beloved around the globe. At Silent Night communities throughout the province, the story behind this magical song from Salzburg is brought back to life.

Probably the world’s most popular Christmas carol

A mega hit: “Silent Night! Holy Night!” has been translated into more than 300 languages and dialects – making it one of the most popular songs the world has ever known. It was first performed on December 24, 1818, at St. Nicholas’ Church in Oberndorf. The text was penned by Salzburg priest Joseph Mohr, while the melody was composed by Franz Xaver Gruber, a teacher from Upper Austria. The legend of organ bellows that had been gnawed through by mice isn’t quite accurate: From the very beginning, the song was intended to be played on a guitar, the preferred instrument of “simple folk”.

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.

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