For many of us, the Christmas carol "Silent Night! Holy Night!" is so natural that one does not give it a further thought: it is simply a part of Christmas. Very few know that this famous song has its roots in SalzburgerLand.
The world’s most famous song?
The history of the song “Silent Night! Holy Night!” itself almost reads like a fairy tale: since there was no money for the organ repair during hard times at the beginning of the 19th century, Gruber and Mohr had to consider an alternative, and they sang their Christmas carol – which was completed shortly beforehand – with a guitar and two-part vocals in the church in Oberndorf. From there, the song coincidentally managed to reach Fügen, where it was heard by Emperor Franz I and Russian Czar Alexander I. From this point in time on, the song spread all over the world and is today an indispensable part of Christmas Eve.
Josef Mohr and Franz Xaver Gruber
The friends Joseph Mohr and Franz Xaver Gruber played the leading roles. While Mohr grew up in humble circumstances and became a pastor, Gruber completed his musical education in Salzburg and became a teacher and organist. They had already known each other for some years when Mohr sent his colleague the lyrics from Silent Night. It is thanks to the church musician Gruber that we still know the simple but beautiful melody and harmony arrangement today.
Silent Night Land Salzburg
The lives of the two friends Mohr and Gruber can be retraced in SalzburgerLand. The seven locations of their work and life can be retraced in exhibitions and commemorations which invite those interested to take part and pause in reflection.
- Arnsdorf/Lamprechtshausen: For 21 years, Gruber lived in the school that is a museum today.
- Mariapfarr: Joseph Mohr spent his childhood here, which is commemorated by the museum in the rectory.
- Oberndorf: The song was performed for the first time in 1818 in the Silent Night district.
- Hintersee: The assistant pastor Mohr rendered assistance to the poor population in Hintersee.
- Salzburg: Mohr took his first musical steps in Salzburg.
- Wagrain-Kleinarl: Mohr spent his final years here, where the Memorial Singing event is held in his honour on the day after Christmas.
- Hallein: Gruber spent his final years in the Celtic town. The singing at his grave and the museum commemorate the Composer.
“200 Years Silent Night — Austria’s Peace Message to the World”
From 29 September 2018 to 3 February 2019 a total of nine museums and towns are joining forces for the national exhibition “200 Years Silent Night — Austria’s Peace Message to the World”.
In SalzburgerLand, the museums in Arnsdorf and Oberndorf, the Salzburg Museum in the provincial capital, the Silent Night Museum in Hallein, the new museum at the Pflegerschlössl in Wagrain, as well as the Museum of Mariapfarr in the Lungau region will present the famous Christmas song and its creators from a variety of different perspectives. Hintersee, where for a decade Joseph Mohr was active as a parish vicar, invites visitors to experience the new theme trail revolving around the town’s history, the conservation of creation and the soundscape of nature.
Beyond Salzburg’s provincial borders, the national exhibition is also joined by Hochburg-Ach in Upper Austria, Franz Xaver Gruber’s place of birth, as well as Fügen, for the international dissemination of Silent Night began here in the Zillertal Valley.
Here you can find all the relevant information of the nine exhibition locations.
The most beautiful places to hear Silent Night in SalzburgerLand
Naturally, you can best hear “Silent Night, Holy Night” on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day. Anyone who spends Christmas in SalzburgerLand has the opportunity to hear this song and enjoy the festivities in a very special atmosphere.
1: Silent Night Chapel in Oberndorf
Near the unfortunately no longer existing church, in which the song was sung for the first time in 1818, Christmas Eve is something very special. The chapel is usually packed: so it is doubly worthwhile to arrive on time.
2: Salzburg Cathedral
The Christmas Mass at the largest church in the federal province is celebrated in an especially festive manner. Hundreds of candles, reverent tranquillity, the festive arrangement by choir and orchestras, and the carved wooden figures – quite inconspicuous and yet in the centre – create a unique mood.
Mountain Christmas just like in former times can be experienced in Wagrain-Kleinarl. The tranquil villages between Altenmarkt and St Johann are considered an insider’s tip for spending a quiet Christmas without après-ski and bustle. The Christmas Markets on Saturdays as well as the torch-lit hike on the castle hill or the church services on the festive days are also worth a visit.