Silent Night! Holy Night! - the History of its Origins

Millions of people sing one song in front of their Christmas trees: "Silent Night! Holy Night!". Let us discover the history of its origins!

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© Gulliver Theis – SalzburgerLand Tourismus

Salzburg: where the music began to grow

The later priest Joseph Mohr, whose quill pen produced the words of the poem "Silent Night! Holy Night", grew up in very poor circumstances as an illegitimate child in Salzburg. Thanks to a bit of luck and above all to his precocious musical talent, he was supported by the cathedral vicar at this time and was one of the best students in the academic grammar school. As a result, he later received a place in the St. Peter's Abbey Choir and an excellent education. Experience the Silent Night in Salzburg: If you would like to follow in the footsteps of Joseph Mohr in Salzburg, it is best to join one of the special "Silent Night! Holy Night" city tours.

From the end of November you can also experience the song in a new theatre play at the Felsenreitschule. "Meine Stille Nacht" is a musical in grand style. Read more about Salzburg during Christmas time here!

Mariapfarr: Where words became poems

Joseph Mohr took up his first position as a curate in Mariapfarr. In 1816 he wrote the poem "Silent Night! Holy Night!" - a time when living conditions were shaped by hunger and war. These influences moved Joseph Mohr to write his poem, which refers to hope and faith.

Mariapfarr: where words became poemsiapfarr: Particularlyw beautiful is the short hike around Mariapfarr, which starts at the Pilgrimage and Silent Night Basilica.

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Joseph Mohr © SalzburgerLand Tourismus

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Franz Xaver Gruber © SalzburgerLand Tourismus

Arnsdorf: where Silent Night received its melody

At that time Franz Xaver Gruber lived with his family in an old elementary school in Arnsdorf. He was an excellent teacher, but music was his true passion. In all probability the living rooms of the school were the place where he played the melody to "Silent Night! Holy Night!".

Experience the Silent Night Place Arnsdorf: The old school building still exists today and became a museum in 1957. Visitors can immerse themselves in the life of Franz Xaver Gruber 200 years ago.

Hallein: where the song was given its organ accompaniment

In 1835, Franz Xaver Gruber fulfilled a dearest wish: he was given a position in the parish church of Hallein, where he could now devote himself entirely to music as choirmaster, choir singer and organist. He composed and created further musical works. "Silent Night! Holy Night" continued to affect him and in 1836 he wrote an organ accompaniment for the song.

Experience the Silent Night Place Hallein: During Advent you can get to know the life of Franz Xaver Gruber in an acting and entertaining tour through Hallein. There is also a Silent Night Museum here, which shows an excellent documentation of the Christmas carol.

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© TVB Oberndorf, Stille Nacht Kapelle

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© Kathrin Gollackner – SalzburgerLand Tourismus

Oberndorf: where the song rang out for the first time

Not far from the city of Salzburg you will find the small town of Oberndorf im Flachgau. It was here where the song first sounded on Christmas Eve 1818 at the Christmas Mass in the St. Nikolaus Church - accompanied by a guitar.

Experience the Silent Night Place Oberndorf: The original church was destroyed by floods, but the so-called Silent Night Chapel was later built on the same spot. Today, the Silent Night Museum is located in the adjoining vicarage.

Fügen: where Silent Night became world-famous

Organ builder Carl Mauracher regularly travelled from his home town of Fügen to Oberndorf to repair the local organ. During one of his visits he also met Franz Xaver Gruber and was introduced to the song "Silent Night! Holy Night!". Thanks to Carl Mauracher, the song made its way to the Zillertal, and later on, a group of highly musical singing families performed the song for Emperor Ferdinand I and his followers in the Fügen Castle. The musicians now known as the "Zillertaler Nationalsänger" brought the melody to Russia and many other countries shortly afterwards. In this way, they distributed "Silent Night! Holy Night!" throughout the whole world.

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Experience the Silent Night Place of Fügen: In the local museum you will find the world's largest known collection of records of the song "Silent Night! Holy Night!". Many of the thousands of records can be easily played with the help of a smartphone when visiting.

Steyr: where Silent Night was printed for the first time

It was not until 2016 that a print was found in an antiquarian bookstore in Vienna that referred to "Vier schöne neue Weihnachtslieder" and "Stille Nacht! Holy Night!". This title page was produced in Steyr by printer and bookseller Joseph Greis between 1827 and 1832. It is highly probable that he was the first to set the lyrics and print them by hand. Experience the Silent Night Place Steyr: Since this year a replica of the first print of "Silent Night! Holy Night!" can be found in the Christmas Museum. On Advent weekends you can also meet the "Christkind" here. Speaking of the Christkind, make sure to visit the village of Christkindl during the pre-Christmas period and send a letter to the Christkind at the special post office.

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© Oberösterreich Tourismus – Steyr

On the trails of Silent Night! Holy Night! with Austrian Airlines

And if you still haven't had enough, you will find further places related to the world-famous song here. We wish you a wonderful journey through the fascinating story of "Silent Night"! For those who want to experience the places at first hand, we recommend a weekend trip from Vienna. Flights from and to Vienna are best booked directly here:

Header: © Gulliver Theis – SalzburgerLand Tourismus

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