"Silent Night, Holy Night" Sightseeing
On Christmas Eve of 1818, the carol "Silent Night, Holy Night" was first performed in an impoverished Oberndorf for the first time. The local priest Joseph Mohr and the village teacher Franz Xaver Gruber acted as writer of the lyrics and composer respectively. The story of how this carol was written to have at least some music at a church with a broken organ is well-known in Salzburg. If you want to hear it, read our main article on "Silent Night, Holy Night".
Films were made of the story, and enactments take place at the original site in Oberndorf. As with most things that you can merchandise, the people of Salzburg are very quick with pimping it out to the tourism industry. That happened to "Silent Night" as well. Today, several communities in Salzburg and Upper Austria claim their share in making "Silent Night" the most famous Christmas carol in the World.
A few years ago, five communities formed a marketing platform called "Silent Night Land" (Stille Nacht Land). In addition to the city of Salzburg, where Joseph Mohr was born and raised, these six communities come with sightseeing attractions that can be linked to the carol. Here is an overview on them, but let′s start with the city.
Salzburg City & Silent Night
Joseph Mohr Birthplace: Once a museum, today again a normal apartment; it can be found in the Steingasse, but not at the building with the plate - read our main article on this sight for details on the confusion with house numbers.
Dreifaltigkeitskirche (Trinity Church): The Baroque church was then and is still used by Salzburg′s seminary for priests-to-be. Since Joseph Mohr was an illegitimate child, he had to obtain a special permission from the Vatican to be admitted.
Monastery of St. Peter: This is where Joseph Mohr served as a student - in the choir and as a violinist. St. Peter is therefore crucial in providing musical education for him; note the musical traditions of St. Peter since the Middle Ages, with highlights such as Michael Haydn (only overshadowed by his brother Joseph and the local hero Mozart).
Salzburg Museum: There is a section of the permanent exhibition that is dedicated to Silent Night. It includes a manuscript of the song that was discovered only in 1996.
"Stille Nacht Land" Communities
Oberndorf: Of course, Oberndorf, the birthplace of Silent Night, takes the lead - the "capital" of the Stille-Nacht-Land. It comes with a chapel dedicated to the song (the main attraction), and a museum in the so-called Bruckmannhaus building.
Lamprechtshausen: The hamlet of Arnsdorf was one of the communities where Franz Xaver Gruber served as a teacher. His flat in the old schoolhouse was made a tiny museum that illustrates the austere lifestyle of a low-ranking civil servant in the early 19th century.
Mariapfarr: This is where Joseph Mohr served as a "co-operator" (sort of a junior priest) before being assigned to Oberndorf. Mariapfarr is where he wrote the poem that later became the lyrics for Silent Night. Mariapfarr now comes with a nativity scene dedicated to Silent Night and a small museum/exhibition on Mohr′s simple lifestyle there.
Wagrain: The last site of Joseph Mohr′s career and the place where he was buried. The socially active priest is still highly regarded in Salzburg. The organ of the church was named in his honour and in the Waggerl-Haus museum, there is a room dedicated to him.
Hallein: Has dedicated a neighbourhood to "Silent Night"; Franz Xaver Gruber is buried in Hallein, but seriously, there are better things to see here than the "Silent Night" attractions.
The Stille Nacht Land marketing platform
Frequently updated travel information for Salzburg - opens in new window
Silent Night Museum in Oberndorf - opens in new window