Salzburg - cradle of the most famous Christmas carol

Silent Night

Arnsdorf in Winter
Silent Night Chapel Oberndorf

Mozart, Sound of Music, who does not immediately think of Salzburg? But the Christmas song Silent Night, probably better known in the world than either of them, who knows where this comes from? It has become such a natural part of our cultural heritage that we no longer think of it originating from one place.


But this song, that touches so many people all over the world and is justly considered THE Peace Song, did not fall from the skies. Its roots reach deeply into Salzburg's history.


There are three sources:


Mariapfarr, Maria Parish in Lungau, a deeply venerated pilgrimage site situated approximately 75 miles south of the city of Salzburg. This is where Joseph Mohr wrote the poem in 1816.


Arnsdorf, 14 miles to the north of Salzburg, where the primary school teacher Franz Xaver Gruber composed the melody in 1818


Oberndorf, 12 miles north of Salzburg, where the two creators performed this song for the first time on Christmas Eve in 1818


In Mariapfarr: a museum, the old presbytery, the altarpiece with the Christ Child "so tender an mild" and the birthplace of Joseph Mohr's father. The beautiful, but quite rugged countryside forms the backdrop for he song's text.


In Arnsdorf one finds numerous traces of Silent Night. The small village school where the melody of Silent Night was created and where Franz Xaver Gruber taught for 21 years is still a working school. It is the oldest primery school in Austria that is still taught in. This is thanks to its history. The former teacher's apartment on the first floor is now a museum with interesting artefacts directly connected to Franz Xaver Gruber and his time. The old benches invite you to be seated. The newly designed museum wants to be a meeting place, this is why they like to offer a personal guided tour. The village's pilgrimage curch "Maria im Mösl" is also where Franz Xaver Gruber worked as sexton and organist. The beautifully decorated church stands testimony to the pilgrimages of the past centuries. The organ dates from 1745, so it is a "Gruber"-organ!


The original church of Saint Nikolaus in Oberndorf, where Silent Night was heard for the first time has fallen victim to the various floods of the Salzach river. In the place it used to stand is now a commemoration chapel that has become a landmark of the town, and attracts thousands of visitors every year. The adjacent museum harbours testimonies from the time that Joseph Mohr worked here as an ancillary priest and of the shipping trade that left its markt on the town's history.


Other important places are Hochburg-Ach, where Franz X. Gruber was born as the son of the weaver: memorial house, path of peace.

Hallein, where Franz Xaver Gruber lived and worked as a choir master and organist and where he lies buried. The museum contains valuable documents from his estate.


Salzburg, birthplace of Joseph Mohr, baptised over the same front in the Cathedral where Mozart was baptised and the Steingasse where he was born and that still holds the flair of the olden times.


Wagrain, the last place in Joseph Mohr's life, and his grave. The school he built there is a sign of his extensive social engagement. In the Karl Heinrich Waggerl House a whole room is dedicated to his memory.


For further information see Silent Night and Silent Night Dorf. In Arnsdorf guided tours are offered in German, English, Espanol, Francais and Italiano. Tel: +43 664 15 89 400.