The Sound of Salzburg: Silent Night

2014-07-05 06.17.10

The little city of Salzburg, Austria, could be called the most musical town on earth — the home of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the von Trapps and the Sound of Music, and the birthplace of Joseph Mohr, the author of the lyrics of the world’s most beloved Christmas carol, Silent Night. For several years I have wanted to visit the Silent Night Chapel, which stands on the site of the aptly-named Church of St. Nicholas in the village of Oberndorf, about a half-hour from Salzburg. This is where the hymn was first sung on Christmas Eve, 1818. The church itself was later destroyed in a flood, but many years ago a small chapel was built to commemorate the carol, and a nearby museum is filled with historical artifacts related to the church, Joseph Mohr, and the composer of the music, Franz Gruber.

Mohr wrote the words of this carol in 1816, but he didn’t give the words to Gruber until shortly before the Christmas Eve service of 1818, two years later. Gruber wrote the music quickly, and it was sung to guitar in the church on December 24, 1818.

Wouldn’t we love to have a recording of that first performance of Silent Night? We had the next best thing. A wedding was taking place in the chapel the day we visited, and two willing wedding musicians sang it for Victoria, Christiana, and me while the wedding party was still outside the chapel taking photographs.

Here are some photographs of my own.

 

Joseph Mohr was born on this narrow street in Salzburg on December 11, 1792.
Joseph Mohr was born on this narrow street in Salzburg on December 11, 1792.
A marker indicates the house where, for years, was assumed to be Mohr's birth house.
A marker indicates the house which, for years, was assumed to be Mohr’s birth house.
New research indicates the numbers on the street changed long ago, and this unmarked house is actually where Mohr was born.
New research indicates the numbers on the street changed long ago, and this unmarked house is actually where Mohr was born.
This is a painting and replica of the original church of St. Nicholas where Silent Night was first sung.
This is a painting and replica of the original church of St. Nicholas where Silent Night was first sung.
What a perfect spot for the birth of the world greatest Christmas carol.
What a perfect spot for the birth of the world greatest Christmas carol.
The river flooded and destroyed the church some years later.
The river flooded and destroyed the church some years later.
This chapel was built after the flood to mark the site where Silent Night was first sung.
This chapel was built after the flood to mark the site where Silent Night was first sung.
Mohr and Gruber
Mohr and Gruber
One of the stained glass windows
One of the stained glass windows
We traveled from Salzburg to Oberndorf by train, then followed the signs to the chapel.
We traveled from Salzburg to Oberndorf by train, then followed the signs to the chapel.
A wedding was taking place there, with horse and carriage for the bride and groom.
A wedding was taking place there, with horse and carriage for the bride and groom.
The wedding musicians sang "Silent Night" for us -- an incredible moment.
The wedding musicians sang “Silent Night” for us — an incredible moment.
The author and composer of the world's greatest Christmas Carol.
The author and composer of the world’s greatest Christmas Carol.

4 thoughts on “The Sound of Salzburg: Silent Night

  1. Hello,

    A couple years ago, I started reading your series about hymns. I don’t know how to tell you how wonderful they are to me. Your research is always enlightening and having the hymn music next to the story makes me want to sing praise to God. When God was first wooing me to Him in1975 I went to look for Him in Salzberg in search of the Von Trapps place,too. We did not find the home but ended up at L’Abri in Switzerland. Thank you for your inspiration!!

    Cyndy

  2. Have you seen the movie released in 2012 but shown on TV a lot this Christmas? Titled, Silent Night, the powerful true story behind the most popular Christmas carol, it received five awards in 2013 for excellence. The last scene depicts them singing the carol with guitar on Christmas Eve – what an amazing scene. How great the musicians could sing it for your visit. Thanks for the pictures and your comments.

  3. Would it be possible for me to use your photos in my blog about the origins of the carol. I watched a beautiful little programme about it this Christmas in UK and am inspired to write a blogpost.
    I found your site fascinating.
    Thank you.

  4. What a blessed and wonderful life God has given you and yours.
    Thank you for inspiration at every turn.
    Sharing with others is refreshing and very enjoyable.
    Music has always been a part of my life with singing praises unto God.
    The lives of the composers are most interesting. It is most interesting to see how God has used them to encourage others through their own trials.
    Thanks for Sharing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *