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.