On the trail of “Silent Night, Holy Night“ in the Salzburger Sportwelt

On the trail of “Silent Night, Holy Night“ in the Salzburger Sportwelt

What does the Salzburger Sportwelt have to do with the world’s most popular Christmas carol? Well, we’ll tell you – the author of the song text, Joseph Mohr, lived in Wagrain for eleven years, where he did good work as  a “social vicar“ and found his last resting place. Today you can visit the new Silent Night Museum and explore the resort along the Wagrain Culture Walk.

Wagrain and Silent Night

On the 24th December 1818 the world-famous Christmas carol “Silent Night, Holy Night“ was performed for the first time in the small town of Oberndorf in Salzburg. How did it come about?

In the young parish of Oberndorf poverty, hardship and hunger were rife. The locals‘ troubles were great – the Napoleonic War had demoralized, traumatized and bled the people dry. Many suffered extreme poverty, unemployment and huge debts. In addition Oberndorf had been split from the town of Laufen by the Vienna Congress. Oberndorf suddenly belonged to Austria, Laufen remained in Bavaria. In the resort an apocalyptic atmosphere prevailed and that’s where the young junior priest Joseph Mohr was sent to carry out his duties:  Joseph Mohr (11.12.1792 – 04.12.1848), who himself came from the humble background in the city of Salzburg, was a devoutly religious, sensitive and down-to-earth minister. The 25 year old helped where possible. On the afternoon of the 24th of December 1818 he gave his friend, schoolmaster and organist in the resort, Franz Xaver Gruber, the poem he had written entitled “Silent Night, Holy Night“.  He then asked Gruber to compose a melody to the words so as to surprise the Oberndorf parishioners with a beautiful nativity celebration.

museum of silent night in wagrain

And that’s what happened: Joseph Mohr and Franz Xaver Gruber sang the Christmas carol as a duet with Mohr playing the guitar that very same evening in the St. Nicholas parish church in Oberndorf. What happened thereafter verged on a miracle. Circuitously the song travelled from SalzburgerLand to Tyrol. Within a few decades Tyrolean national singers from the Ziller Valley made the carol popular throughout the whole world from America to Russia. Missionaries transported it further afield and since then the song has been sung in over 300 languages and dialects.

silent night all over the world

Silent Night resort of Wagrain in the Salzburger Sportwelt

Joseph Mohr left Oberndorf soon after in1819 and was busy during the next decades in several Salzburg parishes. In 1837 he came to Wagrain, where he worked as vicar until his early death in Advent 1848. In his second year in Wagrain he was the main initiator for the building of the Primary School, for which he gave almost all his goods and chattels. He also purchased a fire brigade hose for the community and campaigned for the care of the poor and elderly. His efforts had long-lasting effects in Wagrain. Joseph Mohr was also popular in the resort as an affable, sociable and musical priest: He supported a church choir and an active composer. On the 4th December 1848 Joseph Mohr died aged just 56 years of palsy of the lung.

church and school in Wagrain in Salzburg

The Wagrain Culture Walk  entices guests to a circular one and a half hour walk on the trail of Mohr and through the Silent Night resort. Along the way you’ll find the Wagrain rectory, which was run by Mohr plus the Parish Church with its Joseph Mohr memorial plaque and memorial organ, the Wagrain rectory, which was run by Mohr. In the Wagrain Churchyard you can visit Joseph Mohr’s last resting place.

Joseph Moar

Since December 2017 the newly-renovated Pflegerschlössl in Wagrain – the former Prince Bishop’s office building dating back to the 18th century – has been home to the new Silent Night Museum. The exhibition areas are dedicated to the life and work of Joseph Mohr in Wagrain, the origin of the Christmas carol, its international popularity and its unique magic. In addition the museum invites visitors to an interactive conflict with the merit of peace and quiet in an ever-increasing hectic age.

Tips & Info: 

Silent Night Museum and Waggerl House Museum

From July 6th  to October 22nd 2021
Tuesday and Thursday from 12:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

October 23nd to November 26nd 2021 – closed!

November 27nd, 2021 (1st Saturday in Advent) to
April 2nd 2022 (Good Friday):
Tuesday, Thursday and Friday
from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

except for Christmas Eve (December 24th 2021) and
New Year’s Eve (December 31th 2021)
from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.


Special opening times:
Advent Saturdays 2021: Nov. 27th, Dec. 4th,
Dec. 11th  and December 18th 2021
from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

For groups of 10 people or more, an advance booking can be made for a visit outside of the normal opening times.

author Franziska Lipp

The World’s most popular Christmas carol

In my new book “Silent Night! Holy Night!“ I set off on the trail of the World’s most popular Christmas carol. The aim of my book is to offer the reader a quick and yet detailed introduction to the subject.  Principally it’s about the carol creators Joseph Mohr and Franz Xaver Gruber, about their unique living conditions and the external circumstances behind the carol’s creation, but also about how the song spread and how you too can head off on its trail in the Silent Night resorts SalzburgerLand, in Tyrol and Upper Austria.

Photo credits: Sportalpen-Marketing, Wagrain-Kleinarl Tourismus, Franziska Lipp

"Die Welt in Worte zu fassen, bedeutet auch, sie – in gewisser Weise – neu zu erfinden: Es gibt kaum etwas, das noch nicht beschrieben wurde. Dennoch lohnt es sich immer wieder, neue Worte zu finden. Davon bin ich zumindest überzeugt. Als selbstständige Texterin, Journalistin und Autorin gehört das geschriebene Worte zu meinem Alltag. Schreiben ist für mich nicht Beruf, sondern Berufung: Schon als 12-jährige habe ich mein Spielzeug gegen eine mechanische Schreibmaschine ausgetauscht. Seit 2004 betreue ich zahlreiche renommierte Unternehmen in Österreich und Deutschland, wobei mein Schwerpunkt ganz klar auf den Bereichen Salzburg und Tourismus liegt. So schreibe ich unter anderem für die Salzburger Sportwelt, Flachau, Radstadt, die Großglockner Hochalpenstraße, die Salzburger Burgen und Schlösser oder die SalzburgerLand Tourismus GmbH. 2014 erschien mein Buch „Beste Aussichten im Salzburger Land. 66 Lieblingsplätze und 11 Almhütten“. Darin stelle ich sehenswerte Ausflugsziele vor und verrate so manch persönlichen Lieblingsplatz. Weitere Bücher, die von mir bisher erschienen sind: „Köstliches von der Müllerin“ (Dort-Hagenhausen, 2014)
 „Das große, kleine Buch: Imker werden“ (Servus, 2015) 
„Das große, kleine Buch: Die Großglockner Hochalpenstraße anders erleben“ (Servus, 2016) "

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