Silent Night Is Almost 200 Years Old

Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind. ~Mary Ellen Chase

The Story Of Silent Night

Did you know? - The carol was first performed in the Nikolaus-Kirche (Church of St. Nicholas) in Oberndorf, Austria on December 24, 1818.

That would be

Mohr had composed the words two years earlier, in 1816, but on Christmas Eve brought them to Gruber and asked him to compose a melody and guitar accompaniment for the church service.

Silent Night

In his written account regarding the composition of the carol, Gruber gives no mention of the specific inspiration for creating the song. According to the song's history provided by Austria's Silent Night Society, one supposition is that the church organ was no longer working so that Mohr and Gruber therefore created a song for accompaniment by guitar. Silent Night historian, Renate Ebeling-Winkler Berenguer says that the first mention of a broken organ was in a book published in the U.S.

Some believe that Mohr simply wanted a new Christmas carol that he could play on his guitar. The Silent Night Society says that there are "many romantic stories and legends" that add their own anecdotal details to the known facts.

The Nikolaus-Kirche was demolished in the early 1900s due to flood damage and because the town's center was moved up the river to a safer location, with a new church being built there close to the new bridge. A tiny chapel, called the "Stille-Nacht-Gedächtniskapelle" (Silent Night Memorial Chapel), was built in the place of the demolished church and a nearby house was converted into a museum, attracting tourists from all over the world, not only but primarily in December.

The original manuscript has been lost. However a manuscript was discovered in 1995 in Mohr's handwriting and dated by researchers at ca. 1820. It shows that Mohr wrote the words in 1816 when he was assigned to a pilgrim church in Mariapfarr, Austria, and shows that the music was composed by Gruber in 1818.