Silent Night - From the January 11(?), 1975 edition of the Buffalo Volksfreund

Mice ate away at the Organ

The Christmas Carol Silent Night originated because of an Accident!

Throughout the world people sing one of the most beautiful of German Christmas carols - "Silent Night, Holy Night...". It sounds like an old folk tune, which derived from an unknown and ancient source. But in reality only 156 years have gone by since an assistant pastor and organist created it at St. Nicholas' Church in Oberndorf in the Salzburg region of Austria.

The story of the song concerning the "holy infant so tender and mild" is a touching one. In the Winter of 1818 mice had eaten away at the church organ in such a way that clear tones could no longer be produced from it. Assistant Pastor Joseph Mohr had to forego any attempt to perform beautiful music on the organ. He had to find other means to enrich the Church service. He took some quarto sheets to organist Franz Gruber at midday on December 24th.

What then happened Gruber reported in a letter 36 years later:
"It was December 24th in the year 1818 that the Assistant Pastor Josef Mohr of the newly established parish of St. Nicholas handed over a poem to Organist Franz Gruber (who at that time was also a school teacher in Arnsdorf). He wanted the organist to write a pleasant little melody for two solo voices with choir to be accompanied by guitar. On that same evening this cleric received his simple little composition. Thus the piece was fully produced on a holy night, on Christmas Eve for the midnight church service. Josef Mohr, writer of the verses, died on December 4, 1848. He was Vicar to Wagrain in Pongau. -
Hallstein, December 30, 1854
Franz Gruber, City Parish Choir Regent Director and Organist."

By the time the old master wrote this letter, people all over the world were singing his and Pastor Mohr's Silent Night, Holy Night. It was sung by people gathered under the Christmas tree and assembled before the manger scene. The song made its way into the world from a church in Oberndorf on the Salzach, where Austria borders Bavaria. It was the favorite song of Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV, who had it performed throughout the year by his castle church choir.

St. Nicholas Church was built in Oberndorf in 1180. It was torn down in the 1920s because of structural defects. Atop a hill in its place today there stands a splendid memorial chapel.

Caption under picture at lower right reads Winter in the Salzburg Region - The Memorial Chapel in Oberndorf