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Austrian tourist trail that's inspired by much-loved seasonal hit

The classic carol Silent Night was first performed in 1818, on Christmas Eve in Austria. Sarah Marshall retraces its roots

The Silent Night Chapel in Oberndorf
The Silent Night Chapel in Oberndorf
Key attraction: the Silent Night organ in Arnsdorf

Probably the most recognisable festive soundtrack to date, Silent Night has summed up the spirit of Christmas for generations.

First performed in public on December 24, 1818, the lyrics were written by a young pastor from Salzburg, Austria, called Joseph Mohr, while teacher and organist Franz Xaver Gruber composed the melody.

The song has been translated into 300 different languages and dialects, and has UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage status.

Given its worldwide importance, a number of events are taking place across Austria to celebrate the classic carol's 200th anniversary on Christmas Eve.

If you are planning to retrace its story, here are three key SalzburgerLand locations to explore...

Where: Mariapfarr


Why: To discover the inspiration behind the song.

In autumn 1815, 23-year-old Joseph Mohr became an assistant priest in Mariapfarr in the Lungau region - a place where his ancestors had settled in the 17th century.

A year later, in 1816, he wrote the famous song, although his authorship was only fully acknowledged in 1995, when a hand-written version of Silent Night Holy Night proved he'd written the lyrics.

A highlight for tourists is the redesigned Silent Night Museum, which features a 15th century silver altar and a Christmas nativity scene with a collection of around 100 figures, originating from 1750.

How: The Silent Night Museum is open Monday and Thursday, 4-6pm. Entry free. Visit

Where: Arnsdorf

Key attraction: the Silent Night organ in Arnsdorf

Why: To see where the melody was originally composed.

Between 1807 and 1829, Franz Xaver Gruber worked as a teacher and organist in this small village.

The school he taught in still educates students and is the oldest active school building in Austria.

Since 1957, the property has also been home to the Silent Night Museum, where a traditionally decorated Rauchkuchl kitchen and a historic classroom provide an insight into Gruber's daily life.

A 25km Silent Night cycle trail connects the village to Oberndorf, another important location in the peace poem's story.

How: Entry to the Silent Night Museum is €4pp. Visit

Where: Oberndorf

Why: To hear the classic carol performed in its original setting.

Known around the world as the 'Silent Night Municipality', this is where the carol was performed for the first time.

The famous St Nikolaus church has since been damaged by continuous flooding, but a Silent Night Chapel now occupies the site where, since 1953, a Silent Night commemoration has been taking place every Christmas Eve at 5pm.

Next door, the old vicarage houses the new Silent Night Museum Oberndorf, which explores the history of the song.

Another magnet for visitors during the Advent period is the Silent Night Special Post Office, where it's possible to send cards around the world with a Christmas postage stamp and a special seal.

How: Entry to the Silent Night Museum Oberndorf costs €4.50pp. Visit

Belfast Telegraph


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