Silent Night is a popular, traditional Christmas carol that depicts the birth of Jesus. It was written and sung for the first time over 190 years ago. It is most commonly sung as a slow, sweet lullaby and has been sung and recorded by many different music artists. Silent Night has been translated into many languages and is part of most Christmas celebrations all over the world. Let’s take a look at who composed this popular Christmas carol.
Who Composed Silent Night?
Silent Night or “Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht” in its original German, was composed by an Austrian headmaster and musician named Franz Xaver Gruber. However, Franz Gruber did not write the lyrics for the piece. The original lyrics or poetry for Silent Night were written by an associate priest at St. Nicolas Church in Oberndorf, Austria. Joseph Mohr composed the words for Silent Night in 1816, whilst he was on a pilgrimage at a small church in Mariapfarr, Austria. It is unclear what motivated him to create the lyrics for silent night and it wasn’t until two years later that music was composed to accompany them. During the year of 1818, Franz Gruber and Joseph Mohr became friends through their involvement in the same church. It is said the Mohr took the lyrics to Gruber on December 24th 1818 (Christmas Eve) and asked him to compose a melody and guitar accompaniment to go with the lyrics.
It was Joseph Mohr’s plan to sing the song “Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht” at Midnight Mass that evening. It was indeed sung at Midnight Mass at St Nicolas Church with accompaniment by the church choir and Joseph Mohr on guitar. Both Mohr and Gruber created additional arrangements of the carol over the next 30 years. Many that heard the carol also took the carol back to their home towns and churches and it began to gain popularity. By 1840’s Silent Night was well known in Berlin, Germany and became a favorite of the King of Prussia King Frederick William IV. It continued to gain popularity throughout Europe and indeed the world.