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A little over two hundred years ago, Father Joseph Mohr, wrote a poem called "Stille Nacht, Heilge Nacht." Then he promptly set it aside, and forgot all about it.

Two years later, as Christmas was nearing, Mohr found the organ at St. Nicholas Church, in Austria damaged and unplayable.

Dreading a Christmas without music, Mohr approached a part-time organist, named Franz Gruber, about composing a melody for the poem he'd written a few years earlier.  

And, with the organ out of commission, they decided to write the piece for guitar and voice.

On Christmas eve 1818, the two men debuted their new song. As Mohr sang lead, Gruber played guitar and harmonized, with the entire choir joining in for the finale.


A few months later, Karl Mauracher, of the legendary family of organ builders, discovered a copy of "Stille Nacht," when he was brought in to repair the organ. 

Charmed by the quaint lullaby, he took a copy back home, where he introduced it to a traveling singing group called the Rainers.

The Rainers quickly spread "Stille Nacht" across Europe. But their copy of the song was missing one important notation. There were no authors listed. And as the songs popularity continued to grow, Mohr and Gruber were erased from the songs' history. Authorship of “Silent Night” was credited variously to Josef Haydn, his brother Michael, Mozart and Beethoven.  


Then in 1854, the Austrian Government began an inquiry regarding the songs origin at the request of the Royal Church of Berlin.  

After receiving a letter from his son about the investigation, Franz Gruber wrote a detailed history of the songs' origin. While that seemed to settle his contribution as the composer, the matter Mohr's lyric, still remained in question.

On Christmas Eve 1914, more than a hundred thousand, troops were dug in on the Western Front, when German soldiers began singing "Stille Nacht,’ from the trenches.

The British promptly joined the chorus in English, and soon soldiers from both armies were meeting in no mans' land to shake hands, exchange cigars, and souvenirs. For a brief moment, in the middle of World War One, there was peace.


Today Silent Night is one of the most recorded songs in history. Bing Crosby's 1935 version, remains fourth on the all time best-sellers list, with over 30 million copies sold.


UNESCO has declared “Silent Night” to be an "intangible cultural heritage." Father Joseph Mohr died penniless in 1848, never knowing the impact - his little poem would have around the world. 

In 1995, a hundred and seventy-seven years after it was written, an original manuscript with Mohr’s signature was authenticated, putting to rest the provenance of “Silent Night,” one of the best loved carols of Christmas.

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