This Week in Christian History: Boys Town, Martin Luther burns papal decree, ‘Silent Night’

‘Silent Night’ writer was born – December 11, 1792

Joseph Mohr
A stained glass image of Austrian priest Joseph Mohr (1792-1848), author of the lyrics for the famous Christmas carol "Silent Night." |

This week marks the anniversary of when Joseph Franz Mohr, the Catholic priest who wrote the lyrics to the famous Christmas carol “Silent Night,” was born.

A native of Salzburg, Austria and born out of wedlock, Mohr was raised by his mother and grandmother in poor living conditions before becoming a priest at age 23 in 1815.

In 1816, while serving as an assistant priest in Mariapfarr, Mohr wrote the six-verse poem that became the lyrics for “Silent Night,” with some researchers believing that a local painting of the Virgin Mary with Christ Child and three wise men inspired the text.

In 2011, nearly two hundred years after the lyrics were written, UNESCO added the song “Silent Night” to its World Heritage List.

“This song is viewed worldwide as expressing the essence of the Alpine Christmas. It has a clear foundation of identity because of this,” explained Maria Walcher, director of the Austrian Commission of UNESCO, in 2011.

“For many, it represents the essence of the Christmas carol. Church communities of various confessions have sung and played it, along with choirs and music groups, kindergartens and schools from one generation to the next, spreading worldwide the Christmas message of Christ's birth.”

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