It was on Christmas Eve in 1818 that Franz Gruber and Joseph Mohr composed Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht--Silent Night, Holy Night, to be sung at the village church in Oberndorff, Austria, the following day. Since then the carol has been translated into more than ninety languages and dialects.
However, there has been much lore and legend surrounding the composition of this quintessential Christmas carol. Franz Gruber (1787-1863), the composer of the tune, gives the definitive version of the story in a signed statement issued by him: “It was on December 24 of the year 1818 when Joseph Mohr, then assistant pastor of the newly established St. Nicholas' parish church in Oberndorf, handed me a poem, with the request that I write for it a suitable melody arranged for two solo voices, chorus, and a guitar accompaniment. At the time, I was attending to the duties of organist for the parish and was at the same time a schoolmaster in Arnsdorf. On that very same evening the latter, in fulfillment of this request made, I handed to the pastor this simple composition, which was thereupon immediately performed and received with all acclaim.”