Walking through the historic part of Hallein, there is so much to discover
Old homes of the prosperous middle classes with words of wisdom written just below the roof, narrow lanes, and the Silent Night Museum. The museum is located in the aptly named Silent Night District, right next to the Catholic church.
What awaited Cleverix…
Cleverix and the city of Hallein
Whenever I stroll through the narrow lanes of historic downtown Hallein, time seems to pass by more slowly. A stream quietly babbles along its way, houses are decorated with loving details such as statues of the Virgin Mary, sayings and various other forms of ornamentation. Town squares with outdoor restaurants and beautiful floral arrangements invite you to pause, relax and observe.
During my walk, I come to the “Silent Night District” and there follow signs leading to the Silent Night Museum. This museum is handicapped-accessible and located across from the church, in a house formerly used by the sexton and choirmaster. Here, Franz Xaver Gruber lived, worked and composed for 28 years. The family of the always-busy teacher and composer bequeathed his entire estate to the city of Hallein. They also bought Joseph Mohr’s guitar, which they likewise donated to this “city of the Celts”. Mohr wrote the text to the world’s most famous Christmas song, “Silent Night! Holy Night!”.
Cleverix in the Silent Night Museum
On the square in front of the museum, you will discover Gruber’s lovingly tended grave. He was buried here in 1863. Memorial plaques on the house facade also commemorate this famous Halleiner. Viewed from the outside, the museum might well have looked just like this 200 years ago. On the inside, however, it is now modern and bright. An elevator carries guests to the first and second floor. On the first floor, visitors big and small have various opportunities to play, touch and experience. Admission here is free.
On one wall, there is a raised picture showing us how this house might well have looked in Gruber’s day. An inventory list details how the house was actually furnished. The spelling of the list reflects how people of that time must have spoken. There is a game board where you can roll a die. Though in this case, the die is actually a gyroscope with dots from one to six. After every roll, you can answer questions and, in so doing, learn more about Gruber and the history of Silent Night. Meanwhile, the cast of a bust by Hans Baier makes the encounter with Gruber even more “real”. For visitors who are blind or visually impaired, photographs of Franz Xaver Gruber can be experienced by touching, and are labeled in Braille. Seeing-eye dogs are permitted in the museum!
On the second floor, visitors must pay for admission. Here, you will see one of the highlights of the museum: the original guitar of Joseph Mohr, the pastor who wrote the lyrics of this Christmas song. During a midnight mass on Christmas Eve 1818, he sang the song with Franz Xaver Gruber for the very first time. Mohr provided the guitar accompaniment. The church attendees applauded enthusiastically. Needless to say, back then it was not customary for people to applaud in church.
Beautiful handwriting on old documents
There were originally no written records pertaining to the song, neither on the part of Mohr nor Gruber. However, as the song became more and more widely known, the originators needed to be found and established. In 1854, Gruber eventually penned the so-called “Authentic Account”, in which he describes the origin of the song and explicitly names its creators. Since there were no copiers, records, CDs or YouTube back then, he had to write everything on a clean sheet of paper with pen and ink. He also wrote down the lyrics and musical notes. Back then, only three verses were sung. Though Mohr had actually written six. Which the “Account” also points out. I marvel at the beautiful, even handwriting of the author. But I now continue my tour and, in conclusion, listen to audio excerpts of Silent Night, which is now sung around the world in 300 different languages.
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