Josef Mohr

Josef Mohr

Salzburg, Salzburg Stadt, Salzburg, Austria
Death 4 Dec 1848 (aged 55)
Wagrain, Sankt Johann im Pongau Bezirk, Salzburg, Austria
Burial Wagrain, Sankt Johann im Pongau Bezirk, Salzburg, Austria
Memorial ID 8227674 · View Source
Suggest Edits

Lyricist. The lyricist of "Silent Night," poet-priest Josef Mohr was born into extreme poverty in Salzburg, Austria, but was gifted with keen intelligence and innate musicality. The illegitimate son of seamstress Anna Schoiber and Franz Mohr, a soldier who soon deserted Anna as well as the army, Josef's extraordinary talent attracted the attention of the choirmaster of Salzburg Cathedral, who subsequently sponsored the boy's early education. Mohr later entered Salzburg Seminary and was ordained at the age of 22. The young priest was serving in the alpine village of Oberndorf when he collaborated with church organist Franz Gruber to create what has been called the "world's most beloved carol". According to legend, on Christmas Eve in 1818 the organ at St. Nikolaus Church had broken down, and the two men worked feverishly to come up with a simple hymn that could be played on guitar. In reality, Father Mohr had written a poem entitled "Stille Nacht" two years earlier, and had asked his friend Gruber to set it to music. The priest being an excellent guitarist, Gruber composed the now-familiar melody in an arrangement for two voices and guitar, and "Stille Nacht" was first performed by its creators at Midnight Mass on December 24, 1818 with Mohr providing the instrumental accompaniment. Considered a national treasure in Austria, the carol became popular throughout Europe and was introduced to America on Christmas Eve 1839, when a touring Austrian choir performed it before the tomb of Alexander Hamilton in New York City's Trinity Churchyard. Despite the carol's success, Mohr prioritized his traditional priestly duties, embracing personal poverty and devoting his life to the education of the poor and care of the elderly. In December 1848 he became snowbound after going out to administer Last Rites to a dying parishioner near the ski hamlet of Wagrain. Suffering from exposure, he died of a lung infection a week before his 56th birthday and was buried in the hamlet's churchyard. In 1918 the people of Wagrain planned to erect a statue of their beloved priest to celebrate the carol's 100th anniversary, but there were no known portraits in existence. Mohr's skull was subsequently exhumed and sent to a forensic artist in Vienna, who produced a likeness. Both the memorial statue and the skull eventually went to Oberndorf, however, where the latter was placed beneath the altar in the Church of St. Nikolaus.

Bio by: Nikita Barlow


In their memory
Plant Memorial Trees



How famous was Josef Mohr?

Current rating:

140 votes

to cast your vote.

  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Nikita Barlow
  • Added: 31 Dec 2003
  • Find a Grave Memorial 8227674
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Josef Mohr (11 Dec 1792–4 Dec 1848), Find a Grave Memorial no. 8227674, citing Wagrain Churchyard, Wagrain, Sankt Johann im Pongau Bezirk, Salzburg, Austria ; Maintained by Find A Grave .