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  • Mike

The Silent Night Chapel in Frankenmuth Michigan.

On the far edge of the Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland's property in Frankenmuth, Michigan, between highway 83 and Weiss street, lies an often overlooked treasure. Bronner's Silent Night Memorial Chapel is an interesting monument, as well as a shrine, it is a shrine to the song 'Silent Night.'

This little chapel is a scale replica of the original chapel in Oberndorf/Salzburg, Austria, which marks the site where “Silent Night” was first sung on Christmas Eve in 1818. When Franz Xaver Gruber and Joseph Mohr first sang the song, they sang it in the St Nicholas parish church in Oberndorf. The church of St. Nicholas was damaged several times in the 1890s by flooding of the Salzach, so it was eventually moved. Citizens of Oberndorf wanted to honor the message of the song. So they built the original silent night chapel.. Begun in 1924, the chapel was eventually completed on August 15, 1937.

the real Silent Night Chapel

In 1976 Wally Bronner visited Salzburg and saw the real chapel. He then got the idea to erect his own replica of the chappel. In 1989 Wally and Irene Bronner requested permission from the Oberndorf government to build the replica. When they agreed to this idea, Ronny Bronner drew up the architectural plans for the chapel, and in 1992 construction was completed. The result is this building on par with anything Walt Disney could envision.

The pathway to the chapel starts unceremoniously at the far south end of the Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland parking lot. There you hear the gentle music of 'Silent Night' playing over speakers blended into the landscape. You pass under this wonderful arch with the first two bars of silent night. From there you take a winding path to the building itself.

Around the perimeter of the chapel, as you listen to the music, you can read the words of the first verse of 'Silent Night' in many different languages from around the world. There are panels that almost entirely surround the building.

I was able to find Lakota/Dakota. I'm not quite sure about the translations but they do seem to get the gist right. The Dakota and Lakota versions being different confuse me as well.

Inside the chapel there is an area blocked by glass panes that serves as the main sanctuary of the chapel. This area has on the left wall has Luke 2:1-10 written. On the right an enlarged version of the original version of Stille Nacht, along with pictures of Gruber and Mohr.

The windows are stained glass and do a wonderful job throwing around some very beautiful light in the chapel around sunset. All the while that you are here there is 'Silent Night' playing, sometimes just a guitar playing, sometimes in German, but always mellow and moody, adding to the atmosphere here. This place just feels special in a way that is hard to describe.

The back of the chapel has benches and a lot of very interesting information about the history of the building. There is a guest book you can sign in the back. Seeing where everyone who has signed in are from is amazing to me. There are people from all over the world visiting this chapel. This little building is totally free to enter and seems to be open every day that Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland is. It's never busy and often overlooked. It's a shrine to a song, and another proof that Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland is keeping the Christ in Christmas.

Facing the parking lot nearest to the Silent Night Chapel is a wonderful old nativity set. that has been set up for Christmas. It's not here year round.

I have no idea what this nativity sets' history is but it's very old looking and the sculpting is wonderful. There's some minor wear on the pieces that seem to really show the age well. I love the expressions. It's also really neat to see the characters blended in and around the trees.


(Documents inside the chapel)

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