René Vierne was born at Lille in France in 1878 and was the younger brother of Louis Vierne.
He entered the Catholic Seminary at Versailles in 1889 where he studied also music. But not feeling a vocation to the priesthood, he left and instead devoted himself to music, taking lessons in organ, counterpoint and fugue with his brother Louis. Then he studied with Alexandre Guilmant at the Paris Conservatoire, and was awarded first prize for organ and improvisation in 1906.
In 1897, he obtained a post as organist in Paris. In 1904 he became organist titulaire at Notre-Dame-des-Champs.
At the outbreak of World War I he was mobilized and moved to the front. In 1918 he was killed by an Austrian shrapnel.