The first Passion Play was performed in 1634, fulfilling a pledge residents of Oberammergau, Bavaria, Germany made with God. Adding to the turmoil of the Thirty Years War, the region was ravaged by the bubonic plague, or Black Death. The disease affected every family in Oberammergau. The townspeople pledged to produce a faith-based play every ten years, depicting Jesus’ time in Jerusalem, his death and resurrection, if they would be spared from further death and suffering. In July 1633, only one death from the plague was recorded, and the townspeople worked together fo fulfil their vow, believing that they had been spared as a result of their pledge. The first performance of the Passion Play took place in 1634, and has been repeated by the townspeople of Oberammergau every ten years for almost four centuries. While the venue and scripts have changed over time, the dedication of the townspeople has not.
The Play Today
Now considered one of the most important religious and cultural events in Germany, more than 2,000 hard-working and passionate residents of Oberammergau - over half of the town’s population - come together as performers, musicians and stage technicians to present spectacular five-hour-performances on the world’s largest open-air stage. Theatre-goers enjoy the performance from a covered auditorium.The play is performed in 16 acts, and includes dramatic dialogue, musical accompaniment, and silent scenes from the Old Testament. The play is presented in German; visitors who do not speak German are given a booklet with translation of the spoken parts into their own language. The powerful performance offers many audience members a sense of renewed faith, and has deep spiritual meaning. Preparation and planning for the 2020 performances began in 2015, and as of this month, the townspeople have stopped cutting their hair in preparation for their roles. Rehearsals wiil begin in autumn of this year.
The town of Oberammergau is situated high in the Alps, amidst beautiful scenery. The quaint town is known for its woodcarving, and fairy-tale like chalets and shops. Passion Play tour packages include local accommodations and other options such as meals, visits to neighboring towns and other sightseeing. However, Sid Danovic of Kompas Holidays International says that one of the best opportunities for travelers are the endless possibilities for creating custom tours that combine the Passion Play in Germany with almost any other European destination. An experienced tour operator can match the specific needs of any group, and create a fully-customized itinerary. The Passion Play in Oberammergau would be a meaningful component of a religious and faith based pilgrimage through Europe. A different type of traveler might be interested to note that this year, the dates of the Passion Play overlap with those of Oktoberfest in Munich.
Kompas has created escorted tour packages with guaranteed departures that combine Oberammergau and other German cities with Italy, Poland, Switzerland, Czech Republic, and Croatia. (www.kompas.net) The key is commitment to creating the perfect itinerary for your clients and advance planning, starting now. Travel agents should make their clients aware that European tours that include the Passion Play in Oberammergau require a non-refundable deposit, as these tours sell fast.