Oberammergau Passion Play: The Last Medieval Gospel Reenactment

Nestled beneath the majestic Bavarian Alps are the picturesque gabled houses of Oberammergau, a little village of around 5,000 people. Despite its diminutive size, hundreds of thousands of faith-filled visitors travel to this village every decade to watch a village tradition that goes back nearly 400 years.

2020: A Year of Exciting Vision

The village’s 42nd Passion Play kicks off in May of this year, and the next few months of 2020 will be busy with preparations in and around Oberammergau. This play’s production team was selected in 2015, and performers stopped shaving and cutting their hair in February 2019 to give a sense of authenticity to their roles. Rehearsals began in August 2019. 

Every performance involves the entire community, with local doctors, teachers, shop owners and others contributing to the massive production. By law, the top speaking roles are only given to residents either born in Oberammergau or who have lived there for at least 20 years. 

Over 100 performances are scheduled for this year, and over 450,000 visitors are expected to attend—with more than half of them coming from outside Germany.

Part of what makes this legendary Passion Play so fascinating is the encompassing scope and attention to detail that set it apart from all other performances:

  • Oberammergau’s Passion Play (in German, Passionsspiele) is the longest-running play in the world.
  • For the 2010 performance, a cast and crew of more than 2,000 locals practiced nightly for five months to ensure a powerful production. 
  • No false beards are allowed, so male performers stop shaving 15 months before opening night.
  • Local children begin taking voice or musical lessons at a young age so they can participate in the choir and orchestra.
  • The open-air theater has 4,800 seats, and the stage can contain as many as 900 performers at once.
  • Local tailors and artisans create ALL the clothing, armor and weapons for the play.

 

Even more unique and compelling is the story of faith behind the Passion Play of Oberammergau. 

A Promise Made

In 1632, when the bubonic plague was devastating the European continent, regional outbreaks began threatening Bavaria. City after city and village after village fell under the deathly grip of the disease—with little abatement.

Even in the remote town of Oberammergau, a few villagers became sick. Fearing the population would be wiped out, the desperate residents prayed together and asked God to protect them. They pledged that if He did, their entire village would honor Him through the performance of a play that told of “the suffering, death, and resurrection of [their] Lord Jesus Christ.” They also promised to repeat it—forever.

And God answered their prayers. 

A Promise Kept

Thankful for God’s miraculous protection, the village kept its promise. At Pentecost in 1634, residents performed a “passion play.” This medieval tradition retold the life and death of Christ and served as the precursor to modern-day Christmas and Easter pageants. 

The next Oberammergau Passionsspiele took place in 1640. Then again in 1650, 1660 and on. The village has continued to fulfill its pledge ever since. The only missed Passionsspiele performance was in 1940, during the height of World War II. 

An Unbelievable Opportunity

In our effort to showcase the best Christian travel opportunities all around the world, Inspiration Cruises & Tours is excited to announce our eager anticipation of this year’s play. 

We will be there with some of you! 

Our first-ever Inspiration ELITE Traveler Event launches September 11-24, 2020, and we will be touring sites throughout Prague, Germany and Switzerland—including a day in Oberammergau to experience the legendary Passion Play. As we explore bucket list destinations on our journey, we will unpack the compelling stories, personalities and places that shaped the Christian church of today.

Seeing the Passion Play transports the modern traveler into the world of Scripture. Viewers feel the substance and weight of moments they’ve previously only read about. Imagine watching the life and ministry of Christ unfold before you! The commitment and devotion of the performers is an inspiration all of their own. 

If bucket lists had bucket lists, seeing the Oberammergau Passionsspiele would be at the top! This is why we’re excited to invite you to witness it with us and other believers on an unforgettable European tour this fall. 

 

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