The Passion Play - Oberammergau Germany

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Oberammergau Passion Play

The Passion Play Oberammergau

It all began in the small village of Oberammergau, Germany in 1633. In the middle of the Thirty Year War, and after months of suffering and dying as a result of the plague, the people of Oberammergau gathered at their perish church and prayed to God for help. In hope of being spared from the plague, they vowed to perform "The play of the Passion, Death and Rising of our Lord Jesus Christ" every ten years. Although, some of the suffering and death continued, the death rate dropped dramatically and the townspeople were spared from the plague from that point on. For the first time, in 1634, they kept their promise, on a stage they placed in the cemetery over the graves of those who had died of the plague. Almost 400 years later, in 2020, Oberammergau will continue this promise and tradition.

The play tells the story of Christ's Passion, beginning with his entry into Jerusalem and ending with his resurrection. The structure of the play is living pictures from the Old Testament and scenes acted from the New Testament. The play employs a very large talented choir and orchestra. In fact, over 2,000 actors will perform roughly 100 times between May 16 to Oct. 4, In what is billed as the largest open-air stage in the world. The theather can hold an astounding audience of about 4,700 at a time. Our performance runs from 2:30 to 5:00 pm and after a 3-hour dinner break, it concludes at 8:00 to 10:30 pm.

The Passion Play requires that all performers be amateurs, and people of high moral and ethical principles. All the costumes and props are hand made and the play features a great cast of live animals as well. Interestingly, no wigs are used which requires that all participants grow their hair and beards according to the "Hair Decree." For that reason, the actors stop cutting their hair several months prior to the performances. What's more, each member must have been a residence of Oberammergau for at least 20 years with the exception of the children. In fact, nearly every child in the town will be performing in the play.

While Oberammergau is internationally known for the Passion Play, this village offers much more to the exploring traveler. The town is also famed for its many building with beautiful painted (and usually religious-themed) facades - a trompe I'oeil effect know as Luftmalerei (Air Painting). As a traveler, you will also find some of the world's finest wood carvers. No machines here. Everything is hand carved and the range of products will amaze you. You will have the opportunity to walk from shop to shop and see true works of art. And for those wishing to bring home one of these pieces of art, they do ship to the United States.

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