Nestled in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps, the quaint village of Oberammergau is one of Europe’s unique destinations. Oberammergau, in Germany, is known for its stunning Passion Play. Every 10 years, this town draws visitors from across the globe as host to what is regarded as the most important Passion Play in the world. The Passion Play, an epic event that traces Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, is a moving feast of drama and music. The unique cultural event has been performed for more than 380 years, and in 2020, the event will once again take place in its 42nd iteration.
Oberammergau is a town located approximately 60 miles from Munich. With a backdrop of picturesque majestic mountains and meadows, this quaint town is an amazing place for amateur and professional photographers. The village is known for woodcarving, with dozens of woodcarver shops and carpenters. The streets are lined with charming shops offering cuckoo clocks, stained glass, wool sweaters and wooden toys. The town is also recognized for its Bavarian themes painted alongside many of the homes and buildings.
The Passion Play dates back to 1633, when soldiers returning home from the Thirty Years War in central Europe brought with them the Black Plague. As a result of the war, poverty and disease was widespread and thousands died as a result of the plague. During this time of suffering, the citizens of Oberammergau made a sacred pledge. The villagers of Oberammergau vowed that if God spared their town from the plague they would produce a play for all time every 10 years depicting the life and death of Jesus. The town was spared, and the villagers have honored this pledge from generation to generation. The play is performed for five months from May until late September or early October every year that ends in zero.
During these months, the performance takes place five days a week in an open-air theater. It includes a three-hour dinner break in which a feast is served. The play is performed in German, although a translated text in any language is available. People from all over the world, including those who are not of religious backgrounds, are intrigued by the way the town comes together for this performance. And the fact that it takes place only every 10 years makes it unique.
Each actor must be a resident of Oberammergau, having lived there for at least 20 years. The participants devote a year of their lives to taking part in the play, along with carrying on their normal everyday lives. More than 2,000 citizens are involved as actors, singers, stagehands, seamstresses, firemen and auditorium attendants. Hair growing amok on male villagers means one thing: it’s time to stage the Passion Play. All costumes are handmade. Half of the town is enlisted in the event in some way.
Plan for Oberammergau now — don’t wait for another 10 years!