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10 Things You Didnt Know About The Oberammergau Passion Play
18th April 2019

If you didn’t know already, 2020 marks the 42nd Passion Play in the German town of Oberammergau. A big deal for Christians and even those who aren’t religious, many people from around Europe are set to make a pilgrimage to this small Bavarian region to watch a re-enactment of ‘The Suffering, Death and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ’.

A lot of work goes into staging this iconic spectacle, so here are ten things you didn’t know about the Passion Play.

It’s Performed As A Thanks

Jesus Enters Jerusalem Passion Play

The origins of the Passion Play take us back to 1633 when the town was in the midst of a Plague epidemic during the Thirty Years’ War. To try and ease the suffering, the locals made a promise to God that they would perform the ‘The Suffering, Death and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ’ regularly if he ended their heartache and period of hardship. God seemingly answered their wishes and so, in 1634, the first Passion Play was held.

It Happens Every 10 Years

Passion Play last Supper

One of the reasons why the Passion Play is so popular is that it only happens every ten years, with anticipation building and bookings being made in the years leading up to it. There are only three occasions when this hasn’t been the case. The Play was postponed in both 1920 and 1940 as a result of the World Wars. Plus, in 1770, it was temporarily banned by Prince Elector Maximilian Joseph on orders from the Roman Catholic Church.

There Will Be 103 Performances In Total

Passion Play Choir

The schedule runs from 16th May until 4th October 2020. With performances taking place every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday within that period, it means there will be 103 staged in total. This may sound like a lot, but they do all tend to fill up.

The Ensemble Is Made Up Of Oberammergau Residents

Passion Play Jesus Before Pilate

With a cast as big as 2,000, the Play needs a rich pool of actors from which to choose the stars. Luckily, the residents of Oberammergau are all keen to participate and proudly put themselves forward for the main roles. The requirements? You have to have been born in, or have lived in, Oberammergau for at least 20 years. The relatively small population of the town means that almost half of the people living there will be involved in the Passion Play in one form or another.

The Announcement Of The Roles Is A Celebrated Event

With such a commotion over who will get the 21 main parts, the announcement of those who have been successful is usually a big event. Last October, it was streamed live on YouTube so people around the world could watch the names drawn up on the giant chalkboard.

Jesus Will Be Played By One Of The Youngest Actors In the Play’s 400-Year History

Passion Play Jesus On Mount

In 2020, one of the youngest actors ever chosen to play Jesus will tackle the lead role in the Passion Play. Rochus Rückel, only 22, is currently studying Aerospace Technology and will be the second-youngest person in 400 years to take centre stage.

It’s An All-Day Event

Passion Play Jesus Clears The Temple

With 16 different acts, the Passion Play is to the stage what The Lord of the Rings is to the silver screen. This epic lasts for five hours with a three-hour interval in the middle, during which spectators can enjoy a three-course meal and chat with other people from the audience. From May until mid-August it will start at 2.30pm and conclude at 10.30pm, whilst mid-August until mid-October sees the timings set back by an hour.

The Performance Is In German

Passion Play Paradise Lost

Unsurprisingly, the Passion Play is performed in the native tongue of German. However, English speakers can purchase a textbook that includes translations of the script. This does little to detract from the spectacle, though, as people of all languages still arrive to witness this emotional portrayal.

The Hair Decree Encourages Hair And Beard Growth

Passion Play Theatre

One tradition involved with taking part in the Passion Play is that actors playing everyone but the Roman soldiers allow their hair and, for men, beards grow naturally in the run-up to the performance. The Hair Decree encourages the cast to do this from Ash Wednesday onwards, creating a ritual of going to the barbers one last time on Shrove Tuesday.

The Surroundings Towns And Villages Fill Up Too

Garmisch-Patenkirchen

With an influx of visitors arriving steadily over a six-month period, there’s no doubt that the Passion Play is important for tourism in Oberammergau. However, it also affects towns and villages in the surrounding area such as Ettal and Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Anyone unable to get accommodation in Oberammergau can book to stay elsewhere in the region and take a transfer to the performance.

In fact, many of our packages involve booking unnamed accommodation which is then decided closer to the date. There is plenty to see in this beautiful part of the Bavarian Alps though, so where you stay matters very little.

If you would like to book your place at the 2020 Oberammergau Passion Play, call us today on 0800 988 3369. You can also contact us via the website and sign up to our mailing list for all the latest news and offers.

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