It was early 1633, mid-way through the long and brutal 30-year war, when the bubonic plague was sweeping through the German region of Bavaria, leaving a trail of death in its wake. In the small town of Oberammergau the plague had arrived with a traveller visiting for Christmas and was quickly spreading through the population. In a desperate attempt to preserve their community, the town residents vowed to God that they would perform a passion play every ten years, sharing the story of the death and resurrection of Christ, if only their town could be spared.
A 400-year tradition had begun
No sooner had their plea been made that the spread of ferocious disease throughout the area slowed, and then ceased completely. Convinced that their prayers had been heard and answered, the townspeople kept their word and almost 400 years later continue to demonstrate their grateful thanks by putting on a staggering performance each decade.
The first humble production was held in 1634. On a simple wooden stage, constructed beside the parish church and before the graves of plague victims, players from the community devotedly told the story of the Passion of Christ.
In following years, word of this extraordinary event spread and by 1674 seats had been provided for the captivated audience and the Oberammergau Passion Play was on its way to becoming the world famous and entirely unique piece of performance art that it is today.
The Oberammergau Passion Play returns in 2020
2020 will see the 42nd staging of the passion play in this quaint Bavarian town, and a total of 500,000 international visitors are expected to watch one of over 100 performances taking place throughout the summer months. A far cry from the rough and ready construction of the 1600s, the play now takes place in a 4,700 seat dedicated theatre. Audience members remain comfortable undercover, whilst the stage and cast are open to the elements, before a backdrop of stunning alpine landscape.
With a cast and choir of hundreds, and comprising of dramatic spoken scenes, arresting musical accompaniment and striking tableau vivants or ‘living pictures,’ the compelling story is performed in 16 magnificent acts over the course of five to six hours, with a three-hour interval providing the audience opportunity to repair to local restaurants for a hearty dinner. Whilst the performance is conducted in German, translation guides are provided for those who don’t speak the language. However, the remarkable visual impact of this universally known story renders this hardly necessary.
Fly direct from the Channel Islands
For Oberammergau 2020, Bontour are offering the opportunity to see this incredible production with flights DIRECT from the Channel Islands. Departing Jersey via Guernsey on the 25 July 2020, the package includes flights to Memmingen Airport with Blue Islands, airport transfers, 3 nights’ accommodation in 4* hotel accommodation, dinner each evening of your stay, second category seats for the Passion Play, and dinner during the interval. Also included is a tour of pretty and historic Oberammergau itself, famed for its talented wood carvers and fairy tale painted frescos, which adorn many of the traditional Bavarian buildings. A Bontour Tour Manager will be on hand throughout, and optional excursions will be available for those who wish to explore a little more of the delightful Alpine area.
Prices start from £1549 per person. Single rooms may be available at a supplement. Call 496686 or visit www.bontour.co.uk for more information.