The Passion Play of Oberammergau – Bavaria, Germany
A Centuries-Old Labor of Love
This peaceful town in the Bavarian Alps comes alive every ten years to honor a vow made in 1633, when a plague devastated much of Europe, leaving behind only misery and hunger. To escape the plague, the townspeople promised to reenact the life of Christ once every decade, in the year ending in zero, forever. The plague ended, and the original performance by peasants took place in a field in 1634.
Since then the Passion Play has grown in sophistication and length (5 ½ hours and sixteen acts). What has remained constant is the sincerity with which the entire town participates and holds its heartfelt promise sacred. Set amid breathtaking scenery, in a festive atmosphere that engulfs the town, citizens young and old turn out in handmade costumes.
Despite its international fame, the natural performances somehow escape commercialism; the ancient vow is still the most important thing in these people’s lives.