From 1633-1670, the bubonic plague was devastating Germany. In 1633 one small town in the Bavaria region vowed to God that if they were to be spared from the plague, they would share the story of the Life and Death of Jesus Christ every 10 years for all of time. In October of 1632, the plague took the life of every one in 1,000 adults. By March of 1633, that number rose to 20 adults, in July only 1 person! God had saved their town and they have kept their promise to God! In 1634 the first play was put on by the town residences and that tradition continues today!
Every 10 years (on the years that end in zero), this village of 5,000 people, welcomes over 500,000 visitors to its town to share in the Life and Death of Jesus Christ. The play runs from May to October (112 performances), and is still put on by the residents of the community, 2,000 of them! In fact you have to be a native of Oberammergau, lived there for 20 years, or marry a native (and wait 10 years) to be in the show. Preparations for the 2020 Passion Play began in 2015 and by February 2019 participants will stop shaving and cutting their hair! The final cast will be announced in that spring and practices will begin in August of 2019.
2020 will be the next performance, and if you do the math, that means they have been keeping their promise to God for 386 years! The play has been revised over the years, but closely resembles the script from 1860. The original script (in 1634) was written based on manuscripts from the 15th and 16th century! Yes, it is performed in Germany, however it is a story that goes beyond all languages, it is “His-story,” one that all of us Christians share.
The play is an experience, not a stage show. It last for 6 hours and is performed in 2 parts (with a dinner break!). It includes spoken text, music and scenes from the Old Testament in tableaux vivant (depicted by motionless actors). In the spirit of their original promise, they have turned down offers to take their show to other countries, or to even have it filmed, which means the only way to experience it is to go! So start making plans now!!
Pathfinders has been leading pilgrimages to Oberammergau since 1984! (The 300th anniversary of the first play!). They have many great pilgrimage options available for Protestants and Catholics which provide the opportunity to not only experience Oberammergau, but also other significant areas of faith traditions, the culture and natural beauty of the area. Over the years they have become close friends of the Oberammergau community, securing great tickets for our pilgrims as well as lodging at Wittelsbach Hotel located in the heart of Oberammergau. You can find all of our pilgrimages here. Feel free to contact me for more information!