Oberammergau Passion Play

Oberammergau Passion Play is a passion play Performed since 1634 [1] as a tradition by the habitants of the town of Oberammergau , Bavaria , Germany. It was written by Othmar Weis, JA Daisenberger, Otto Huber, Christian Stuckl, Rochus Dedler, Eugen Papst, Marcus Zwink, Ingrid H Shafer, and the inhabitants of Oberammergau, with music by Dedler. [2] Since its first production it has been performed on open air stages in the village. The text of the play is a composite of four distinct manuscripts dating from the 15th and 16th centuries. [3]

The play is a staging of Jesus’ passion , covering the short final period of his life from his visit to Jerusalem and leading to his execution by crucifixion. It has been criticized as being anti-semitic, but it is the earliest continuous survivor of the age of Christian drama. [4] [ page needed ]


In 1633, the residents of Oberammergau , Bavaria , Germany, would be spared from the bubonic plague ravaging the region, they would produce a play thereafter for all time depicting the life and death of Jesus . The death rate among adults rose from one person per 1000 in the year 1632 to twenty in the month of March 1633. The adult death rate slowly subsided to one in the month of July 1633. The villagers believed they had been spared and they kept their part of the world when the play was first performed in 1634.

The play is now performed repeatedly over the course of the year. 102 eu lieu performance from 15 May up to October 3, 2010 and is next scheduled for 2020. [5] The Involves producing over 2,000 performers, musicians and technicians training, all residents of the village. [6] The play includes spoken dramatic text, musical and choral accompaniment, and live tableaux , which are scenes from the Old Testament depicted for hearing by motionless actors accompanied by verbal description. These scenes are the basis for the typology, the interrelationship between the Old and New Testaments , of the play. They include a scene of King AhasuerusRejecting Vashti in favor of Esther , the brothers selling Joseph into slavery in Egypt , and Moses raising up the Nehushtan ( bronze serpent ) in the wilderness. Each scene precedes that section of the play that is considered to be prefigured by the scene. The three paintings mentioned are presented to the audience as prefiguring Christianity superseding Judaism, Judas selling information on the location of Jesus, and the crucifixion of Jesus. quote needed ]

The evolution of the Passion Play was about the same as that of the Easter Play , originating in the ritual of the Latin Church, which prescribes, among other things, that the Gospel on Good Friday should be divided into various parts. quote needed ]

Plot synopsis


The prologue and chorus greet the audience. Two paintings are presented. In the first, Adam and Eve , wearing sheepskins are banished from the Garden of Eden by a winged angel who holds a sword in the form of a flame. Behind the angel stands a burst of gilded rays symbolizing the tree of forbidden fruit . The second living picture traditionally showed a number of girls and smaller children around a cross at center stage. The adoration represents the time in 1633 when villagers swore their vow before a huge crucifix bearing a twelve-foot-high Jesus.

Act 1 Jesus and the Money Changers . Jesus enters Jerusalem on the Palm Sunday . He drives the money changers and traders from the Temple then returns to Bethany.

Act 2 Conspiracy of the High Council. In the past, this act began with a painting showing the sounds of the patriarch Jacob conspiring to kill Joseph in the Plain of Dothan; the frieze was deleted from the 1980 presentation. The act consists of discussions between the traders and Sanhedrin , who agree that Jesus must be arrested to preserve Mosaic law .

Act 3 Parting at Bethany. Two paintings presage the action. In the first, the young Tobias departs from his parents while the angel Raphael, played by another boy, waits, crook in hand, stage left. In the second, the loving bridesmaid from the Song of Solomon laments the loss of her groom. In the play, Christ is anointed by Mary Magdalene , then takes leave of his mother and friends. Judas is angered by the waste of the spikenard oil.

Act 4 The Last Journey to Jerusalem. A controversial painting (now deleted) showed Queen Vashti dishonored at the court of King Ahasuerus . The old queen (Judaism, explains the Prologue) has been displaced by Esther(Christianity). Jesus sends two disciples to secure a paschal lamb . He enters Jerusalem for the last time and weeps over the fate of the city. Judas contemplates betraying his master and is tempted by Dathan and other merchants.

Act 5 The Last Supper . The Passover Seder or The Last Supper is celebrated in the evocative scene of the famous Da Vinci painting. Jesus washes the feet of his disciples and institutes the mass of wine and thick, brown, leavened bread. Two paintings show Moses with rays or horns protruding from his head, bringing manna and grapes to the people in the wilderness.

Act 6 The Betrayer. In a painting, Joseph, a boy nude to the waist, is sold by his brothers to the Midianites for twenty pieces of silver. In accompanying action, Judas appears before the Sanhedrin and promises to deliver Jesus for thirty pieces of silver . After his departure, the Pharisees plan at great length the death of Jesus.

Act 7 Jesus at the Mount of Olives . Two more Old Testament scenes introduce the soliloquy of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane . The first, a non-sequitur, which we are told that man does not know how to live in the world, shows Adam, in sheepskin and assisted by a brood of similarly attired children, drawing a plow across a field. The second frieze more appropriately offers a helmeted Joab, surrounded by soldiers stabbing an unsuspecting Amasa in the ribs. Christ agonizes over his fate while his apostles doze. Judas enters with an army band and betrays Jesus with a kiss.

Act 8 Jesus before Annas . The Old Testament parallel has Micah slapped on the cheek by Zedekiah, priest of Baal, for daring to predict King Ahab would die in battle. In like manner, Jesus is taken before waiting, eager Annas and is struck on the face for his insolence. Soldiers also deride Christ as he is led though the streets by a rope.

Act 9 Condemned by the High Council. Two more paintings emphasize the humiliation of Christ. In one, the aged Naboth is condemned by false witnesses and is stoned to death by the sounds of Jezebel. In the other, Job, sitting on a dunghill at his friends, servants, even his wife and children. Meanwhile, Jesus is questioned by Caiaphas about his messiah -ship and is condemned. A tortured Judas tries to get the Sanhedrin to repeal its verdict. When his efforts are unsuccessful, he goes to the top of the table.

Act 10 Despair of Judas. Judas and all who identify with him are linked with Cain in the opening table. The battered body of Abel appears at center stage. To the right is Cain, with a skin and a club in one hand. His other hand is at his brow, attempting to conceal the brand of God. In this short act Judas offers a speech of remorse then hangs himself.

Act 11 Christ before Pilate . Originally there was a frieze which heralded Christ’s first appearance before Pilate. The painting of Daniel in the great pillared hall of Darius was deleted from later twentieth-century productions. Pilate’s interrogation, coupled with news of his wife’s dream, convinces the governor that Jesus should be prosecuted by Herod Antipas for the majesty.

Act 12 Christ Before Herod. The szene stands without the original living picture qui Showed has blinded Samson mocked by the Philistines . Herod treats Christ with scorn, demanding a miracle, then sends back to Pilate, cloaked in a red mantle of royalty. Responding to the urging of the Sanhedrin, Pilate reluctantly agrees to have Jesus scourged. Roman guards beat Jesus and press a crown of thorns into his scalp.

Act 13 Christ Sentenced to Death on the Cross. Two graphic pictures showing the presentation of Joseph ‘s bloodied coat to Jacob, and Abraham’ s about to stab Isaac ‘s on Moriah have been rejected from contemporary versions of the Passion. Retained, however, are the tables which show Joseph riding a sedan flesh as vizier of Egypt and another which supposedly represents the scapegoat of Yom Kippur . Following the paintings, the stage is swarming with action as priests and Pharisees bring mobs from every direction. Pilate gives Jesus another hearing then offers the people a choice between Jesus and Barabbas . They ask and receive a final judgment on Christ.

Act 14 The Way of the Cross . The final segment of the Passion is introduced by a more sublime image of the Akedah , or binding of Isaac. In this painting, the boy, like Jesus, carries wood on his back as he and Abraham climb Mt. Moriah. Another frieze, showing Moses and a bronze snake intertwined about the cross has been deleted. When the chorus withdraws from the stage Christ bears his cross to Golgotha . As he passes through the streets he meets his mother, Veronica, and Simon of Cyrene . The women of Jerusalem weep for him.

Act 15 Jesus on Calvary . For the first time the chorus appears in black traditional mourning garb. There is no table. He is mocked by members of the Sanhedrin and the soldiers and utters his last words. The legacies of the criminals are broken. A soldier pierces the side of Christ with a lance and blood gushes forth. Jesus’ followers are slowly coming back and ready for the Pieta . The Sanhedrin insists that the guards be posted before the tomb which is to hold Christ’s body.

Act 16 Resurrection and Apotheosis . For the first time, action precedes a chart. Roman guards see a light at the tomb. Mary Magdalene and the other women encounter an angel and recite the same lines as Quem Quaeritis . The final painting shows Jesus resplendent in white with his apostles, angels, the Virgin Mary, and Moses. The Passion ends with a proclamation by the chorus. [3]

Length and frequency

The Oberammergau Production takes place in one day, [7] [ page needed ] goal Running Time Has the varied due to revisions That The Many-have taken up through the years. citation needed ] In 2010 it was a running time of 5 hours, beginning at 2:30 pm and ending at 10:00 pm, with a meal break. It was staged a total of 102 days and ran from May 15 until October 3 that year. [8] According to a record from 1930, the play then had a running time of seven hours. It started at 8:00 am and ended at 5:00 pm with a meal break. [7] [ page needed ]Audiences come from all over the world, often on package tours, first instituted in 1870. Admission fees were first introduced in 1790. Since 1930, the number of visitors has ranged from 420,000 to 530,000. Most tickets are sold as part of a package. quote needed ]

The play continues to be staged every ten years, in the last year of each decade. hence, the next performances will be in 2020. However, these performances have been increased during the last 19 days of the year (to date), and to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the original vow, and again in 1984 in the 350th anniversary of the first performance. quote needed ]


There were at least two years in which the performance did not take place, and one that was postponed for two years:

  • In 1770 Oberammergau Was Informed That All passion plays in Bavaria HAD been banned by order of the Ecclesiastical Council of the Elector, Maximilian Joseph , at the behest of the Roman Catholic Church . In 1780, the play was retitled The Old and New Testament . The new Elector, Charles Theodore , having been assured that the play has been “purged of all objectionable and unseemly matter” approved the performance of the play. By 1830, The Catholic Church succeeded in halting the performance of all other passion plays in Bavaria. Only Oberammergau remained. quote needed ]
  • In 1940, World War II forced the cancellation of the year to come back to the 1950s (and only after permission from the American Occupation Authorities). quote needed ]
  • The performance scheduled for 1920 was postponed to 1922 due to the economic and political tumult following the First World War . quote needed ]

The Passion Play Theater

Oberammergau’s original parish church for the performance of the Passion Play, so it was decided to play in the graveyard of the church, before the grave of the villagers who had died in the plague.

The fame of the play must have spread quickly to 1674, records show that seats have been provided for the audience.

The following are some of the most recent developments in the field. By the middle of the 18th century it was obvious that the graveyard was also too small and new However, the stage has been specially built every year of the Play.

The first permanent stage has been built in 1815 to a design by the then-local parish priest. In 1830 he was asked to help build a new, larger stage on the site of the present theater. When it rained the audience got wet: umbrellas would have obscured the view of people sitting behind them.

However, in 1890 a new, purpose-built theater, it would have been much easier. It was ready in time for the 1900 performance, with the six-arched hall capable of holding over 4000 spectators.

The theater was enlarged in time for the 1930 and 1934 seasons and it was considered to be uncomfortable and it was praised for its superb acoustics and sight of the stage.

Following the 1990 production both the interior and the facade of the theater were renovated and the stage mechanics modernized.

It has been transformed – with more underfoot comfort; cloakrooms have been extended; the focus made accessible for wheelchair users; exhibition areas added; safety and toilet facilities improved.

Today the theater can seat an audience of over 4700.

Economic impact of the Passion Play

The economic impact of the Passion Play on Oberammergau can not be underestimated, as witness the local expression “Die Passion zahlt” (“The Passion Play will pay for it”) in explaining how the Oberammergau community financed construction of a community swimming pool, community center, and other civic improvements.


Previous versions of the play were anti-Semitic in character, blaming the Jews for the “murder” of Christ. [4] [ page needed ] Adolf Hitler indicated, according to Abe Foxman , approval of these anti-Semitic elements in the Oberammergau Passion Play . [9]

A 2010 review in the Jewish newspaper ” The Forward ” stated: “It is undeniably true that the play has been virulently antisemitic through most of its history, and that it has gained notoriety after Hitler endorsed the 1934 production.” [10] The review noted that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) states that the play “Continues to transmit negative stereotypes of Jews” and that the Catholic Church asked for changes to the text. by the Second Vatican Council , 1962-1965, in the Apostolic Constitution, Nostra aetate, 4, October 28, 1965 (“[T] he Jews should not be presented as rejected by God as if this followed by Sacred Scripture”). In the 1970s, Oberammergau invited representatives from Jewish organizations to revise the play, and revisions were approved by a Christian theological advisor. [10] 2000 and 2010 director Christian Stuckl told “The Forward” that Jesus “lived as a Jew.” Therefore, in the revised play, Jesus and his disciples pray in Hebrew. After viewing the play, the reviewer was sympathetic to its artistry and felt less offended by its “Wagner’s antisemitic cartoons and religious mysticism”. [10]Nonetheless, the review quoted a report from the Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations, which reviewed the 2010 script and stated that the play still makes use of “elements that are historically dubious” from the Gospels. The review stated that “It seems unfair” to accuse the play of anti-semitism when it recounts material in christianity’s sacred texts and noted that the ADL’s national director Abe Foxman said “Crucifixion in which the Jews kill” Christ, you can never clean it up enough to avoid an anti-semitic message. [10]

The changes to the play since World War II have included the play in the charge of deicide , collective guilt, supersession and typology, as follows:

  • the role of the Temple traders has been reduced;
  • the character “Rabbi” has been eliminated and his lines given to another character;
  • Jewish priests no longer wear horn-shaped hats;
  • Jesus has been addressed as Rabbi Yeshua;
  • Jesus and others speak fragments of Hebrew prayers in the play;
  • Jews are shown disputing with others on theological aspects of Judaism, not just about Jesus;
  • Pilate has been made to appear more tyrannical and threatens Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest, and it is made clear that Caiaphas does not speak for all the Jews;
  • Novels now stand guard at the gates when Jesus makes his entrance to Jerusalem;
  • Jesus’ supporters have been added to the screaming crowd outside Pilate’s palace;
  • Judas is portrayed as being duped into betraying Jesus;
  • removing the line “His blood is upon us and our children’s children” (from Matthew 27:25 ), and ” Ecce homo ” (Behold [only] a man);
  • Peter , when questioned by Nathaniel regarding abandoning Judaism replies, “No, we do not want that!” Far be it from us to abandon Moses and his law “; and
  • at the Last Supper Jesus recites the blessing over the wine in Hebrew . [4] [ page needed ] [10]

Nazi exploitation of the 1934 jubilee season

The special jubilee season of the Oberammergau Passion Play in 1934, marking the 300th anniversary of the first year of the first year of the year, was the first time in the world. Among other things, the Ministry of Public Affairs, and the Propaganda Commission, the message “Deutschland ruft dich!” (“Germany is calling you!”), And the Kraft durch Freude scheme’s discount-travel program offered special cut-rate packages for the Passion Play, including train fare, tickets and accommodations. quote needed ]

Official propaganda describes the Passion Play as “peasant drama … inspired by the consecrating power of the soil”, and Hitler attended a performance. An attempt to rewrite the Passion Played by the more conservative element. quote needed ]

Papal protective measures to ensure soundness of doctrine

Missio Canonica is a canonical certification needed for preaching. In 19th-century Germany it was extended to teaching as well. In 1922 the Catholic Church gave the play to Missio Canonica . It is a certification that the beliefs of the Catholic Church are being taught, in this case, being presented. quote needed ]

See also

  • Liturgical drama
  • Medieval Theater


  1. Jump up^ “Promised, Living history, An experience.” oberammergau-passion.com. 2009. Retrieved November 19, 2011.
  2. Jump up^ Weis, Othmar; JA Daisenberger, Otto Huber, Christian Stuckl, Rochus Dedler, Eugen Papst, Marcus Zwink, Ingrid H Shafer, Oberammegau, Germany (2000). Oberammergau passion play 2000: Textbook english(Book). Oberammergau: Community of Oberammergau.
  3. ^ Jump up to:a Friedman B , Saul S. (1984). The Oberammergau Passion Play: launches against civilization . Carbondale USA: Southern Illinois Univ. Pr. ISBN  0809311534 .
  4. ^ Jump up to:c Shapiro, James (2001). Oberammergau: the troubling story of the world’s most famous passion play (1. ed.). New York: Vintage Books. ISBN  0375409262 .
  5. Jump up^ http://www.bavaria.by/bavaria-oberammergau-passion-play
  6. Jump up^ “Passion Play 2020 Oberammergau” . Passionsspiele Oberammergau . Retrieved 22 June 2015 .
  7. ^ Jump up to:b Moses, Montrose J. (1930). The Passion Play of Oberammergau . Cornwall, NY: The Cornwall Press.
  8. Jump up^ “passion play 2010 oberammergau” . Retrieved 19 December 2013 .
  9. Jump up^ Foxman, Abraham H. (2004-03-04). “Passion problems”. National Review .
  10. ^ Jump up to:e Goldmann, AJ “New Kind of Passion in an Alpine Jerusalem ‘Letter From Oberammergau” , The Forward , May 26, 2010, issue of June 4, 2010

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