Oberammergau Passion Play 2020

In 2020, Odyssey will offer four small group tours of Europe that will include the Oberammergau passion play 2020. As part of the the four departures that are limited to 12 people, we learn about the traditions of this magical Bavarian Alpine village and the experience associated with the Oberammergau Passion Play.

Bavaria was for centuries an independent Alpine Kingdom within the Holy Roman Empire. Now very much part of a modern, unified Germany, its proud traditions and heritage are still apparent. Nowhere is this more evident than in the small village of Oberammergau with its ten-yearly Passion Play first performed in 1634. The Passion Play

A fairy tale house, patterned with a detailed fresco, in Oberammergau
A fairy tale house, patterned with a detailed fresco, in Oberammergau

Try to imagine the world of Medieval Christendom. For its inhabitants throughout those thousand years or more the greatest drama of all, the sublime action, was the sacrifice of Christ for man’s salvation. They firmly believed that it was the ultimate truth and the central fact of history.

This drama was replayed, so to speak, every time Mass was celebrated in their chapels, churches, abbeys and cathedrals. The Mass, or the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, is a kind of re-enactment of the passion of Christ, his death and his resurrection. The Mass was therefore the supreme liturgical drama.

But people’s devotion went beyond liturgical celebrations. Every day and season of the year was dedicated to a particular saint, or a special event in the life of Christ, and would be marked by festivities in honour of the person or circumstance being commemorated. Advent, Lent, Passiontide (Holy Week), the Resurrection (Easter), Pentecost, Corpus Christi, Trinity, All Saints, All Souls (think of Hallowe’en) – all these were marked by popular activity, sometimes full of sadness and grief, sometimes of thrilling and joyful abandonment. And a very popular way for whole communities to mark these seasonal milestones was by jointly producing and acting in mystery plays – religious dramas in celebration of the mysteries of salvation.

Almost all of this has now passed away from the earth as society splinters into fragments of individuality. But just as the ruins of Pompeii survive to give us a glimpse into the daily life of one ancient Roman town, so does the Oberammergau Passion Play survive as a unique relic of an age when people thought quite differently about the fundamental and mighty issues of life.

Oberammergau gives thanks to god since 1634

In about the year 1600 the people of Oberammergau performed a passion play to give thanks for their village’s deliverance from the Black Death, and vowed to repeat its performances regularly in the years to come. The actual dates of those early performances are unknown, but we do know that the play was performed in 1634. This is usually given as the date of the first performance, but the records make it clear that it was already well known, so that we can be reasonably sure that its origins go back at least to early years of the century. The villagers have been faithful to their vow, and the play has been performed every decade as far as circumstances would permit, though the text has been rewritten and the manner of performance modified by guest directors: it is very much a ‘living’ organism, and by no means a lifeless archaeological oddity.

About the 2020 Oberammergau Passion Play

Two thousand villagers took part in the 2010 production, in which performances began at 2:30 pm and concluded at 10:30 pm. Even allowing for a three-hour interval, the Oberammergau Passion Play is, for both actors and audience, a work of endurance and devotion, a fitting and living memorial of the Age of Faith.

The tradition continues in 2020.

The Oberammergau Passion Play, held only every decade, will be performed 102 times between 16 May 2020 and 4 October 2020 in the small Bavarian town of Oberammergau south of Germany. Our tours are designed to include educational trips to nearby cities (e.g. Berlin, Vienna, and Prague) with a Program Leader and local guides to give you a fulfilling experience while in Western Europe.

It is best to buy the Passion Play tickets well in advance as part of a tour group, which is what Odyssey Traveller is offering, as direct bookings with hotel accommodations and pre- and post-event transportation arrangements may be difficult since establishments have likely made prior arrangements in relation to the world-famous performance. The Passion Play brings nearly half a million visitors to the small village, and tickets usually sell out despite the large number of performances.

The play is held in the 4,500-seater Passionstheater in Oberammergau. The theatre is partly open air. All seats are under roof cover, however, so performances are not cancelled due to rain.

The Oberammergau Passion Play lasts five hours and is performed in two sessions:

14:30 to 17:00 – Part 1
Dinner Break
20:00 to 22:30 – Part 2

Please note that performances begin an hour earlier for performances after 17 August 2020.

The play is in German but translations or subtitles are provided and, if you are touring with Odyssey Traveller, we will arrange dinner for you at a designated hotel or restaurant prior to completion of the performance in the evening. Click here to book your spot.

The History of the Oberammergau passion play

  • 1633: A play of life and death, promised in a moment of mortal threat – so began the history of the Oberammergau Passion Play.
  • 1634: At Pentecost, the Play was performed on a stage constructed above the fresh graves of the plague victims in the cemetery.
  • 1680: The 6th Passion Play year – the community voted to transfer the performances to the first year of each decade.
  • 1750: The Age of Reason contended that the holiest secrets of Christianity had no place on a theatrical stage.
  • 1770: Passion plays were prohibited in Bavaria.
  • 1780: 15th Passion Play year. Oberammergau alone received a special privilege.
  • 1811: As a result of Montgelas’ prohibition in 1801, the Play did not run again until 1811.
  • 1830: Ludwig I granted permission for the play under the condition that the stage no longer be erected, as previously, over the cemetery.
  • 1922: The 31st Passion Play, scheduled for 1920, was postponed for 2 years following the aftermath of the World War I.
  • 1940: Special performances for the 300th anniversary. Hitler took advantage of Oberammergau’s popularity by attending performances shortly before elections were held.
  • 1950: This Passion Play was marked by the horrors of the national catastrophe just concluded.
  • 1970: Criticism was voiced on the part of both Christian and Jewish observers suggesting the play was anti-Semitic.
  • 1980: For the first time, women were accorded active and passive voting rights in the election of the Passion Play Committee, however the only women permitted to take part had to be unmarried citizens of Oberammergau under the age of 35.
  • 1990: The question of whether married, older women might participate was decided in the affirmative by the district court.
  • 2000: Directed by Christian Stückl, the greatest script reform comes about since 1860, in an attempt to eliminate the anti-Judaism in the play. In an amazing community achievement, almost 2,000 new costumes and 28 new sets are created.
  • 2010: 102 performances took place.

The Village of Oberammergau

The Crucifix atop Kofel near Oberammergau
The Crucifix atop Kofel near Oberammergau

Oberammergau is located on the banks of the Ammer River at the foot of the Bavarian Alps in southern Germany. Oberammergau has been noted for its woodcarvings since the 12th century. The village is a popular tourist resort and its attractions include many ornately-painted houses and the early baroque church of St Peter and St Paul.

The Kofel is the signature mountain of the village of Oberammergau. While the peak can be challenging to climb in adverse conditions, it’s relatively easy to conquer in most weather. If you are able to make it to the top, you will be greeted with a large crucifix and a spectacular view.

Discovering Bavaria (Bayern)

Ettal Monastery, near Oberammergau
Ettal Monastery, near Oberammergau

Bavaria is located in the heart of Europe, enclosed by the Alps and the Main River, the Lake of Constance and the Bavarian Forest. Bavaria is probably the most fascinating German state for the visitor because of its landscape, its history and people. Mighty dukes and kings reigned over this land often playing a decisive part in the history of the West. It was Bavaria that kept at bay the hordes of barbaric Avars, Slavs and Hungarians; Bavaria that defended the Catholic religion against the advancing Protestantism, and that, resisting, then attacking, or revolting, changed the course of events and the history of Europe. It also contributed to the culture, art and science of the world with its innumerable poets, scholars and artists.

Having moved from an agricultural to an industrial economy, Bavaria offers nowadays the image of a harmonious mixture of tradition and modernity.

Visiting Oberammergau & Odyssey Tours to Germany

Odyssey Traveller is running small group tours to Oberammergau in 2020, if you’d like to book a spot or find out more, click here!

If you can’t wait until 2020 to head over to Germany with Odyssey to witness Oberammergau, Odyssey has a number of small group tours to Germany.

Enjoy an in-depth tour of Berlin with a tour structured around the history of the wall.

See Wagner’s Ring Cycle in Leipzig, and learn the story of the composer’s life in his hometown.

Check them all out by clicking here!

Related Tours

Guaranteed

The Oberammergau passion play is part of this  small group escorted tours for 21 days that travel across central Europe from Vienna  to Budapest with points in between. The group spends 2 nights in the town of Oberammergau for the play.

The program follows the Hapsburg dynasty was influential in Central Europe from the 10th century. As Holy Roman Emperors they controlled an Empire which at its medieval zenith covered huge tracts of Europe stretching from Spain and the Netherlands to the Black Sea.

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Level 2 - Moderate
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Guaranteed

Join us on this this comprehensive journey that begins in Heidelberg and ventures south to the romantic Black Forest to Munich. 22 Nights in Germany Featuring Berlin, Munich, the Black Forest, Bavaria, the Alps, and the Rhine as well as attending Oberammergau 2020.

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Level 2 - Moderate