Oberammergau Passion Play

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Oberammergau stage in 1860 by Carl Emil Doepler

The Oberammergau Passion Play is the world's most famous passion play . In a performance lasting several hours, the villagers of Oberammergau recreate the last five days in the life of Jesus. The Passion Play was performed for the first time in 1634 as the redemption of a promise after surviving the plague. From 1680 onwards, a ten-year cycle applied, usually in the last year of a decade . In the 20th century there were two extra seasons: 1934 and 1984 for the 300th and 350th recurrence of the first performance. In the 21st century, the performance scheduled for 2020 had to be postponed to 2022 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In December 2014, the Oberammergau Passion Play was included in the nationwide register of intangible cultural heritage in accordance with the UNESCO Convention on the Preservation of Intangible Cultural Heritage .

Performance history

In the year of the plague in 1633, 80 inhabitants of Oberammergau fell victim to the disease. The Oberammergau residents then solemnly vowed to regularly perform a passion play if they were freed from the plague. From that day on, no deaths from the plague were recorded. In 1634, 1644, 1654 and 1664 the Passion Play was performed on the basis of texts from the second half of the 15th century. In 1674 the Passion Play was expanded to include parts of a Weilheim Passion Play by Johann Älbl (1615). The Ettal Benedictine Ferdinand Rosner (1709–1778) finally wrote the “Passio nova” in rhymes in the style of baroque theater . Oberammergau thus developed into a model for other Passion Play locations. The stage was originally a simple wooden frame, but in the course of the 17th and 18th centuries it was equipped with scenery and stage technology.

Passion play 1900: crucifixion scene
Christ and John, posed still (1900)
The festival stage around 1906
The American automobile manufacturer Henry Ford (2nd from right) at the Passion Play, 1930

In 1770 the clerical council of Elector Maximilian III banned Joseph the Passion Play on the grounds that the text and performance practice were inconsistent with the dignity of the subject. Only for the year 1780, i.e. after Maximilian's death in 1777, are there reliable records that the Passion Play (with changed text) took place again. In 1801 the games were again banned by Maximilian von Montgelas ; In 1810 they did not take place. The Benedictine Father Othmar Weis from the secularized Ettal Monastery wrote a new text for the Passion Play in 1811 with the title The Great Sacrifice on Golgotha ​​or the Story of the Suffering and Dying of Jesus . This allowed the performance again in 1811. In 1815 Johann Nikolais Unhoch (1762–1832) carried out a fundamental redesign. Joseph Alois Daisenberger (1799–1883), who had been pastor in Oberammergau since 1845, became the first real director of the Passion Play. He revised and added the text by Father Othmar Weis for the Passion Play of 1850. The place slowly became known internationally for its Passion Play. In 1890 there was a new stage based on plans by Carl Lautenschläger . In the 32nd year of play, which was postponed by two years to 1922 due to the consequences of the First World War , 420,000 spectators attended the new production by Georg Johann Lang (1889–1968) in the spirit of modern directorial theater . The open-air stage was rebuilt by Georg Johann Lang and his brother, the architect Raimund Lang, for the passion year 1930.

The Passion Play of 1934 was advocated by Adolf Hitler , after the Second World War the Passion Play was condemned as anti-Semitic by several intellectuals - such as Arthur Miller , Leonard Bernstein and Lionel Trilling - in a petition because of the stereotypical and negative portrayal of Jews . The petition sparked outrage among German writers such as Günter Grass and Heinrich Böll . In the late 1960s, the Catholic Church called for the Passion Play to be renewed to bring it into line with Nostra Aetate - the declaration of the Second Vatican Council that stated that the Jews were not responsible for the death of Jesus. When the Passion Play was not adapted in 1970, the Vatican withdrew its approval, the so-called Missio canonica . In response, Oberammergau invited Jewish organizations in the 1970s to participate in the dialogue about changes to the textbook.

Before the 38th game in 1980, there were violent disputes in the municipality of Oberammergau in 1977 as to which text should be used, that of Rosner or that of Weis / Daisenberger. The latter was criticized as anti-Semitic by the Jewish organization B'nai B'rith , among others, because of the depiction of Judas . The question of which submission should be used was decided by a referendum in favor of the Weis / Daisenberger text.

The vow of 1633, scene at the 1960 Passion Play
The Passion Play House, 2007
View from the Kofel to the Passion Playhouse, 2009
Stage of the Passion Playhouse, 2010
Christian Stückl, 2018

On February 22nd, 1990, a court ruling gave Oberammergau women full equality in participating in the Passion Play. The Bavarian Administrative Court came to the conclusion that at the Games in 1990, women who were married and born before May 1, 1955, should not be denied the right to vote in the Passion Play Committee and the right to participate in the game because of their marital status or their age.

In 1986 the committee elected the wood sculptor and current director of the Munich Volkstheater Christian Stückl (* 1961) as the youngest director in the history of the Passion Play. In 2000, for the first time since 1930, a comprehensive new production took place under his direction. Stückl also staged the 2010 Passion Play together with the set designer Stefan Hageneier and the musical director Markus Zwink, although this caused great tension within the population of Oberammergau. The cause of this was Stückl's plan to partly play the game at night because of the better effect. On June 16, 2007, the people of Oberammergau voted in favor of Stückl's concept in a referendum.

The Oberammergau Passion Play is a globally recognized event with millions in revenue for the location. In 2000, 520,000 spectators saw the Passion in 110 performances, ten percent more than in 1990. The Oberammergau Passion Play 2010 took place on 109 days from May 15 to October 3, 2010.

In June 2015, Abdullah Karaca was confirmed by the Oberammergau municipal council as the second game director alongside Stückl.

The 2020 Passion Play, which should run from May to October 2020, had to be canceled in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is now planned for 2022 for logistical reasons.


In 2010 the Passion Play was divided into eleven acts, known as the presentation . Performances 1 to 5 formed the first part, which began at 2.30 p.m. After a three-hour break, performances 6 to 11 followed from 8 pm. The performance ended around 11 pm. Spoken introductions, dramatic play and, as a special feature retained from the 18th century, tableaux vivants ( living images ) alternated. The living images are presented as choral pieces to be viewed and interpreted, accompanied by the orchestra, and usually establish a typological reference to the Old Testament at the beginning of an act . As devotional pictures , they offer space to pause and reflect. However, some of them have been changed over the course of performance history, especially after 1980. The scenes of Vashti's expulsion from the Book of Esther , the bride's search for her bridegroom (from the Song of Songs ) and the sale of Joseph by his brothers to Egypt are no longer used . At the Lord's Supper, the living image of the Manna miracle was replaced by that of the Passover meal .

With the new staging in 2010, the whole of the Gospel, especially the message of Jesus and his image of man, was made even more clear. For this purpose, the text of the Passion Play was completely revised and supplemented by the directors Christian Stückl and Otto Huber in collaboration with the theological advisor of the Passion Play, Ludwig Mödl .

The focus was now on Jesus' call to radical conversion and his turn to every single person without any compromises. The message of charity should be brought to the fore. In addition to the Passion itself, concise quotations from the Gospels, especially from the Sermon on the Mount , as well as short scenes, e.g. B. Jesus and the adulteress , inserted to characterize his message. Jesus was shown to be firmly rooted in the Jewish tradition by telling the scribes with the “ Shema Israel! “Addresses and teaches. In addition, the responsibility of Pilate , his brutal character and the disputes within the High Council were emphasized, which with its various factions no longer appears like a monolithic block of opponents of Jesus.

Particular emphasis is placed on the tragedy of the person of Judas up to his desperate suicide. Opposite him, the person of Peter and his development (doubts about the discipleship, denial, departure for preaching) was shown.

  • foreplay
Living picture: The loss of paradise
  • I. Presentation: Entry into Jerusalem
  • II. Presentation: Jesus in Bethany
Living picture: Moses leads the Israelites through the Red Sea
  • III. Presentation: expulsion of the temple traders - Pilate and Caiaphas - Judas and the high council
Living picture: the ten commandments and the dance around the golden calf
  • IV. Presentation: Jesus' meal with the disciples
Living picture: The Passover meal before leaving Egypt
  • V. Presentation: Jesus on the Mount of Olives - The capture
Living picture: The betrayal of the rock Gabaon
Living picture: The calling of Moses on the thorn bush

(End of the first part - break)

  • VI. Introduction: Interrogate Annas and the Sanhedrin
Living picture: The prophet Daniel in the den of lions
Living image: The mockery of Job
  • VII. Presentation: Jesus is mocked - Peter denies Jesus - Judas' despair
Living image: The despair of Cain
  • VIII. Presentation: Jesus before Pilate and Herod
Living picture: Moses is cast out by Pharaoh
  • IX. Presentation: Jesus' condemnation by Pilate
Living picture: Joseph is celebrated as the savior of Egypt
  • X. Presentation: The Way of the Cross - The Crucifixion
Living image: Isaac's sacrifice on Mount Moria
Living picture: Salvation by looking up to the brazen serpent
  • XI. Presentation: The encounter with the risen one


The musical part of the Passion Play comprises more than 4000 bars and takes up almost a third of the total playing time. The music played goes back to the Oberammergau teacher and composer Rochus Dedler (1779-1822) and was first heard at the performances in 1810. In it he took on suggestions from the then contemporary opera and drama music. In 1820 he sang the demanding bass part and spoke the lyrics of the prologue. In 1850 the choir consisted of only 14 people. In the further course of the 19th and first half of the 20th century, there were always minor and major changes to the musical design. A fundamental revision by the composer and conductor Eugen Papst followed for the 1950 Passion . Its version was played unchanged until 1990.

For the new productions from 2000 and 2010, the musical director Markus Zwink (* 1956) created choirs, ensembles and arias for newly inserted and exchanged living images as well as atmospheric music accompanying individual scenes of the actual plot. Likewise, as part of a stronger emphasis on the Jewish in Jesus' life , he composed a setting of the Shema Yisrael for the scene of the expulsion of the traders from the temple , which is sung by the whole people. With the exception of this piece, for which he falls back on traditional Jewish melodies, Zwink orientates himself on the musical language of early Romanticism .

In 2010, 12 soloists, 64 choristers (out of a total of 110) and 57 orchestral musicians (out of a total of approx. 110) took part in the performances.


Poster for the 1934
Jupp Wiertz season

Text books / programs

  • 1850 :
  • 1860 :
  • 1870 :
  • 1880 :
    • Leopold Höhl: Guide to the Ammergau Passion Play in 1880 . Würzburg 1880. Reprint: Hartmann, Sondheim v. d. Rhön 1980, ISBN 3-926523-07-7 .
  • 1890 :
    • William Thomas Stead (Ed.): The passion play as it is played to-day: at Ober Ammergau in 1890. Heinrich Korpf, Munich / Oberammergau 1890 ( text in parallel in German and English as well as music examples ).
  • 1900 :
    • Joseph Alois Daisenberger : Official complete text of the Oberammergau Passion Play. For the first time after the manuscripts of HH Geistl. Rates JA Daisenberger published in print . 3. Edition. Korff, Oberammergau 1900 ( archive.org ).
    • Complete official text of the Oberammergau passion-play. Translated by Frances Manette Jackson. Georg Lang sel. Erben, Oberammergau 1900 (English).
  • 1922 :
  • 1930 :
    • Franz Bogenrieder: Oberammergau and his Passion Play 1930: official guide of the community . Knorr & Hirth, Munich 1929.
  • 1950 :
    • Oberammergau and its Passion Play 1950 Official. Leader ed. v. d. Oberammergau community. Staff: Franz Xaver Bogenrieder u. a. Süddeutscher Verlag, Munich 1950.
  • 1990 :
    • The Passion Play of the Oberammergau community: 1990 Director Christian Stückl. Photogr. by Thomas Klinger. - 3rd edition - Municipal administration, Oberammergau 1990.
  • 2000 :
    • Oberammergau Passion Play 2000 using older Oberammergau game texts 1811/15/20 written by Othmar Weis… for the games 2000 edit. u. exp. by Otto Huber. Municipal administration, Oberammergau 2000 (reversible book: German / English). ISBN 3-00-006015-4 .
  • 2010 :
    • Oberammergau Passion Play 2010 using the Oberammergau play texts by Othmar Weis OSB (1769–1843) and Spiritual Counselor Joseph Alois Daisenberger (1799–1883). Edited and expanded for the 2010 Games by Christian Stückl and Otto Huber. Municipality of Oberammergau, Oberammergau 2010 (reversible book: German / English). ISBN 978-3-930000-11-1 .
    • Passion Play 2010 Oberammergau , illustrated book, texts: Christian Stückl and Otto Huber, photography: Brigitte Maria Mayer; Prestel Verlag, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-7913-5024-0 .


  • Maurice Blondel : La Psychologie dramatique de la Passion à Oberammergau. Bloud, Paris 1910 (French).
  • Stephan Schaller: The Passion Play of Oberammergau, 1634 to 1950. Buch-Kunstverlag, Ettal 1950.
  • August Hartmann: The Oberammergau Passion Play in its oldest form. M. Sendet, Wiesbaden 1968, ISBN 3-253-02005-3 . (Reprint of the edition: Breitkopf and Härtel, Leipzig 1880.)
  • Dagmar Landvogt: The living pictures in the Oberammergau Passion Play 1972 (Cologne, Univ., Phil.Fak., Diss.).
  • The Passion Play - Oberammergau. Illustrated book. Ed .: Municipality of Oberammergau. Engl. Transl .: Concordia Bickel. French translator: Henri Perrin. Municipal administration, Oberammergau 1970.
  • Saul S. Friedman : The Oberammergau Passion Play: A Lance Against Civilization. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale 1984 (English).
  • Helmut W. Klinner, Michael Henker (eds.), Ilona von Mariassy (collaborators): Playing the redemption. Guide through the permanent exhibition in the Passion Playhouse. A documentation of the Oberammergau Passion Play. Local authority administration, Oberammergau 1993, ISBN 3-930000-03-2 .
  • Gerd Holzheimer (Ed.): Suffering creates passions. Oberammergau and its game. A1 Verlag, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-927743-49-6 .
  • James Shapiro: Are you the King of the Jews ?: The Passion Play in Oberammergau. From the American. by Ursel Schäfer and Reinhard Tiffert. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart / Munich 2000, ISBN 3-421-05369-3 . (Original title: Oberammergau. ) (On this: Review in Perlentaucher ).
  • Ludwig Utschneider: Bibliography on the history of Oberammergau and the Passion Play (= Der Ammergau, series of publications by the Oberammergau Historical Association; Volume 3). Historical Association Oberammergau 1999 e. V., Oberammergau 2003, ISBN 3-9807212-2-1 ( full text as PDF ( memento of June 10, 2007 in the Internet Archive )).

Novel adaptations

  • Paul Burg: Oberammergau 1630–1930 - novel about the eternal miracle of faith in a village. Koch, Leipzig 1930.
  • Erich Follath: Who Shot Jesus Christ? Droemer Knaur, Munich 2000. ISBN 3-89667-122-7 .
  • Adolf Ott: Vitus Schisler, the first Christ of Ober-Ammergau. High mountain novel from the beginning of the Passion Play. Nemnich, Leipzig 1910.
  • Luis Trenker : The miracle of Oberammergau. Novel. Rütten & Loening, Hamburg 1960. (Leisure library).
  • Leo Weismantel: Grace over Oberammergau - the plague of 1633 . Caritasverlag, Freiburg i. Br. 1934.


  • Anton Lang: From my life . New, expanded edition. Publisher Knorr & Hirth, Munich 1938.

Web links

Commons : Oberammergau Passion Play  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Oberammergau Passion Play  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. a b history. In: passionsspiele-oberammergau.de. Retrieved May 4, 2019 .
  2. Press release of the Standing Conference
  3. The cross in the right side altar of the Oberammergau parish church is considered to be the one in front of which the vow was made, see parish page .
  4. Goldmann, AJ "New Kind of Passion in an 'Alpine Jerusalem', Letter From Oberammergau" , The Forward , May 26, 2010, issue of June 4, 2010.
  5. Knut Lennartz: Passion Play in Oberammergau , Die Deutsche Bühne, Issue No. 7/2000 ( PDF; 589 kB )
  6. Augsburger Allgemeine of February 22, 2010: The date section .
  7. a b history - page 2. In: passionsspiele-oberammergau.de. Retrieved May 4, 2019 .
  8. Passion play ended: record attendance at 110 performances ( Memento from September 27, 2007 in the Internet Archive ), Reformierte Nachrichten / sda / dpa , October 9, 2000.
  9. Oberammergau Tourismus: Passion Play 2010 (2006-2010 schedule)
  10. ^ Parish council confirms Karaca as co-leader. www.sueddeutsche.de, June 16, 2015.
  11. ^ Christiane Lutz: Oberammergau: Passion Play postponed to 2022. In: sueddeutsche.de. March 19, 2020, accessed March 19, 2020 .
  12. Oberammergau Passion Play, textbook 2010; also http://www.passionsspiele2010.de/
  13. a b c d Text book for CD music of the Oberammergau Passion 2010.

Coordinates: 47 ° 35 ′ 59 ″  N , 11 ° 3 ′ 42 ″  E