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In 1633 the people of the small town of Oberammergau were exhausted with the fear and loss that the spreading plague was causing, and thus swore a sacred vow stating that if they were saved from the deadly infectious disease they would perform a play depicting the life, passion, trial and death of Jesus once every ten years. Thankfully, the village was spared and their promise has been kept since 1634 - when the first village actors took to the stage, to perform what is now known as the Passion Play, on a stage erected above the graves of those who died from the plague. The 10-year cycle was realigned in 1680 and since then it has been performed at the beginning of each decade for over 380 years.

Countdown to 2020

Oberammergau has very much remained the charming small town it was in the 17th century, despite this large and world-famous 10-yearly event; although large isn’t perhaps a big enough word to describe the play as over 2,000 Oberammergau residents contribute with either the acting, singing, music and technical support as well as there being a strong 65-member orchestra and 124 speaking roles involved in the performance. Everyone talking must have either been born in Oberammergau or have lived there for a minimum of 20 years, making the play a truly unique and village-orientated event.

The fact the inhabitants of the village of Oberammergau have remained faithful to their pledge is inspiring, with much of the town’s energy and excitement revolving around the play years in advance. The male performers are also renowned for growing out their hair and beards to provide them with a more authentic look.

This remarkable experience takes place at the grand open-air Passion Play theatre - and has done so since the play’s location moved there in 1820 - it is a truly stunning venue having been renovated to the highest standards and boasting seats for 4,500 spectators; and the size is duly needed with the play running from May to October with more than 100 performances usually scheduled, most of which are to full seating capacity.

This revolutionary production and the villager’s efforts to deliver this sacred oath each decade has become the symbol of the town worldwide, and the 2020 performance is anticipated to be just as spectacular, if not more than previous years, with over 750,000 people expected to attend from numerous locations around the world. The incredible 102 performances running from May-October, will begin at 2:30pm, break at 5pm for dinner and resume at 8pm until 10:30pm.

We're now offering Oberammergau’s Passion Play on a number of exciting escorted tours, so be ready to book early as spaces are limited and witnessing this powerful spectacle only comes once every 10 years!

The passion play in numbers

Find out more about our Oberammergau holidays.

Article published on: 20th July, 2017



Jenny’s passion for culture and wildlife has taken her across the world. Favourite experiences so far have included snorkelling at the Great Barrier Reef, sailing on the Ganges in Varanasi, hiking through Norway and spending many hours on safari in Kenya and India spotting a menagerie of wonderful creatures.

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