Oberammergau’s Passion Play Resumes in 2022

Delayed by Covid, an Alpine village continues its theatrical tradition of depicting the final days of Christ.

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Posted in , Oct 19, 2021

2010--Oberammergau Passion Play

I wouldn’t characterize it as ironic, but the cancellation of the decennial Oberammergau Passion Play in 2020 due to COVID-19 has resonance in the ancient origins of the nearly 400-year-old pageant. It was in the midst of the Thirty Years War, the bloodiest religious conflict in European history, that the Bavarian village of Oberammergau was struck by the Black Death—bubonic plague. With both war and pestilence raging, the besieged villagers must have felt that the world was on the verge of apocalypse. 

Terrified, they humbly petitioned the Lord in prayer, vowing that if their little village was delivered from the plague (perhaps they knew better than to pray for Catholics and Protestants settling their differences like Christians) they would give thanks by performing a solemn, theatrical presentation of the passion of Christ to be repeated every ten years down through the generations.

Oberammergau was in fact largely spared the ravages of plague and ever since, true to their ancient vow in 1633, the picturesque Alpine hamlet has staged the world’s most elaborate reenactment of the Passion, both sacred and fantastical in its depiction of Christ’s final days in Jerusalem. It is performed solely by the citizens of Oberammergau and has drawn people from around the globe.

Except in 2020, when another plague, the Covid-19 pandemic, forced cancellation of the pageant for one of the few times in its history. Something about the conjunction of those two diseases and their effect on the Passion Play focuses the mind. As I wrote in the November 2017 issue of Guideposts, I was greatly looking forward to hosting a group of readers on a Collette Travel tour of the Alpine countries culminating with a performance of the Passion Play in Oberammergau. 

In 2010, I hosted a similar Collette-affiliated tour to Oberammergau which proved to be one of the most meaningful journeys of my life, a spiritual adventure of the highest order. Not only was I able to attend the Passion Play, a day and night I will never forget, but the people I traveled with and met along the way, the sites that I saw and experienced, remain in my heart still.   

I’m ecstatic that the 42nd Passion Play has been rescheduled for 2022. The people of Oberammergau will again be demonstrating their historic thankfulness for being protected from a plague, this time in the wake of another plague that has tested our faith as well. And again, I am grateful to be hosting a Guideposts-Collette tour.

Now the only problem I face is how to break the news to my dog Gracie that I will be overseas for nearly two weeks next August. Say a prayer for me.

Video: Take a Stroll Through the Streets of Oberammergau

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