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The Oldest Passion Play in the Bavarian Alps

Premiered in 1634, five hours running time, 109 performances, and 530,000 visitors from around the world - that's the basic statistics of the world's most famous passion play in Oberammergau, Bavaria. The tradition of a play about the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ every ten years, will be continued for the 42nd time in 2020.

Admission fees have been first charged in 1790, and packaged tours are offered by tour operators since 1870. About half of the visitors are international guests. Not only VIPs, royals, and celebrities have seen the passion play, but hundreds of thousands of tourists and pilgrims. No wonder, the Oberammergau passion play is the most important event for tourism in Germany.

But did you know that there are other passion plays in Europe? In 2019 the oldest Passion Play in the German speaking countries will be performed again. This is the passion Play of Erl in Tyrol (Austria).  Passion Plays around the world, including those in Germany, draw, according to historians, on the Tyrolese Passion Play which originated later in the 14thcentury. The town took great pride in the merging of art, performance and piety and elaborately cultivated the performances. By 1514, the plays lasted a full seven days!  You’ll be happy to know that 500 years later, the show is about three hours. In Tyrol, the innovation of female roles being played by women was introduced.

Documents prove that already in 1613 pilgrims on their way to Altötting made a stop in Erl to see a passion play. Again in 2019, 600 out of the 1,450 inhabitants from Erl will be on stage to illustrate the life, death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Actors, choir, and orchestra will be live on stage.

Sure, if you can get to Oberammergau in 2020, by all means, make the trip. Drop us a note at Luther500 and we’ll put you in touch with the leading tour group planning tours that include the 2020 Passion Play, or we may be able to put you in touch with a group in your area making the trip.  But if you’d like to check out the oldest Passion Play and combine your trip with  a tour of Salzburg, the Austrian-German Alps, and a deep dive into the life and times of Martin Luther in the more northern areas of Germany, then come on and join us in 2019 for the Luther500 Festival and simply add on the Passion Play at Erl. Check out the website, or call or email us for more information about 2019.  Walk in the steps of the Reformers and witness a rare performance of a Bavarian Passion Play in the Austrian Alps.  It will be a ten-day trip you will never forget.

Michael BridgesComment