2020 will mark the 42nd performance of the now-iconic Passion Play, but its wheels were first set in motion back in 1633 when the plague descended on the residents of the charming Bavarian village of Oberammergau. Citizens made a solemn vow that if their lives were spared, they would perform a play depicting the story of Christ’s life, suffering, death, and resurrection every 10 years. Miraculously, there were no further deaths at the hands of the plague, and so, the Passion Play officially began a year later in 1634.

Painted facade

As the summer of 2020 approaches, with a performance that happens just once every 10 years, there is no such thing as securing your place in the audience too early. Join us in beautiful Bavaria to experience this legendary event for yourself.

Six things you might not know about the Oberammergau Passion Play


  1. To take part, you must either have been born in the village of Oberammergau, married to a local for at least 10 years or have lived there for over 20 years.
  2. All costumes are made by villagers and there are no wigs allowed, meaning that people given acting roles must grow their hair and beards for both accuracy and authenticity. There is a ‘Hair and Beard Decree’ that comes into effect the year prior to each performance, which sees participants stop cutting their hair according to the roles they are assigned.
  3. In the 2020 performance, some scenes will be accompanied by up to 64 vocalists. There will also be a total of 55 instrumentalists sitting in the orchestra pit for next year’s main event.
  4. Over 2,000 citizens take part in the performance, despite the fact that there are only around 124 speaking roles up for grabs.
  5. For the 2020 edition of the Passion Play, Jesus will be played by both Frederik Mayet and Rochus Rückel. Rückel has been confirmed as the second-youngest actor to play Jesus in the almost 400-year history of the Passion Play.
  6. The first-ever performance, in 1634, took place at the cemetery next to the parish church on the graves of unfortunate plague victims. In 1830, the performance space relocated to the northern edge of the village, where it still remains today.

What to expect

The Ettal monastery, a Benedictine abbey

A spectacular setting

A small German village known also for its traditional wood carvings, Oberammergau is located in Bavaria. Situated among the stunning Ammergau Alps, it is a great base from which to explore the local area. The roots of Oberammergau’s wood carving tradition can be traced back to the Middle Ages, and it is something first recorded in the year 1111, by Rottenbucher monks. What’s more, many of the village’s buildings are decorated with elaborate painted frescoes. Why not get a feel for the local colour with a leisurely walk in this glorious area?

Passion theatre

A performance to remember

The Passion Play itself will begin each day it’s due to be held at 2.30pm local time and it doesn’t finish until 10.30pm. On our Oberammergau tours, dinner is included during the lengthy intermission, so there is adequate time to stretch your legs and refuel. It is also helpful to note that the performance is always in its native German language, but a playbook with the English translation can be obtained at the event for those who wish to follow along more closely.