In a little town in Southern Bavaria, Oberammergau, the residents prayed fervently to escape certain death. They tried to appease the Almighty with an offer to perform a play on the life of the Jesus of Nazareth every decade, provided the town was spared from the monstrous malady.
Inexplicably, not only did the death toll in the town start to drop but some of the ailing began to recover – from 20 deaths in one month in March 1633, the death rate dropped to just one in the month of July. Faith can sometimes move mountains.
The villagers kept their promise and staged the first Passion Play at the Pestilence Cemetery, over the graves of those who had died of the plague. Since then, generations of Oberammergau natives have kept their pledge over the centuries, through the performance of the now renowned Passion Play.
The participants devote a year of their lives to re-enact the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. All of the people taking part in the Passion Play (or as it is known in German “Passionsspiele”), are local residents who carry on their normal everyday lives such as doctors, teachers and housewives. Men grow out their hair and beards to make the look authentic to the time. Costumes are handmade. The play is performed in German and all of the main speaking parts, by law, are filled by residents who were born in Oberammergau or have lived there for at least 20 years.