The Oberammergau Passion Play

Nestled in a lush valley at the edge of the Bavarian Alps and close to the border with Austria, the picturesque German village of Oberammergau is as sleepy as they come.

Once-a-decade, however, the peaceful community in southern Germany springs into life and people from far and wide descend upon the region for a chance to see the world-famous Oberammergau Passion Play.

The Origins of the Passion Play

Dating back almost 400 years, the unique and prestigious play came about following a vow made in 1633 when the village of Oberammergau was in the terrifying grip of the Great Plague.If their village was spared, the villagers promised to re-enact the Passion of the Christ every 10 years.

Following the vow, the first play was performed by the residents a year later, in 1634. Legend has it that after the first play was performed there were no more cases of the plague in the village and some suffers even recovered from their symptoms.

And so, every 10 years as an expression of gratitude for their salvation, the villagers continue to perform the sacred play. As part of the vow, only residents of Oberammergau can perform in the play. You have to have been born there or have lived there for at least 20 years if you want to be cast.

Over 2000 residents audition and get parts each time the play is performed - the men in the village even begin growing their beards over a year before in preparation for the performances.

The Passion Play Today

Still as powerful and poignant now as it was back then, the village is making preparations for the 42nd performance in 2020.

The production of the dramatic Passion Play has come on a long way over the years, with almost half the population of Oberammergau now having a role to play; that’s over 2,000 residents.

The story depicts the suffering endured by Jesus of Nazareth in his final days, from his arrival into Jerusalem to his death on the cross and his resurrection from the tomb.

Lasting five hours in total, the play holds a two-hour interval half way through for audience members to enjoy a memorable Passion Play dinner.

In 2020, an estimated 500,000 people are expected to visit Oberammergau to watch history taking place and you could be one of them.

Don’t miss out on this once-a-decade opportunity to see one of the most important plays in the world and explore the breath-taking Austrian Alps as you go

Our Oberammergau Passion Play Tour

Join us at Arena Rail Holidays for this this once in a decade event, and travel with us from Stuttgart in Austria, all the way down to Cologne in Germany.

We will journey by rail and witness the Oberammergau Passion Play with stunning sights of alpine scenery and quaint hilltop towns.

We will head to the charming resort of Zell am See in the heart of Austria, where you will have time to soak up the atmosphere of the historic town centre. Enjoy a leisurely stroll along the bustling waterfront promenades, set against the picture-perfect backdrop of the surrounding mountain peaks.

It’s then off for a ride on the Kitzsteinhorn funicular, where you’ll have time to take in the incredible views from the top of the mountain.

Hop on board the Pinzgauer Railway and enjoy a scenic 53km journey on the narrow-gauge railway as you travel to the towns of the upper Salzach Valley; an expanse of outstanding natural beauty on the edge of the largest protected area in the Eastern Alps.

The railway will take us to Krimml, where you will get to witness the roaring Krimml Waterfalls. The falls boast the status of being both the largest and steepest in Europe, standing tall at an impressive 380m.

Finally, you will get to experience the pinnacle of this fascinating tour; the 42nd Oberammergau Passion Play, along with a Passion Play dinner during the five-hour-long performance’s two-hour break.

A once in a decade event paired with a once in a life time rail holiday through Austria and Germany – this truly is a tour that you do not want to miss.