A community that lives together acts together.

Nowhere is it more true than in Oberammergau in the Bavarian Alps, where residents of the quaint village are noted for staging the once-a-decade Passion Play that depicts Christ from his entry into Jerusalem to his crucifixion and resurrection.

Only the 5,000 townsfolk need audition so even Mel Gibson will not qualify.

Ever since the play was put up in 1634 to fulfil a vow after the village overcame the ravages of a bubonic plague – apparently following the vow, the disease did not claim another life while patients recovered! – its people have been religiously performing the play every 10 years.


Helga Stuckenberger showing part of the crucifix used in the 2010 Passion Play in Oberammergau, Germany.

The next performance is next year, from May 16 to Oct 4, at the town’s purpose-built auditorium. It’s a five-hour show that commences at 2.30pm before a three-hour break at 5pm; it resumes at 8pm and ends by 10.30pm (all times an hour earlier after Aug 17). It is performed in German, with English guide books.

“We expect 500,000 visitors in 2020, with 4,500 a day catching the show,” said Helga Stuckenberger, 48, a woodcarver who has played different roles in Passion Play since she was a child and will be involved in the upcoming one.

“Rehearsals start in October,” she added as she showed us around the village.

She told us that it is not unusual for many generations of a family to have been involved in it.

“The oldest actor in 2010 was 94 but he died a few years ago.

“When the show ended, all the men and women got emotional and cried,” she recalled.

The spectacle involves 2,000 locals who are actors, singers, musicians, and costume and prop makers.

Oberammergau is also renowned for its woodcarvers who produce amazing sculptures and nativity sets. Their works, ranging from religious subjects to toys, are sold at the shops.

The picturesque place looks like a giant storybook with outdoor murals adorning many homes and buildings, featuring Bavarian fairy tales or religious scenes.

For more information, go to www.trafalgar.com.