The picturesque village of Oberammergau, in its lovely mountain setting is situated in Bavaria Germany in the district of Garmisch-Partenkiirchen near the Austrian border.
This charming town is also known for its woodcarvers who have been skilled at this craft continuously ever since medieval times and there are many shops that offer these wonderful carvings in a variety of sizes.
Even in the years between the enactment of the play there are many interesting places to visit. Walking through the village itself is a fascinating experience with its splendid buildings, lovely woodcarvings and delightful traditions. There are traditional fairytale houses with colorful pictures on the exteriors, painted by artists. This is an old custom that has been carried on through the ages and continued in modern times.
The area also has some of Bavarias outstanding churches and castles.
The townspeople of Oberammergau fulfil their vow to perform the Passion of Christ every ten years for the first time during Pentecost in 1634. Initially they erect a stage in the cemetery above the graves of the recent victims of the Black Death. Until 1820 this the play is performed at this location.
The original simple wooden stage construction is expanded with scenery and stage equipment throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. In the year 1815 Johann Nikolais Unhoch initiates a complete redesign. The stage is erected on the site of today’s Passion Play Theatre for the first time in 1830. In 1890 a new stage follows according to plans by Carl Lautenschläger which borrow heavily from the old design. The design features six steel reinforced concrete beams in lattice framework technique. The building receives a basilica like appearance through various wooden additions.
For the Passion Play in 1900 the spectator area is finally covered with a steel construct of six beams which are still in place today. The roof opens up to the open-air stage in the front. In 1930 Georg Johann Lang and Raimund Lang build a new stage for the Passion Play. The artistic focus of the stage scenery mirrors the clear, ascetic and monumental style of the wooden theatre building. As part of an overall enlargement of the spectator area the original wooden benches are removed and replaced with theatre seating allowing for up to 5,200 visitors.
Following the Passion Play 1990 it becomes clear that extensive renovations of the interior and exterior are necessary. Additionally, the amenities in the spectator area are to be expanded and the stage equipment updated.
In September 1997 a referendum is held to determine the type and extent of the necessary renovations.
Within two years the theatre is completely renovated: new seating, floor heating, increased cloakroom capacities, wheelchair accessibility to the foyer, structural fire protection, renovation of the buildings exterior as well as ladies and gents facilities and updated stage equipment. In total the renovation expenditures amount to 15 million Deutsche Mark (DM).
The grand opening coincides with the renewal of the 1633 pestilence vow on September 26th, 1999.
The newly renovated theatre now offers 4720 highly comfortable covered seats for a worldwide audience with the highest safety standards. Once again Oberammergau lives up to its reputation as the foremost Passion Play venue.