Thursday, 17 April 2014

A-Z Blogging Challenge - Oberammergau

Oberammergau would probably have remained an obscure Bavarian village if it hadn’t been for an event in the 17th century. In 1633, the inhabitants of the village vowed that if God spared them from the effects of the bubonic plague ravaging the neighbouring area, they would produce a play thereafter for all time depicting the life and death of Jesus. The death rate in the village dropped from 20 a month in March 1633, to only one death in July. Believing that their prayers had been answered, the villagers performed their first play in 1634, but when this became too expensive, they decided to perform it every 10 years, in years that ended in zero. Now the village is packed with tourists every 10 years, and many visit in the intervening years too.

Since its first performance the play has been performed in the open air. Originally, this was in the parish churchyard, but the fame of the play travelled fast, and people flocked to Oberammergau from the surrounding towns and villages. When the churchyard became too small to contain all the visitors, a new venue was found in a nearby field, and a temporary stage was constructed. In 1890 a purpose-built theatre was constructed. The stage is still in the open-air, but the seating area, with room for 4,000 spectators, is covered. That was perhaps as well because on my visit to Oberammergau, it started to rain during the first half. We were kept dry, but the performers on the stage gradually became more and more bedraggled. Fortunately, by the end (almost 5 hours later, and including a short break for lunch), the sun came out.
 
Only natives of Oberammergau are allowed to perform, and almost half the population of the town take part in the play, about 2,000 in total. One result of this is that almost every shop in the town has photos of the owner taking part in the play, with large signs saying ‘I played Judas in 1990’ etc. On one occasion, we were chatting to the proprietor of one of the hotels in the town, and he proudly announced that he had played Jesus in 1950 and1960, while his father played Pilate and his son played Judas.
 
The village is also famous for its woodcarvings, and for the L├╝ftlmalerei, or frescoes, of traditional Bavarian themes, fairy tales, or religious scenes on many homes and buildings.

8 comments:

  1. Looks like a lovely village to visit. I love those paintings on the side of the buildindgs! What an interesting place, Paula.

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    1. It's a picturesque place, D.G - but very commercialised now.

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    1. Had you not heard of it before, Claudia?

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  3. Oberammergau has been on my list of places to visit for quite some time now! It looks so lovely. I knew of the play but I didn't know the origins of it. Thanks for making me wiser :D

    Have a wonderful day,
    Sylvia van Bruggen

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    1. The history of the play is amazing, Sylvia - and the fact that they have performed it every 10 years for centuries now.

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  4. I've always wanted to see that, Paula, but haven't yet. Elderly friends went some years ago and loved the experience.

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    1. I felt the play was too long, Rosemary - especially as it was all in German, of course! Bit it was certainly spectacular, especially all the crowd scenes. The village itself is now very commercialised unfortunately.

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