Where the Passion Play took place

The watercolour shows what the first Passion Play might have looked like in 1634.

The first Passion Play took place in 1634 still above the fresh graves of the plague victims in the cemetery next to the parish church. Originally it was only a simple wooden scaffold, which was extended in the 17th and 18th centuries by scenery and stage technology.

In 1815 Johann Nikolaus Unhoch carried out a fundamental redesign of the stage. Late baroque and classical elements dominate his designs.

From 1830 the stage was located on the square of today's Passion Theatre. In 1890, the stage building was equipped with the latest stage technology according to plans by Carl Lautenschläger, royal Bavarian court theatre machinist and father of the first revolving stage in Europe. For the first time, the grandstand is partially covered.

The village Oberammergau 1860 (engraving)

The stage in 1880

The stage in 1870

Grandstand in 1890

In 1900, the finished auditorium was inaugurated after only 3.5 months of construction. The iron scaffold construction consisting of 6 semicircular arches with a span of 43m and a peak height of 20m carries a wooden roof with 30 skylights, so that daylight can enter from all sides. The spectators enter the 4,200-seat auditorium through 14 double gates. The rear wall was designed by A. Mettenleiter from Munich with two paintings "1st Passion Play of 1634" and "Ettal Monastery around 1730". The outer walls are covered with canvas and painted with scenes from the Old and New Testament. The gable and the annex are decorated with figures of Oberammergau woodcarvers.

The construction of the auditorium 1899-1900

The new Passion Theatre is inaugurated on 27 April 1930. The floor plan and structure remain largely unchanged. The construction is extended by an iron arch in the direction of the stage, so that the building now holds 5,208 seats. The painting by Mettenleiter as well as all pictorial jewellery is dispensed. The exterior walls are clad with Eternit panels. Raimund and Georg Johann Lang design the stage.

The Passion Theatre has been preserved in this form until today. In 1980 the number of seats was reduced to 4,700 due to an extension of the front stage. In 2000 the auditorium was renovated and a new facade was added. In 2009 the stage was covered with a mobile roof construction, so that the actors and actresses are literally not standing in the rain. From 2016-2018 the stage was renovated. Among other things, the cloakrooms were extended, the tailoring shop rebuilt and the sanitary facilities renewed. In addition, the infrastructure, such as machinery, sound, lighting and fire protection, was continuously overhauled and supplemented, and static improvements were made to the building.

Text: Jenny Greza

Pictures: Gemeindearchiv Oberammergau, Jenny Greza