Is this the house of God - or a marketplace?


Barbara Lampe with her sons Benjamin and Tobias in front of her pottery workshop (photo: Maximilian Mayet)

71-year-old Barbara Lampe and her two sons Tobias and Benjamin work hand in hand to produce over 130 clay jugs for the Passion Play. These are broken on stage during the expulsion of the merchants by Jesus. The pottery in Oberammergau has been in her family for five generations. Only a few minutes' walk from the Passion Theatre, her grandfather Anton Lang, Jesus actor in the Passion Plays of 1900, 1910 and 1922, built her present workshop in 1903. There, Barbara Lampe tells us how her father first made clay jugs for the Passion Play in 1960. A lot has happened since then. In 1990, Barbara Lampe still made every single jug on the turntable.

By now, the jugs are produced with the help of a negative mould. The self-construction is a metal-reinforced plaster mould, which is lined with clay, which is obtained from the Westerwald. One half weighs over 150 kg and so Barbara Lampe is glad that her sons have taken over most of the sweaty work. After the two halves have been lined with clay, they are brought together, plastered and given the handles. Then they have to dry for two to three weeks before they are fired in the oven at over 1000 degrees. The finished clay jug weighs 25 to 30 kilograms.

Here the plaster mould is lined with clay (photo: Maximilian Mayet).

Once the two halves of the plaster mould have been lined, they are brought together (photo: Maximilian Mayet)

Then the handles are attached before the jug has to dry and is fired in the oven (photo: Maximilian Mayet)

The finished clay jugs in the Passion Play Theatre (photo: Franziska Zankl)

Barbara Lampe thinks it is nice to be part of this project and that everyone is pulling together. By postponing the Passion Play for two years, Barbara Lampe now has a special treat: Since she will soon be retiring, the clay jugs are now being completed. This will give her more time to rehearse in 2022. Benjamin, one of her sons, also benefits from the postponement. He is from Oberammergau, but since he had not lived in the village for the last four years, he was not eligible to play in 2020. The regulations stipulate that only people from Oberammergau or people who have lived there for 20 years are entitled to participate. Additionally, one must be registered in Oberammergau two years before the Passion Play takes place. In 2022 he fulfills the regulations and is therefore eligible to participate.

Expulsion of the merchants from the temple (photo: Arno Declair, 2010)

Glued jug from 2010 (photo: Frederik Mayet)

After Jesus broke the jugs when he drove the merchants out of the temple, the merchants glue them back together again in laborious small work. The amount of work depends on how hard the Jesus actor throws the jug. Josef Feichtner will be on stage as one of the merchants, as he was in 2010. "If we were lucky, it was less than 10 pieces, and if we were unlucky, the jug was completely disassembled." As an aid, lines of red chalk have been painted inside the jug so that the position of the shards can be determined more easily. Several hours of work in the merchants' dressing room are necessary to glue the jugs back together. Then they are signed by main and supporting actors and then auctioned off. Many actors have such a jug as a souvenir at home. The proceeds are used to organize a big village festival, but they also benefit social projects.

Text: Maximilian Mayet, Jenny Greza

Photos: Maximilian Mayet, Franziska Zankl, Arno Declair, Frederik Mayet