In Podcast 12 in my travel podcast series, I talk about visiting the Oberammergau Passion Play in Bavaria, Germany and also visiting the pilgrimage town of Altötting that’s known for the shrine of the Black Madonna where many miracles are believed to have taken place. You’ll hear about our walk around Altötting with many stories and anecdotes about the religious sites there and our afternoon cycling to the swimming lake or badesee. I’ll tell you about the painted houses of Oberammergau and wood carvings, with useful information for attending the Passion Play and my impressions of the play performance with background music from the Passion Play.
- We started our short visit to Bavaria in the town of Altötting, where we had a tour of the town with a local guide who really brought the place to life with his many stories and anecdotes.
- Altötting is best known as a pilgrimage town for the Shrine of the Black Madonna situated in the Chapel of Mercy on the main town square. The dark interior of the shrine and small dark statue of the Madonna and child are richly embellished with silver ornaments and the caskets containing the hearts of the Kings of Bavaria, as well as solid silver statues in front of the altar which have a story behind them.
- On our tour around Altötting we visited the church of Phillip and Jacob with the famous Tod von Eding clock with a statue of the grim reaper and the church of the patron saint of the town, St Conrad, and the water fountain outside his church where the water is thought to be holy as it flows over a relic of the saint’s finger bone.
- We heard about the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1980 and how he came to plant the linden tree outside the church.
- We also hired bikes at the local bike shop in Altötting and cycled along the path beside the River Inn as far as the badesee or swimming lake near Passau.
- The passion play at Oberammergau dates back to 1632 when plague was sweeping through Germany and the villagers made a vow that if they were spared, they would perform a passion play every 10 years.
- The play is a community effort and to participate, all the actors and musicians must be either born in the village or have lived for 20 years in the village.
- We found that everything was very well organised in the village for visitors and you buy a package of play ticket, meals and accommodation, with free shuttle buses to take you around the area.
- We found that the town of Oberammergau itself is an attractive place to visit, and even in the years when the play is not being held is well worth a visit, with painted houses and is also known for it’s wood carving.
- The play is performed in a large theatre which seats 4500 people and is open at one end with a view of the hills behind and although the audience are under cover, the cast and stage are open to the elements.
- I was impressed by the crowd scenes with around 200 cast members on stage at a time, including young children and animals, making a striking scene.
- The play starts with Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey and continues with scenes from his life which were broken up by orchestral and choral music and with ‘living tableaux’ scenes from the old testament.
- The first half of the play lasts for 2.5 hours starting at 2.30pm in the afternoon with a break of 3 hours for dinner before the start of the second half.
- The second half was more dramatic than the first with the trial of Jesus and his walk with the cross, culminating with the crucifixion scene. The darkness falling also added to the atmosphere and again the crowd scenes especially during the trial of Jesus really made you a sense of what it would have been like to be there.
- The play ends with the scene of Mary Magdalene in the garden discovering the cloth that Jesus’ body was wrapped in and Jesus comes forward and shows himself with the candles and torches really adding to the atmosphere.
- If you want to see the passion play, this year’s season will end in October 2010 and the next performance will be in 2020, as the play is only held every 10 years, so your best opportunity would be to check with specialist tour operators, whether they have any spaces left on organised tours.
If you enjoyed this travel podcast please check out my other podcasts in my Travel Podcast Archive
Visitor Resources for Altötting
While in Altötting we stayed in Hotel Zur Post, a pleasant and traditional family run hotel right on the main square.
Visit the Altötting official tourism website
Visit the Jerusalem Panorama in Altötting website
Information on the walking and cycling tours around Altötting
Visitor Resources for Oberammergau
Visit the Official Oberammergau Passion Play Passionsspiele website
Visit the Oberammergau official tourism website
We took our tour to Oberammergau with Pax Travel who organise holidays to many other pilgrimage destinations.
Looking for a hotel in Oberammergau? Compare prices and book at Hotels Combined
More articles about Oberammergau and Altötting