Painted houses and wood carving at Oberammergau – in Bavaria, Germany

July 16, 2010 by  

On our recent trip to see the Passion Play at Oberammergau, we strolled around town admiring the painted houses or Luftlmalerei for which this small Bavarian town is renowned. The famous Oberammergau Passion Play only takes place every 10 years and in the years in between, the town is still a popular place to visit with picturesque, painted  Alpine houses with carved balconies fringed with pink and red geraniums.

Pilatus House in Oberammergau, Germany

Pilatus House in Oberammergau, Germany

The town has also been known for centuries as a centre of skilled wood carving, as farmers needed to find ways to earn extra income through the long hard winters, when the village was under snow. Wood carvers from Oberammergau were renowned for their skill, some specialising in crucifixes, others in wooden painted religious figures and crib scenes, others in brightly coloured toys, using locally grown linden and alder wood. As the industry grew, street traders or Kraxentrager would travel all over Europe selling these carvings from wooden frames or Kraxe on their backs and in the 18th and 19th centuries residents left the village to set up successful retail businesses selling the wood carvings.

House Georg Lang in Oberammergau in Bavaria, Germany

House Georg Lang in Oberammergau in Bavaria, Germany

Painted house in Oberammergau in Bavaria, Germany

Painted house in Oberammergau in Bavaria, Germany

The house paintings originated from the 18th century and started when the houses were given painted window surrounds to embellish the simple facades, and later religious and fairy tale scenes became popular. The term for these painted houses or Luftlmalerei originated from one of the earliest local artists ‘Franz Seraph Zwinck’ who lived in the house called Zum Luftl. He also designed one of the local parish churches and painted the well known Pilatus house which is now used as a craft gallery with wood carving demonstrations and has an attractive small formal garden. In the 20th century the religious themes were extended to fairy tales and some of the houses are painted with scenes from Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel using the same traditional style.

Heinzeller House in Oberammergau in Bavaria, Germany

Painted house in Oberammergau in Bavaria, Germany

Painted house in Oberammergau in Bavaria, Germany

Painted house in Oberammergau in Bavaria, Germany

If you’d like to learn more about the history of wood carving in Overammergau you can visit the small local history museum in the centre of town with displays of modern and traditional carvings and objects – the craft is very much alive today and you can see demonstrations in locations such as the Pilatus House. There are plenty of shops selling the carved,  painted wooden figures and crucifix and others selling wooden toys and Christmas decorations. The town is well worth a visit in the summer with plenty of beautiful walks in the surrounding mountains and is a good base to see local cultural attractions such as the decorative Royal Palace and gardens at Linderhof and the Benedictine Abbey at Ettal.

More information about the Oberammergau Passion Play is available on the Official Website

This article is posted as part of Photo Friday hosted at Delicious Baby – head over to check out all the other Delicious Friday photos.

Looking for a hotel in Oberammergau? Compare prices and book at Hotels Combined

Enjoy some more articles about Bavaria in Germany

A cycle ride and a cool lake swim in the badesee
Passion, music and drama at Oberammergau in Bavaria, Germany
Tips for seeing the Oberammergau Passion Play


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Comments

24 Comments on "Painted houses and wood carving at Oberammergau – in Bavaria, Germany"

  1. ross on Fri, 16th Jul 2010 9:43 am 

    Love the painted houses what a cool idea, I have bever seen that before.
    ross´s last blog post ..York- Leeds and 2 Nights in an Etap Hotel

  2. Kerry on Fri, 16th Jul 2010 10:05 am 

    some of the players from the Oberamemrgau Passion Play gave a presentation we went to when I was small — still remember that. thanks for sharing your trip.
    Kerry´s last blog post ..national drum month- bodhran

  3. Wanderluster on Fri, 16th Jul 2010 2:04 pm 

    Love the paintings on the buildings! It makes it so whimsical.
    Wanderluster´s last blog post ..Photo of the Day- Pacific Northwest Summer

  4. Randy @thelollipoproad on Fri, 16th Jul 2010 2:24 pm 

    We were in Germany many years ago during the holiday season and we really enjoyed visiting Oberammergau…it truly is a picture perfect Bavarian village.
    Randy @thelollipoproad´s last blog post ..Top Of The Rock Is Tops For Families

  5. Donna Hull on Fri, 16th Jul 2010 11:52 pm 

    I knew about the passion play but I had no idea about Oberammergau’s Bavarian charms. You’ve made me want to vist!
    Donna Hull´s last blog post ..And The Winner of the Big Book of BBQ Is…

  6. Mark H on Sat, 17th Jul 2010 2:36 am 

    The house painting makes for such a colourful village. Fine photos.
    Mark H´s last blog post ..The Wooden Wonderland of Nimis Arild- Sweden

  7. Jen on Sat, 17th Jul 2010 4:35 am 

    One of my favorite pieces of jewelry is a necklace with beautifully carved wooden beads that I got from a little wood shop in Oberammergau. Thanks for sharing a little more history about the town.
    Jen´s last blog post ..The Great Smoky Mountains

  8. Barbara at Hole in the Donut Travels on Sun, 18th Jul 2010 11:21 pm 

    Reminds me of Lucerne, Switzerland, where all the houses in the old town were painted, although they weren’t of religious scenes r fairy tales. Too bad you only had a day to wander around. I’d have wanted to wander forever.

  9. Five hidden hot-spots in Amsterdam | Heather on her travels on Mon, 19th Jul 2010 10:31 pm 

    [...] Painted houses and wood carving at Oberammergau – in Bavaria, Germany An autumn weekend in Lisbon – Podcast Episode 5 Sea caves and a boat trip – in Sardinia [...]

  10. Anne on Wed, 21st Jul 2010 10:57 am 

    Nice picture! very admiring…

  11. Tips for seeing the Oberammergau Passion Play | Heather on her travels on Sat, 24th Jul 2010 12:44 pm 

    [...] Passion, music and drama at Oberammergau in Germany Painted houses and wood carving at Oberammergau – in Bavaria, Germany [...]

  12. Oberammergau Passion Play and Altötting in Bavaria - Podcast | Heather on her travels on Sun, 8th Aug 2010 9:34 am 

    [...] 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 [...]

  13. Evelyn Chutes on Tue, 7th Sep 2010 7:10 pm 

    What wonderful pictures of Oberammergau. We were at the play in August. I was especially interested in the wood carving of Adam and Eve. I can’t remember the name of the artist and would like to know what the other three carvings are. I know one was Cain slaying Abel. Would like to know how to get copies of some of your pictures. Thanks.

  14. Heather Cowper on Tue, 7th Sep 2010 8:23 pm 

    @ Evelyn Chutes Yes I remember those wonderful wood carvings, they were in the local Oberammergau museum – I found this link and believe they could be the work of Michael Joseph Fux
    http://www.ammergauer-alpen.de/en/oberammergau/100-years-oberammergaumuseum.html

    You can find all my pictures on my Flickr site – you can follow the link from the Flickr pictures at the bottom of the post or the link is below – you are welcome to download them and if you wish to use for commercial purposes, please credit them to Heather on her travels
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/heatheronhertravels/sets/72157624346498287/

  15. Hels on Wed, 13th Oct 2010 11:59 am 

    I think your descriptions (text and images) of the town were terrific. After all, the play is only on once every decade; tourists on the other hand come all the time. You are the only blog I could find that describes what to see on the other 9 years.

    Thanks for the link
    Hels
    http://melbourneblogger.blogspot.com/2010/10/oberammergaus-passion-play-2010.html

  16. Ashley Renaud on Sat, 23rd Oct 2010 3:39 pm 

    I loved your article. I went to the Passion Play in 2000 and enjoyed it and the town immensely.

  17. Heather Cowper on Sun, 24th Oct 2010 4:18 pm 

    @ Hels Yes, Oberammergau is definitely a special place to visit even when the passion play’s not on.

    @ Ashley – so pleased you enjoyed reading the article and hope it brings back happy memories from your previous visit

  18. Bronze sculptures for sale on Sun, 12th Dec 2010 3:26 pm 

    Once the final sculpture is complete it will be molded and cast in whatever material you choose.

  19. alex on Thu, 27th Jan 2011 7:00 pm 

    awesome, what a great way to make houses look more interesting, some of those designs are beautiful.
    alex´s last blog post ..Glazier Doncaster

  20. Heather Cowper on Sat, 5th Feb 2011 7:35 pm 

    @ Alex Yes I love all kinds of street art and it’s interesting to see it used in a traditional setting rather than being branded as vandalism

  21. Where Heather travelled in 2010 | Heather on her travels on Wed, 16th Feb 2011 10:14 pm 

    [...] resurrection of Christ. Afterwards we were also able to wander around the town itself to see the painted houses and wood carvings against the backdrop of stunning Alpine scenery. We also stayed for a couple of days in the [...]

  22. Oberammergau Passion Play 2010 | Heather on her travels on Sat, 7th May 2011 12:04 pm 

    [...] 12 Oberammergau Passion Play and Altötting in Bavaria – Podcast Tips for seeing the Oberammergau Passion Play Painted houses and wood carving at Oberammergau – in Bavaria, Germany [...]

  23. Bavarian food from Germany | Heather on her travels on Sat, 7th May 2011 12:06 pm 

    [...] Painted houses and wood carving at Oberammergau – in Bavaria, Germany Tips for seeing the Oberammergau Passion Play The latest Dirndl fashions from Bavaria – in Munich [...]

  24. KELLY O'DONNELL on Wed, 25th Jul 2012 1:08 am 

    I HAVE SOME LOVELY HAND CARVINGS THAT MY AUNT GOT WHEN SHE WAS STATION OVER SEAS. SHE WAS IN THE USMC FOR 35 YEARS. WHY SHE WAS IN GERMANY FOR ONLY 4 YEARS SHE BROUGHT HOME THIS CARVINGS THEY SAY UNDER THEM W. u. HEINZELLER HGIZSCHMTZEREI, I WOULD LIKE TO NO WHAT THEY ARE WORTH. I’M SICK AND MY TREATMENT IS VERY COSTLY, I HATE T SELL THEM BUT I NEED TE MEDICINE. THANK YOU…KELLY O’DONNELL FROM NC.

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