The New International Encyclopædia/Passion Play

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PASSION PLAY. A performance which takes place every tenth year in the village of Oberammergau, in the Bavarian highlands. In 1633, as an act of gratitude for the cessation of a plague which had desolated the surrounding country, the villagers vowed to represent the passion of Christ every ten years, and have ever since observed their vow. The inhabitants of this secluded spot, long noted for their skill in carving wood and ivory, have a rare union of artistic cultivation with perfect simplicity. The personator of Christ considers his part an act of religious devotion; he and the other principal performers are said to be selected for their holy life, and consecrated to their work with prayer. The players, about six hundred in number, are all villagers, who, though they have no artistic instruction except from the parish priest, act their parts with much dramatic power and a delicate appreciation of character. The Gospel narrative is closely followed; the acts alternate with tableaux from the Old Testament and choral odes. Many thousands of the peasantry are attracted by the spectacle from all parts of the Tyrol and Bavaria, among whom the same earnest and devout demeanor prevails as among the performers. Consult: Stead, The Passion Play (London, 1890); Grein, Das Oberammergauer Passionspiel (Leipzig, 1880), See Mystery.