Once-a-decade Passion Play starts in Oberammergau | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 16.05.2010
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Once-a-decade Passion Play starts in Oberammergau

It only happens every 10 years, but the production of the Passion of Christ in the Bavarian town of Oberammergau never fails to draw a crowd - even on a cold day in the outdoor theater.

An actor playing Jesus hanging on a cross

Frederik Mayet is one of two actors playing Jesus

It's been 10 years in the making - but the 2010 edition of the Passion Play in the southern German village of Oberammergau has finally made its debut.

The play depicting the life and crucifixion of Jesus Christ is actually a centuries old tradition in the Bavarian town. Legend has it that in 1633, the residents of Oberammergau promised God that if they were spared from the bubonic plague, they would stage the Passion Play every 10 years.

So far, the plague has stayed away, but the actors and spectators in the open-air theater where the play is performed have not been spared from the elements. Temperatures for the opening weekend were around 5 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit).

An actor playing Jesus

The open-air performance draws thousands. The chance to witness the spectacle only comes once every 10 years - since the 17th century

Chilly debut

Despite the gloomy weather, 4,700 spectators were on hand to take in the five-hour play, which features about half of Oberammergau's roughly 5,000 citizens.

Among the spectators was Bavarian State Premier Horst Seehofer, who asked "Am I dressed warmly enough?" after exiting his car upon his arrival in Oberammergau. He joined a bundled up crowd in taking in the performance on the opening night on Saturday.

The 41st edition of the play is being directed for the third time by Christian Stueckel. He made his debut as the play's director for the first time in 1990 as a 28-year-old. Like all of the play's participants, Stueckel was also born and raised in Oberammergau - one of the conditions of being allowed to take part. Exceptions are made to people who have moved into the town and lived there for 20 years.

The play's long history in Oberammergau has turned it into a popular destination for tourists from all over the world. During the play's run - around 100 shows through October 3 - as many as 500,000 guests could see the production.

Editor: Andreas Illmer

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