The CBB -> Anything Else

#1: Oberammergau Author: KBLocation: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2004 7:48 pm

…the famous festivals of Germany, the passion plays of Oberammergau, seem to have deteriorated to an almost blasphemous caricature of the once so touchingly humble and truly Christian spectacle…

Although the festivals only take place every ten years, the picturesque mountain community in the Alps, about sixty miles from the Bavarian capital, lives entirely from the Passionsspiele. In the Middle Ages, Oberammergau was miraculously saved from the plague and its inhabitants pledged themselves to reenact the passion of the Christ regularly every ten years on the anniversary of their deliverance. Between 1634 and 1930 some magnificent performances were given by the peasants of the picturesque toy village. Though Oberammergau has barely 6000 inhabitants, it has produced some of the finest talents in Germany.

During the last war – perhaps by an irony of fate – the men who used to play Christ, John, Peter and other apostles, all became ardent followers of the Fuehrer. Under the leadership of one of them, the superb and historic cloister of nearby Ettal was looted. Mayor Anton Lang, for years the world famous Christ of the Passion plays, became a Stormtrooper.

After the war, when preparations for the opening of the Oberammergau festivals and a new and sumptuous theatre was erected, the whole of Oberammergau became a big commercial enterprise. The prosperity of the shopkeepers, hotel owners and famed woodcarvers depends on their names being printed in sufficiently large type in the programmes of the festival. To obtain parts in the play, a race started compared with which the competitions and intrigues of Broadway seem innocent. Since the roles are distributed according to the results of an election in which the whole village participates, elections campaigns took place which made American presidential elections look like friendly games of amateurs. Before the last election in 1950, handbills were distributed accusing one of the candidates for the role of the Virgin Mary of adultery, while on the other hand photos circulated showing the candidate for the role of Christ in his old SA uniform. Actually, since politically the whole town was on the doubtful side, the only non-party member was the performer of Judas!

Habe, Hans. Our Love Affair With Germany. New York: G P Putnam’s Sons, 1953 (p. 205-206).


#2: Re: Oberammergau Author: LulieLocation: Middlesbrough PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2004 7:54 pm

KB wrote:
Actually, since politically the whole town was on the doubtful side, the only non-party member was the performer of Judas!

Is that's what is called irony?


#3:  Author: DawnLocation: Leeds, West Yorks PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2004 7:56 pm


I can remember seeing a programme about the one in the 90's and it did look very commercial with a massive theatre and thousands of tourists wandering around. Also have a feeling that nowadays you probably have to book years in advance, none of this just being able to go when your friends are going


#4:  Author: LesleyLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2004 9:00 pm

How sad.


#5:  Author: patmacLocation: Yorkshire England PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2004 10:45 pm

I can't think of anything to say, except to agree with Lesley.

I always wanted to go to it since I read about it in the CS but have struck it off my list of places to go.


#6:  Author: KBLocation: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2004 10:55 pm

Having been there twice, it is still a lovely place to visit, with spectacular views and the most glorious frescoes on the buildings, all of a religious themes. You can also get good woodcarvings and things there.


#7:  Author: Kathy_SLocation: midwestern US PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2004 5:06 am

Anna said, “Come on in and see Tony!” And they all trooped into a workshop filled with the tile stoves, plates, jugs, and vases that Anton Lang made. There were several men in the shop, but Betsy recognized the Christus before he put down his tools and turned to greet them.

He was slightly stooped, and word wore clothes, dusty from his craft. He had flowing light brown hair and beard, and a strong face with keen, humorous, light-blue eyes. His stoop was humble but his whole manner expressed a simple natural dignity. Like his wife, he spoke in English.

“What a happy family!” Betsy commented as she and Tilda and the Baumgartens walked home.

“Tony is a good man,” Onkel Max said. “No man is chosen for the Christ unless his life is blameless.”

(and a lot more, all emphasizing kindness, piety and refusal to do things for money…)
-Maud Hart Lovelace, Betsy and the Great World, set in 1914.

*hopes this wasn’t the same Anton Lang*
Wouldn't he have been awfully old for a storm trooper? but either way …. overwhelmingly sad Sad

(My picture of Oberammergau is a combination of Betsy's and Jo's views -- their reactions were remarkably similar.)


#8:  Author: KBLocation: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2004 6:38 am

Kathy_S wrote:
*hopes this wasn’t the same Anton Lang*
Wouldn't he have been awfully old for a storm trooper? but either way …. overwhelmingly sad Sad

I found a picture of someone who might be him here (it looks the way I imagine him anyway). And here's another of him with Henry Ford. I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions on that one.

I also thought this might both cheer people up a little and interest them. He performed in the Passion Plays of 1900, 1910 and 1922.

Interestingly I also found a site that suggests Anton Lang left Oberammergau in 1937, so maybe he wasn't a storm trooper. That said, I found this:
[Billy] Wilder was briefly a colonel in the US Army, overseeing a program to prevent former Nazis from working in theater or films in postwar Germany. When asked whether ex-Nazi Anton Lang could play Christ in the Oberammergau passion play, he responded, "Permission granted, but the nails have to be real."

And this leaves me to wonder just what kind of a person he really was:

St. James Episcopal Church, Eufaula, AL
The Altar: The main Altar, reredos ( carved wooden decoration behind the Altar, around the window) and retable (the ledge upon which flowers and candles are set) were hand carved by Anton Lang. Lang, a German, had been a prisoner of war in the United States. He later played Christ in the famous Passion Play in Oberammergau, Bavaria. Lang is believed to have carved at least two other altars for churches in the Carolinas, but this cannot be verified. Our Altar was commissioned by Tade S. Merrill in memory of her husband, A. H. Merrill, and consecrated on December 7, 1928.

The Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour, Minnesota
The Bishop's Throne, not to be confused with the Cathedra, was added in the Choir area in the 1930's. Some of the carving on the Throne was done by Anton Lang of Oberammergau. Found at the Throne is the Bishop's Crozier made of wood, ebony and ivory. In a circle of little shrines are inscribed the name of Bishop Whipple and his spiritual Fathers in God; Gregory the Great, St. Augustine of Canterbury, Archbishop Parker, Archbishop Moore, Bishops White and Kemper. The Crozier was presented to the Bishop by his clergy on the occasion of his 25th anniversary in 1884.


#9:  Author: AllyLocation: Jack Maynard's Dressing Room!! PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2004 9:50 am

That really is very sad. I remembered reading about it for the performances in 2000 and thinking it had become very commercialised.

Thank you for all the info KB Very Happy


#10:  Author: SusanLocation: Carlisle PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2004 10:53 am

Something else that has fallen into the hands of man and mass commercialism as others have said how said.

Wonder if Anton Lang had a son called Anton Lang and therefore were there two of them?


#11:  Author: JackieJLocation: Kingston upon Hull PostPosted: Tue Dec 07, 2004 1:27 pm

We drove through Oberammergau when we were in Germany two years ago, and it was literally just driving through. There was no parking anywhere. It did look nice, but because literally everyone was visiting there, it did seem to have become over-commercialised.



#12:  Author: StephLocation: Blackpool, Lancashire PostPosted: Wed Dec 08, 2004 2:08 pm

I agree, how sad it has come to this Crying or Very sad

I have also always wanted to visit it after reading about it in CS and Jo, but if the commercialisation is true, it would spoil the picture I had in my head of it, if that makes any sense.

By the way- is the Passion of the Christ film good? I thought it was based upon the Passion Play is this true?


#13:  Author: LizBLocation: Oxon, England PostPosted: Wed Dec 08, 2004 2:19 pm

Passion of Christ film has had mixed reviews from the people who I've known who've watched it.

I went with my mother-in-law - she couldn't watch parts of it, I (usually squeamish, won't watch horror films, which she loves) couldn't keep my eyes off the screen and sat rivited the whole time even though I was getting more and more desperate for the loo!

Someone I know cried the whole way through, someone else wasn't moved by it at all. My vicar fell asleep during it Rolling Eyes

I think it is definitely worth watching. Then make up your own mind, because I one of those films that can evoke a very personal reaction.



#14:  Author: Dreaming MarianneLocation: Devon PostPosted: Wed Dec 08, 2004 8:02 pm

Steph wrote:

By the way- is the Passion of the Christ film good? I thought it was based upon the Passion Play is this true?

We-ell...I went to see it with some people from my post-Alpha group. I thought the Latin/Aramaic actually worked really well, after five minutes you did not notice it at all. Some interesting portrayals, notably of Satan, whom I could not keep my eyes off, it was horrific. I loved one of the scenes, showing Mary and Jesus at home, with jesus working. It was just so natural and domestic, really lovely.

The violence was horrendous and explicit. But then the Passion wasn't the sanitised trickle of blood in the pictures, it was probably exactly like that. I forced myself to watch it on the basis that I believe in Jesus, the Son of God who gave his life for us. Shouldn't I be fully aware of what He gave? (I don't mean that as a general opinion by the way, it's just how I felt, that I couldn't choose my beliefs a la carte, I don't mean that anyone who doesn't think that is wrong)

On the flip side, I was bored at times, and felt that unless you have a personal interest or faith, it wasn't terribly good. I'm not a film critic, but I wouldn't have given it a very good review.

Bit muddled-hope it makes sense!


#15:  Author: KateLocation: Ireland PostPosted: Wed Dec 08, 2004 9:04 pm

I hated Passion of the Christ. I cried all the way through. And personal stuff aside, I thought, as a media student, that it was just a really bad film.


#16:  Author: Kathy_SLocation: midwestern US PostPosted: Thu Dec 09, 2004 3:51 am

Tonight I asked some people who'd gone to Oberammergau for the 2000 Passion Play about the commercialization issue. Their verdict was that yes, the town is definitely commercialized, though not offensively so. However, they were uniformly impressed by the play itself! Caveat: This was an archdiocesan tour group, so there was probably some predisposition there. On the other hand, the individuals in question are a diverse bunch, and, as one of them put it, "Even Lucy liked it."


#17:  Author: MarianneLocation: Lancaster PostPosted: Fri Dec 24, 2004 12:10 am

I really want to go in 2010!
I guess comercialisation is inevitable...sadly...


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