I made a sign to my photographer, and pulled the driver's coat-tail, as a hint for him to stop. The youth approached. His face was an agreeable one. His hair was parted in the middle and fell to the right and left upon his shoulders.

"Pardon me," said one of our party, "but I am told that you will assume this year the part of St. John."

"Yes," he replied, his face flushing with pleasure.

"But," I continued, "the programme states that your name is Rendl. Are you the son of Thomas Rendl, who acted the part of Pilate so admirably ten years ago?"

"I am," was the reply; "and he will personate that character again this season."

"Some of us had the pleasure of meeting your father in 1880," I rejoined, "and, if agreeable, we should like to call on him to-morrow."

Meantime I glanced inquiringly at the photographer.

"All right," he murmured.

This signified that "St. John's" portrait had been taken unawares, and in a moment more we were driving on.

Soon after this conversation I paused to note the little house which, I was told, was the home of Pilate and St. John - in other words, of Thomas Rendl and his son.

"Well," exclaimed my friend, who had been looking about him with a dazed expression, "I see that I have thus far been making a mistake. Up to this time I had supposed that Ober-Ammergau was an ordinary mountain village. But I now perceive that in many respects it is unique."

St. John

St. John.

"By the way," he presently resumed, "what has become of the man who took the part of St. John ten years ago?"

"He is now playing the role of Judas Iscariot," was the reply. My friend shuddered.

"Furthermore," I added, "either through accident or design, "Judas" is the agent here this year for several parties of excursion tourists." My friend took out his handkerchief and mopped his brow.

"The trouble with you," I said to him, as we drove through the main street of the town, "is that you have not yet adapted yourself to your environment. You secretly expect to see these actors of the Passion Play, clad in their Oriental robes, standing around the streets in picturesque positions. St. John in shirt-sleeves startles you. The Roman centurion's horse drawing a load of wood inspires you with horror; and Herod playing with his babies seems entirely out of place. You are experiencing in a higher degree the disenchantment that you feel in seeing on the street, in citizen's dress, with his wife leaning on his arm, the actor who an hour before had electrified you as Othello. Of course, one way to see the Passion Play would be to come here on Sunday morning, and leave directly after the performance. But in this way one would see nothing of the village; and to view the Passion Play without the village would be like seeing a diamond without its setting. The great marvel of the Ober-Ammergau spectacle is to behold these pious mountaineers faithfully carrying out the vow of their forefathers, and under that great inspiration rising from the farm and workshop worthily to portray the historic characters connected with the life of Christ."

The Home Of Pilate And St. John

The Home Of Pilate And St. John.

Thus speaking, we had approached the village church, - a weather-beaten structure, above which glittered in the sunlight a richly gilded cross.

"Stop for a moment," exclaimed my friend, "till in the shadow of this sacred edifice you answer me one question: What is done with all the money gained by these performances? Are not these people "That is easily and satisfactorily explained," was the answer. "The money received is divided into four parts. The first, and much the largest, share, is used to defray the expenses of building the theatre, and of providing suitable stage appliances and costumes for the performers; another part is laid aside as a permanent village-improvement fund; a third share is devoted to the church and to the poor of the community; while the remainder is apportioned among some seven hundred actors. In 1880, Joseph Maier received for his whole summer's work, from May to October, about two hundred dollars. Certainly these villagers are not actuated by mercenary motives; for repeated offers of large sums of money have been made them to perform their drama in various parts of Europe, and even in America; but these have always been emphatically declined."

The Passion Play 261

While this explanation was being given, we had approached the churchyard, where we beheld a fine bronze bust erected to the memory of the pastor of the village, Father Daisen-berger, who died in 1883. This worthy priest devoted his whole life to the mental and spiritual elevation of his people. It was he who persuaded them to leave the churchyard where, until then, the Play had been performed, and to build an open-air theatre with a suitable stage. Not only did he carefully revise the text of the original Passion Play, but he also composed for his parishioners some admirable dramas on religious subjects, and carefully adapted to their use a number of the plays of Schiller, and even the Antigone of Sophocles, that they might thus acquire greater dramatic training and rise to a high standard of appreciation.