Simon The Cyrenian.
True, therefore, is his simple epitaph: "His works do follow him" ; for not alone do the inhabitants of Ober-Ammer-gau, every ten years, enact the Passion Play; but, at frequent intervals, winter and summer, on a permanent stage, they still perform the secular plays adapted for them by their pastor.
The spirit of this worthy priest, and his belief in the peculiar duty which this village had been set apart to do for Christ and for His church are well exemplified in his own lines:
" Praise be to God! He hath this vale created To show to man the glory of His name; And these wide hills the Lord hath consecrated, Where He His love eternal may proclaim."
The oldest text-book of the Passion Play now extant bears the date 1662 and is in the possession of the Burgermeister of the village. It shows that the performances in those early days must have been very crude and realistic, for the Devil was then one of the prominent actors, and would dance about Judas while the latter was being tempted, and finally rush upon Iscariot's body, attended by a retinue of imps when the betrayer had hanged himself. In those days also, just before the play commenced, a messenger would rush upon the stage with a letter from Lucifer, "the Prince of Hell," requesting the audience not to be affected by the Play, but to make all the disturbance they could during the performance, promising to reward them well when they should subsequently make him a visit! But those grotesque features of the Passion Play have gradually disappeared, as priest after priest revised the text and adapted the old drama to the tastes and ideas of modern times.
Christ And The Beloved Disciple.
Turning at length from the churchyard, we fell at once from the ideal to the practical. We were the earliest visitors of the season of 1890 - a small advance-guard of the approaching army - the first drops of the expected shower. True, hundreds of tickets had been bought and rooms engaged for weeks in advance. Thousands, it was said, were on the way. But we had arrived. For ten long years the little hamlet had been almost lifeless and forgotten. Now it was once more quivering with excitement, and, like a comet at its periodic visitation, was sweeping from its long obscurity into the vision of mankind. The villagers, therefore, looked on us as the first tangible proofs of the great change.
Christ Entering The Temple.
Accordingly, our entry almost equalled that of royalty. Nothing was too good for us. Our host and hostess were especially elated at having the first visitors assigned to them. Hence it was with considerable difficulty that we avoided being "killed by kindness." The utmost tact, for example, was necessary to escape being overwhelmed with gifts of hot sausages, served like Huyler's caramels, "fresh every hour." Moreover, at the least sign from us that we were thirsty, Bavarian beer would flow ad libitum.
"Welcome!" exclaimed our landlady, her round face wreathed in smiles; "our one room with a carpet shall be the lecturer's; the lawyer shall be sandwiched between our warmest feather-beds; and as for the photographer, he shall have a room, whose nearness to the stable has for its compensation a view of a four-footed actor in the Passion Play, - the ass, used in the entry into Jerusalem."
A Street In Ober-Ammergal'.
Next morning (we had come here several days before the first performance) I strolled out through the town for new impressions. My steps first led me to a colossal group of statuary placed on a hillside just above the village. This was presented to the people of Ober-Ammergau by the King of Bavaria in 1875, as a token of his appreciation of their piety.