The history of this work of art is singularly tragic. As the statue of St. John, which forms part of the group, was being drawn up the old mountain-road, in places perilously steep, it toppled over from the wagon, and fell upon the sculptor and his assistant, crushing the former to death instantly, while the latter died the next day in great agony. There seemed to me, therefore, something almost repulsive in this figure of the favorite disciple. Notwithstanding its beauty I felt as if the insensate stone had been a moral agent, and had committed parricide in thus taking the life of the author of its being. Descending once more into the town, I seated myself at the door of our little inn and looked about me at the village life. Before me was a wooden trough, above which rose a spout in the form of a pump. No handle to this was necessary, for from it flowed a constant stream of cool, pure mountain water. Thither, at intervals of five or ten minutes, all day long, came the people of the neighborhood: a woman with an empty pitcher, a laborer to quench his thirst, a boy to rinse some beer-mugs, or else a little maiden on her way to school, to wet the sponge suspended from her slate. Almost invariably these people bowed, and wished me "Guten Tag." Their courtesy and kind-heartedness were very pleasing.
A Royal Gift.
It is a remarkable fact, that, notwithstanding the crowds that come weekly all summer long from every land to witness something done nowhere else but here, these villagers of Ober-Ammergau have not become self-conceited and extortionate. There are but few exceptions to the rule that they are unspoiled, honest, and obliging. No doubt, if the great influx of rich tourists continued long, the character of the village would soon change; but nine years' enforced seclusion from the world affords an antidote to such short-lived and amazing fame.
In Front Of The Hotel.
Across the street, beyond the fountain, was a frescoed house, which, although built two hundred years ago, has still a substantial appearance. It is the home of Johann Lang, who, aside from his official rank as Btirgermeister, is one of the leading men in Ober-Ammer-gau. In 1890, not only were the finances of the Passion Play controlled by him, but he shared with Maier the care of issuing ticketsand assign-ing rooms to all the thousands who applied for them. At every hour of the day we saw a stream of letters, telegrams, or messages pouring in upon him. Some one appeared to be always going into or out of his house; and frequently a group of ten or twenty persons would assemble there, dissatisfied with the rooms assigned to them and clamorous for a change. The strain upon him must at times have been severe enough to ruffle the most serene of men; but he seemed able to reconcile all the discordant elements and at the same time to control himself. Upon his shoulders, too, in 1890, rested the responsibility of keeping harmony in the ranks of the performers. How difficult that must have been! Imagine what jealousies and bickerings there must be in such a little mountain village. It is true, the principal actors are selected by the people; but even after that is settled, the lesser troubles and minor annoyances must be endless.
Under The Kofel.
The assignment of the parts is made by a committee of forty-five villagers presided over by the priest, and the election day is in the last week in December of the year preceding the decennial performance. Before making their choice the members of the committee attend mass in the church, thereby indicating, and no doubt realizing, that what they do will be done under the influence of the purest motives and for the good of their religion. Each player is then required to rehearse his part at least four times a week, and the final rehearsal begins months before the opening of the dramatic season. In the year of my second visit, the Burgermeister was himself stage-manager, and had trained a number of subordinate actors in their parts nearly every day for at least six months before the Passion Play was presented, and was in all matters of dispute the ultimate authority. Yet, it is not to be wondered at that he should have been appointed to the post; for he first acted in the Passion Play when only four years old, and the representation of 1890 marked the fourth decennial festival in which he took the part of the high priest, Caiaphas.