Origin and history of the Passion play by EXU3I6PL


									Origin and history of the Passion play

The Easter play
The evolution of the Passion Play was about the same as that of the
Easter Play. It originated in the ritual of the Church, which prescribes,
among other things, that the Gospel on Good Friday should be sung in
parts divided among various persons. Later on, Passion Plays, properly so
called, made their appearance, first in Latin, then in German; contents and
forms were adapted more and more audience expectations, until, in the
fifteenth century, the popular religious plays had developed. Thus, the
Benedictbeurn Passion Play (thirteenth century) is still largely composed of
Latin ritual sentences in prose and of church hymns, and, being designed
to be sung, resembles an oratorio. (note: cults dedicated to the Egyptian
God Osiris also had Passion Plays long before Christianity was a religion,
see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osiris)

The addition of more music and more characters
Yet even this oldest of the Passion Plays already shows, by the
interpolation of free translations of church hymns and of German verses
not pertaining to such hymns, as well as by the appearance of Mary (the
Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus) and Mary Magdalene in the action, a
tendency to break away from the ritual and to adopt a more dramatic form
began to appear. From these humble beginnings the Passion Play
developed very rapidly, since in the fourteenth century it was at a stage of
development which could not have been reached except by repeated
practice. From this second period we have the Vienna Passion, the St. Gall
Passion, the oldest Frankfort Passion, and the Maestricht Passion. All four
Plays, as they are commonly called, are written in rhyme, principally in
The Passion Play continues to expand
The Vienna Passion embraces the entire history of the Redemption, and
begins with the revolt and fall of Lucifer; the play, as transmitted to us,
ends with Jesus and his Twelve Apostles sitting at the Last Supper.
The oldest Frankfort Passion play, that of Canon Baldemar von Peterwell
(1350-1380), the production of which required two days, was more
profusely elaborated than the other Passion Plays of this period. Of this
play only the Ordo sive Registrum has come down to us, a long roll of
parchment for the use of the director, containing stage directions and the
first words of the dialogues. The plays based on this list of directions lead
us to the period in which the Passion Play reached its highest development
(1400-1515). During this period the later Frankfort Passion Play (1467), the
Alsfelder, and the Friedberger (1514) originated. Connected with this group
are the Eger, the Donaueschingen, Augsburg, Freising and Lucerne
Passion Plays, in which the whole world drama, beginning with the
creation of man and brought down to the coming of the Holy Ghost, is
exhibited, and which was produced with great splendour as late as 1583.

The Tyrolese Passion Play

Expansion and consolidation of previous plays
Nearly all these Passion Plays have some relation to those coming from
the Tyrol, some contributing to, others taking from, that source. These,
again, are founded upon the Tyrolese Passion Play which originated
during the transition period of the fourteenth to the fifteenth century.
Wackernell, with the aid of the plays that have reached us, has
reconstructed this period. In the Tyrol the Passion Plays received
elaborate cultivation; at Bozen they were presented with great splendour
and lasted seven days. Here, too, the innovation of placing the female
roles in the hands of women was introduced, which innovation did not
become general until during the seventeenth century.

Elaborate, public productions
The magnificent productions of the Passion Plays during the fifteenth
century are closely connected with the growth and increasing self-
confidence of the cities, which found its expression in noble buildings,
ecclesiastical and municipal, and in gorgeous public festivals. The artistic
sense and the love of art of the citizens had, in co-operation with the
clergy, called these plays into being, and the wealth of the citizens
provided for magnificent productions of them on the public squares,
whither they migrated after expulsion from the churches. The citizens and
civil authorities considered it a point of honour to render the production as
rich and diversified as possible. Ordinarily the preparations for the play
were in the hands of a spiritual brotherhood, the play itself being
considered a form of worship. People of the most varied classes took part
in the production, and frequently the number of actors was as high as two
hundred and even greater. If was undoubtedly no small task to drill the
performers, particularly since the stage arrangements were still very

Staging and set design
The stage was a wooden structure, almost as broad as it was long,
elevated but slightly above the ground and open on all sides. A house
formed the background; a balcony attached to the house represented
Heaven. Under the balcony three crosses were erected. Sometimes the
stage was divided into three sections by doors. Along the sides of the
stage, taken lengthwise, stood the houses required for the production; they
were indicated by fenced-in spaces, or by four posts upon which a roof
rested. The entrance into Hell was pictured by the mouth of a monster,
through which the Devil and the souls captured or released during the
plays passed back and forth. The actors entered in solemn procession, led
by musicians or by a præcursor (herald), and took their stand at the places
appointed them. They remained on the stage all through the performance;
they sat on the barriers of their respective divisions, and were permitted to
leave their places only to recite their lines. As each actor finished
speaking, he returned to his place. The audience stood around the stage
or looked on from the windows of neighbouring houses. Occasionally
platforms, called "bridges", were erected around the stage in the form of an

Simplicity of scenery, dialog, action, and costumes
The scenery was as simple as the stage. There were no side scenes, and
consequently no stage perspective. Since an illusion of reality could not be
had, indications were made to suffice. Thus a cask standing on end
represents the mountain on which Christ is tempted by the Devil; thunder
is imitated by the report of a gun; in order to signify that the Devil had
entered into him, Judas holds a bird of black plumage before his mouth
and makes it flutter. The suicide of Judas is an execution, in which
Beelzebub performs the hangman's duty. He precedes the culprit up the
ladder and draws Judas after him by a rope. Judas has a black bird and
the intestines of an animal concealed in the front of his clothing, and when
Satan tears open the garment the bird flies away, and the intestines fall
out, whereupon Judas and his executioner slide down into Hell on a rope.
A painted picture representing the soul, is hung from the mouth of each of
the two thieves on the cross; an angel takes the soul of the penitent, the
devil that of the impenitent thief. Everything is presented in the concrete,
just as the imagination of the audience pictures it, and the scenic
conditions, resembling those of the antique theatre demand. All costume,
however, is contemporary, historical accuracy being ignored.
Secularization of the Passion Play
The Passion Plays of the 15th century, with their peculiar blending of
religious, artistic, and increasingly secular elements, gave a true picture of
German city life of those times. Serious thought and lively humour were
highly developed in these plays. When, however, the patricians, in the
sixteenth century, withdrew more and more from the plays, the plays, left
to the lower classes, began to lose their serious and (in spite of the comic
traits) dignified character. The influence of the Carnival plays
(Fastnachtspiele) was felt more and more. Master Grobianus with his
coarse and obscene jests was even introduced into some of the Passion
Plays. In time the ecclesiastical authorities forbade the production of these
"secularized"[citation needed] plays. Thus, the Bishop of Havelberg
commanded his clergy, in 1471, to suppress the Passion Plays and legend
plays in their parish districts because of the disgraceful and irrelevant
farces interspersed through the productions.

Secularized Passion Plays banned
With the advent of the 16th century European religious conflict the
uneasiness with liturgical drama in general increased. The Synod of
Strasburg of 1549 opposed the religious plays, and the year previous, in
1548, the Parliament of Paris forbade the production of The Mysteries of the
Passion of our Redeemer and other Spiritual Mysteries. One consequence was
that the secularized plays were separated from the religious, and, as
Carnival plays, held the public favour. The Passion Plays came to be
presented more rarely, particularly as the Reformation was inimical to

Rediscovery of the Passion Play

The Passion Play almost disappears
School dramas now came into vogue in Catholic and Protestant schools,
and frequently enough became the battle-ground of religious
controversies. When, in the seventeenth century, the splendidly equipped
Jesuit drama arose, the Passion Plays (still largely secularized) were
relegated to out-of-the-way villages and to the monasteries, particularly in
Bavaria and Austria. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, during the
Age of Enlightenment, efforts were made in Catholic Germany, particularly
in Bavaria and the Tyrol, to destroy even the remnants of the tradition of
medieval plays.

A resurgence of public interest
Public interest in the Passion Play developed in the last decades of the
nineteenth century, and the statistician Karl Pearson wrote a book about
Since then, Brixlegg and Vorderthiersee in the Tyrol and Horice na
Sumave, near Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic, and above all, the
Oberammergau in Upper Bavaria attract thousands to their plays.
The text of the play of Vorderthiersee (Gespiel in der Vorderen Thiersee)
dates from the second half of the seventeenth century, is entirely in verse,
and comprises in five acts the events recorded in the Gospel, from the Last
Supper to the Entombment. A prelude (Vorgespiel), on the Good
Shepherd, precedes the play. After being repeatedly remodelled, the text
received its present classical form from the Austrian Benedictine, P.
Weissenhofer. Productions of the play, which came from Bavaria to the
Tyrol in the second half of the eighteenth century, were arranged at
irregular intervals during the first half of the nineteenth century; since 1855
they have taken place at regular intervals, at Brixlegg every ten years. The
Höritz Passion Play, the present text of which is from the pen of Provost
Landsteiner, has been produced every five years, since 1893.

Modern performances of the Passion Play

The Oberammergau Passion Play
The chief survivor, however, of former times is the Oberammergau
Passion Play, first performed in the Bavarian village of Oberammergau,
which continues to perform it every decade despite concerns from Jewish
groups that feel the performances promote anti-Semitism.[citation needed]

United States
  One of the most widely viewed Passion Plays in the United States is "The
     Promise", performed near Glen Rose, Texas. Between Glen Rose,
         and its sister production in Branson, Missouri, over 1 million people
         have seen The Promise.
  In Eureka Springs, Arkansas, "The Great Passion Play" is regularly
      performed. Since its first performance in 1968, The Great Passion
      Play in Eureka Springs has been seen by over 7.5 million people
      making it the largest attended outdoor drama in America. Also on the
      grounds of The Great Passion Play is the Christ of the Ozarks statue
      (the largest Christ statue in the North America), the New Holy Land
      Tour, a full-scale re-creation of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, a
      section of the Berlin Wall, a Museum of Earth History, and Bible
      Museum. From time to time popular artists visit The Great Passion
      Play to perform in the 550 ft. amphitheater where the play is held.
      The Great Passion Play of Eureka Springs can be seen from the last
      weekend of April to the last weekend of October with performances
    four and five nights a week. For more information about this Passion
    Play, visit[1]. The Play has also been performed in Hughes Springs,
    Texas as "The Passion Play".
The longest running passion play in the U.S. has been performed in
    Union City, New Jersey since 1915, and at the Park Theater since
    1931. In 1997, there was a minor controversy when an African-
    American actor was cast as Jesus.
In Zion, Illinois, the passion play has been performed at Christ
     Community Church since 1935.
The NORTH HEIGHTS PASSION PLAY was a popular indoor musical
    stage production sponsored by North Heights Lutheran Church of
    Arden Hills, Minnesota, a suburb of the Twin Cities. The Minneapolis
    Star-Tribune says, "With 700 participants, dozens of live animals,
    flames, rain and 'lightning', North Heights Lutheran Church's annual
    Passion Play is spectacular." More than 400,000 attended the
    performances over 19 years before the production was discontinued.
    Over 20,000 attended the final season, including more than 150 tour
    buses and groups. Performances began April 1989 and ended April
    22, 2007.View Photos
The Black Hills Passion Play is performed every summer in Spearfish,
    South Dakota. During the winter months from 1953 through 1998,
    the same cast also performed the play in Lake Wales, Florida.
In Downingtown, Pennsylvania, the Hopewell United Methodist Church
    has performed a version of the play in a 1,000 seat outdoor
    amphitheater each year since 1963. The original version of "The
    Passion Play," initiated in 1963, is based in the King James Version
    of the Bible, but a newer version, entitled "The Power and The
    Glory" was launched in 2005, based in several modern-language
    translations of the Bible. The church offers both versions on
    successive weekends in June each year as a free offering to their
    audience. For more information visit HisPlay.org
The play is performed in Gatlinburg, Tennessee as "The Great Smoky
    Mountains Passion Play".
  Atlanta's "Passion Play" has been produced by the First Baptist Church
      of Atlanta since 1977.

The Passion Play in motion pictures
  2004's The Passion of the Christ (produced and directed by Mel Gibson)
     had a plot similar to that of Passion plays.
  1989's Jésus de Montréal (directed by Denys Arcand) presented the
         staging of a very unorthodox Passion Play while the players' own
         lives mirrored the Passion.

See also
  Jesus Christ
  Arrest of Jesus
  Trial of Jesus Christ
  Crucifixion of Jesus Christ
  Resurrection of Jesus Christ
  Dramatic portrayals of Jesus
  The Passion of the Christ
  Concern over Antisemitism in Passion Plays
  Mummers Play
  Liturgical drama
  ta'ziya -- Shiite Muslim passion play commemorating the martyrdom of
       Husayn bin Ali
  Sacri Monti

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