According to village chronicle from the year 1859 the passion play is based on the vow of the Oberammergauer in the year 1633, when the plague in the place prevailed: "in the large disappointment, which had brought the terrible illness over the municipality, finally the superiors of the municipality, the six and twelve, met and the vow was made to hold the passion tragedy every ten years and from this time on not one more humans died, although still some had the plague characters."[1 ] contrary to most other passion plays the political municipality was carrier of the plays, since the vow was already originally carried out by the chiefs of the municipality. When the plague yielded, they redeemed their promise. "This probably did not insert the representation of passion into Oberammergau as new, but did make the regular performance of the same after ten years each to a duty of the municipality."[2 ]
1634 as thanks to God for the rescue the first passion play was presented by 60-70 actors on the cemetery beside the church.[3 ] The original version of the text of the Oberammergauer passion play is not delivered. The first received libretto originates from the year 1662. The libretto contains the reference, "is wiederumb renoviert"(is renovated), which permits on the one hand the conclusion that it was played since 1634 in this version and only the paper was freted already so it had to be put down again or on the other hand this could mean that the text is adapted.
This text, which covers 4902 verses, is not a new creation, but a compilation from the Augsburger Passionsspiel (2nd half 15. Century), and a reformatory passion play of the Augsburger Meistersingers Sebastian Wild. The connection of these two texts was proven in a carintien passion and in a Chiemgauer passion, those were played around 1600 and to those the Oberammergauer referred to. The third source are probably either a lost or yet not proven passion play. Maybe it is an older Oberammergauer resurrection-play.
For the fifth repetition of the vow in the year 1674 they added scenes from the Weilheimer passion from the years 1600 and 1615, to the Oberammergauer play. Thus for the first time the devil came into the play, and the figure of the "soul". For the first time also musical organization is noted in the libretto: Eleven-times they sang, ten times the occurrence of the authority is marked by drums
The sixth passion year was already six years later. The passion "was demonstrated in the year 1680 to the Christian people, and from then on it remained on the decimals number". Why is unknown.
The libretto of the passion of 1720 shows a stage in the style of the time, with large portal and curtain, which permit covered stage changes and which auditorium separates clearly from the stage. In addition the text version experienced a structuring in acts and scenes. Also language and rhymes were adapted to the style of time.
1730 beside Satan, additional representatives of hell as allegoric figures of envy, avarice, sin and death were added to the play . The stylistic device of stopping action too living pictures, traditionally to serve Meditation, was also extended