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Another year until the new staging of the Škofja Loka Passion Play

Author: Vesna Žarkovič

Date: 8. April 2020

Time to read: 3 min

Over the Lent period the traditional Days of the Škofja Loka Passion Play was set to take place in Škofja Loka. This year, particular emphasis was going to be on the promotion of the Passion Play to be staged at this time next year on the event's 300th anniversary. Unfortunately, the organisers’ plans were undermined by the new coronavirus disease epidemic, but the preparations for the staging are still well underway.

The Škofja Loka Passion Play is staged every six years and next year it will be a special event.

The Škofja Loka Passion Play, which was written by Father Romuald, a Capuchin monk, and is considered the oldest preserved dramatic text in the Slovenian language, will celebrate its 300th anniversary next year.

Moreover, it will be its first staging after its entry on UNESCO's List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity as the first unit from Slovenia.

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The oldest Slovenian dramatic text

The Škofja Loka Passion Play was created in the manner of older Slovenian Passion processions by Capuchin monk Lovrenc Marušič, also known as Father Romuald, in around 1721. The document is the oldest preserved Slovenian dramatic text and is stored in the archives of the Capuchin Monastery in Škofja Loka.

It contains biblical scenes centred on Christ’s suffering and death on the cross.

At the time of its creation, the Passion was repeatedly staged in the form of a procession through the streets of Škofja Loka. After more than 200 years, it was staged again in 1999, 2000 and 2009.

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A unique story and experience

The original story, the location and time of staging, the spirit of volunteerism and the accompanying range of services – all these are things that make the Škofja Loka Passion Play a memorable experience for every visitor. The story of the Passion starts in Paradise, where Adam and Eve fail to resist temptation and partake of the forbidden fruit.

The scene also provides a good illustration of modern human aspirations, which are reflected in both business and daily life.

The story continues with the arrival of Death and afterwards Hell, where Lucifer punishes sinners. The scenes that follow show the arrival of Jesus Christ all the way to his crucifixion. Inclusion of scenes from both Old and New Testaments makes the Škofja Loka Passion unique among Passion plays. The main message of the Passion is that each individual should think about their origins, their vulnerability and the short span of life one is granted to spend on Earth. A specific feature of the Škofja Loka Passion Play is its being staged in the form of procession, where 800 actors move through the streets and squares of the town.

The head of the Škofja Loka Passion Play 2021 project Jakob Vrhovec explains:

"To date, mainly strategic preparations for the staging have taken place; currently director Borut Gartner, who already directed the play in 2009, is starting to select the leaders of actor groups and in May and June the rehearsals should begin. We are also about to start selling tickets and will submit a study drawn up for the registration of the event to take place during Lent and Easter."

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Plans undermined by the epidemic

The Days of the Škofja Loka Passion Play, which should take place around this time but has been undermined by the coronavirus epidemic, was intended to promote next year's Passion Play production at the start of the ticket sale. As part of this event, 18 accompanying events were planned to take place in Škofja Loka, in the broader Škofja Loka region and across the entire country. For that purpose, also a performance about Father Romuald has been created; it was going to be performed eight times, but now it is unclear when it will be staged.

As in 2015, the production budget will amount to approximately EUR 500,000. According to the financial plan, 20,000 tickets are expected to be sold, while the total spectator capacity for all performances is 36,000.

According to Vrhovec, 17,000 tickets were sold in 2015, while the most visited Passion Play was the one in 2000 with 25,000 tickets sold. It is this figure that Vrhovec aims to reach next year when the Škofja Loka Passion Play will be particularly attractive due to its 300th anniversary and its entry on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. "The Škofja Loka Passion Play is definitely one of the symbols of Slovenian culture and I am convinced that Slovenians will come to see it," he says.

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Škofja Loka Passion Play – the biggest cultural event in Slovenia

In its jubilee year of 2021, the Passion Play itself will not differ from the play in 2015, because it is part of protected cultural heritage. It will also involve approximately the same number of actors, from 800 to 900, but the events around the passion play will be different. Moreover, the organisers also expect an increasing number of visits by foreign heads of state and from this aspect the Passion Play will be the largest production so far.

"The Škofja Loka Passion Play is already considered to be the biggest cultural event in Slovenia, because no other event involves such a large ensemble of actors and attracts so many visitors. The only event in the country exceeding the figures of the Škofja Loka Passion Play is the ski jumping competition in Planica," adds Vrhovec.

The biggest Passion play, however, is performed in the German village Oberammergau, where the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are staged every 10 years. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year's staging has been postponed and rescheduled for 2022. It will therefore not take place simultaneously with the Škofja Loka Passion Play.