Religious Drama, emerged from the tropes (alternative singing) of the Easter liturgy. The first themes were taken from the passion and death of Christ, but soon from all Christian traditions (Easter plays, Passion plays, Corpus Christi plays, Christmas plays, plays in praise of saints and the Virgin Mary, Doomsday plays, etc.). From the 10th century religious plays were staged in Latin, later also in vernacular versions in the churches beside the altars. First German dramas were written around 1250. Still extant early Austrian drama manuscripts are the "Innsbrucker Osterspiel" (1391) and the "Wiener Osterspiel" (1472), documented performances, however, can only be found later (in Tyrol from 1430, in Vienna from 1499). The introduction of coarse popular scenes gradually removed the religious play from the liturgy and church service and also from the church premises. Religious drama has lived on under changed circumstances and in varied forms (religious popular plays), especially in the field of Christmas Plays and Passion Plays.
Literature#F. Michael, Das deutsche Drama des Mittelalter, 1971; R. H. Schmid, Raum, Zeit und Publikum des geistlichen Spiels, 1975; B. Neumann, Zeugnisse mittelalterlicher Auffuehrungen im deutschen Sprachraum, 1979; F. Hadamowsky, Mittelalterliche geistliche Spiele in Wien 1499-1781, 1981; R. Bergmann, Katalog der deutsch-sprachigen geistlichen Spiele und Marienklagen des Mittelalters, 1986; B. Neumann, Geistliches Schauspiel im Zeugnis der Zeit, 1987.