In a remote Greek settlement, the villagers are casting roles for the upcoming Passion Play. Manolios, a shepherd, is cast as Christ, the widow Katerina is chosen to play Mary Magdalene and her lover Panait is given the role of Judas.
Shortly after, a group of desperate refugees arrive. The village leader, Father Grigoris does not trust the outsiders, and when one of the refugees dies from hunger, he blames the death on cholera and uses this lie to expel them from the village. Manolios and Katerina decide to help the refugees and lead them to a place nearby where they can find shelter.
As the refugees begin to build their camp on a nearby mountainside, Katerina realises that she has fallen in love with Manolios. One of the villagers, Yannakos is convinced that he can profit from the refugees and sets off to con them out of their possessions. However, upon witnessing the abject poverty in which they live, he feels shamed and vows to help them. Manolios and Katerina come to accept their mutual attraction toward each other, but Manolios decides he cannot act upon it. Katerina is distraught.
Manolios dreams of Katerina as the holy virgin but is awoken by Lenio, his fiancée, with whom he has grown increasingly distant. She asks about their wedding and unsatisfied with Manolios’ answer finds herself drawn to the shepherd Nikolios instead.
Manolios becomes ever more consumed by his role as Christ and appeals to the villagers to help the refugees. Seeing that his authority is growing, the village elders decide that Manolios must be expelled from the village.
Lenio and Nikolios are to be married. During the celebrations, Father Grigoris condemns Manolios and excommunicates him. Manolios delivers a passionate sermon, calling for the villagers to be compassionate but Father Grigoris rallies the villagers behind him, inciting them against Manolios, until Panait finally closes in on him and kills him.