Millstatt Lenten Veil

Birgit Stegbauer

During the period of fasting, the Millstatt Lenten veil covers the high altar of the collegiate church of Millstatt. The veil, which dates back to the year 1593, is a work by the painter Oswald Kreusel. On a cloth of 50 m/2 it tells the history of salvation through 41 scenes, starting with the Creation and ending with the Last Judgment. The Millstatt Lenten veil is one of Carinthia's biggest and best preserved. The former Benedictine monastery was one of Carinthia's most important abbeys, and its idyllic location on the shores of Lake Millstatt makes it well worth a visit.

For several centuries now, Carinthia's Lenten veils have been in liturgical use during the Lenten Season. They hang in front of the high altar in order to impede the view to the sanctum. This was an integral part of medieval repentance rituals. Since the season of Lent is the time to prepare for the Feast of Easter, the Passion is in the very centre of every old Lenten veil. The Millstatt Lenten veil, measuring 8.4 x 5.7 meters, follows this pictorial tradition. It is divided into 41 rectangles, arranged in 7 rows with 6 pictures each (and one double rectangle in the 7th row).


The first row illustrates the Creation, the fall of man and the (mortal) sin humans were tainted with from their very beginnings, whilst the second row is dedicated to outstanding figures of the Old Testament like Abraham, Moses or David. The scenes from the New Testament start with the childhood story of Jesus Christ depicted in the third row. The fourth row shows major events from his public ministry. However, the most important part of this illustrated Bible, the Passion, covers the next two rows. In the seventh and last row Jesus Christ descends to the dead and rises again triumphantly. The Millstatt Lenten veil culminates in a Last Judgment, depicted in a double rectangle.


The tableau, created with watercolors on canvas, stands out because of its warm, intense colors. The black preliminary drawings are the work of an unknown monogrammist H K. The colored parts were done by Oswald Kreusel (Kreuselius), a painter with a studio at St. Veit an der Glan. The individual scenes from the Millstatt Lenten veil follow wood cuts from well-known works by some of the most prominent German Renaissance artists, such as Albrecht Dürer, Lucas Cranach or Virgil Solis. Members of the Order of the Knights of Saint George, which was by then vested with the charge of the former Benedictine monastery, commissioned the Millstatt Lenten veil in 1593.


The Benedictine abbey, founded in the second half of the 11th century, was a rich monastery with large estates. It decayed dramatically during the 15th century until it was finally dissolved. In 1469 emperor Friedrich III assigned Millstatt to the Order of the Knights of St. George in order to defend Carinthia against imminent danger from the Ottoman troops. In 1602 the former abbey passed to the Society of Jesus. From here Jesuits fought for the restoration of the Catholic Church in Carinthia. Since the dissolution of the Society of Jesus in 1773, the collegiate church has been a parochial church, the adjoining buildings comprising both state and private property.


Each holder of the Millstatt abbey contributed to the present form of the collegiate church: the Benedictines built the church in Romanesque style; the Knights of St. George added the late Gothic star- and net-ripped vaults; and the Jesuits gave the church its Baroque interiors. During the 19th and 20th century the church underwent significant conservation. The Lenten veil is on display until Holy Saturday.


More information (only in German):




Catholic Parish Millstatt

Stiftsgasse 3

9872 Millstatt

Please wear warm clothing as the church is not heated!


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