Rising spectacularly out of the wooded hills near the town of Horn-Bad Meinberg, the Externsteine is a collection of distinctive sandstone rock formations. They are considered one of the most impressive natural features of the Teutoburg Forest region, having been shifted into their vertical position millions of years ago and carved by the friction of ice during the Ice Age.
The Externsteine are believed by some to have magical powers and were identi-fied as a sacred site of the pagan Saxons and the location of the Irminsul idol that was said to have been destroyed by Charlemagne. A hermitage was established at the site during the Middle Ages and a Christian chapel was built here by the high medieval period, with a grotto, grave and relief showing biblical scenes all visible today. The relief depicting Christ’s descent from the cross is of particular note and considered a work of European importance. During the late 19th century, nationalist scholars took an interest in the Externsteine and they were later used as a symbol of propaganda by the Nazi regime.
Be sure to visit the information center located at the site where you can learn about the naming origins of the Externsteine and their geological history. The ten exhibition sections also include archaeological findings and details of the cultural significance of the rock formations throughout Germany’s past.
The Externsteine are surrounded by mountain heaths, moors and softwood for-ests, together with picturesque lakes that reflect the rugged cliffs. Follow one of the walking trails that lead through this magnificent conservation area, with rare stag beetles and threatened hermit beetles calling the area home.