Top Historic Sights in Otepää, Estonia

Explore the historic highlights of Otepää

Otepää Castle Ruins

Otepää castle hill is the site of an ancient stronghold. It is speculated that a fortified settlement may have existed there even before Christ. The first major extension works were initiated in the 11th and 12th century when the castle was at the crossroads of important trading routes. Herman I, the bishop of Tartu, established there the first stronghold of its diocese. A settlement, which was mainly populated ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Otepää, Estonia

Otepää Church

The Otepää Maarja Lutheran Church was built in 1890 and represents the Gothic revival style. On 4th June 1884 the blue-black-white flag of the Estonian Students’ Society was consecrated in the church, which later on became the flag of the nation and in 1992 the official national flag of Estonia. The bas-reliefs of the flag, the author of which is sculptor Voldemar Mellik, were opened on the church wall in ...
Founded: 1890 | Location: Otepää, Estonia

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Externsteine Stones

The Externsteine (Extern stones) is a distinctive sandstone rock formation located in the Teutoburg Forest, near the town of Horn-Bad Meinberg. The formation is a tor consisting of several tall, narrow columns of rock which rise abruptly from the surrounding wooded hills. Archaeological excavations have yielded some Upper Paleolithic stone tools dating to about 10,700 BC from 9,600 BC.

In a popular tradition going back to an idea proposed to Hermann Hamelmann in 1564, the Externsteine are identified as a sacred site of the pagan Saxons, and the location of the Irminsul (sacral pillar-like object in German paganism) idol reportedly destroyed by Charlemagne; there is however no archaeological evidence that would confirm the site's use during the relevant period.

The stones were used as the site of a hermitage in the Middle Ages, and by at least the high medieval period were the site of a Christian chapel. The Externsteine relief is a medieval depiction of the Descent from the Cross. It remains controversial whether the site was already used for Christian worship in the 8th to early 10th centuries.

The Externsteine gained prominence when Völkisch and nationalistic scholars took an interest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This interest peaked under the Nazi regime, when the Externsteine became a focus of nazi propaganda. Today, they remain a popular tourist destination and also continue to attract Neo-Pagans and Neo-Nazis.