St. Lawrence's Church has a long and complicated history that goes back to sometime around the end of the 13th century. It is one of few medieval churches in Östergötland built entirely in brick, a circumstance which may be connected to there being a large number of German merchants active in Söderköping at the time, and it remains a fine Swedish example of Brick Gothic. The original church had the form of a basilica with a central nave and two aisles.
During a city fire in 1494 the church was damaged and subsequently rebuilt. An external belfry was erected in the 1580s. During its history, it has been reconstructed, renovated and altered on several occasions, but retains much of its medieval form and look. Externally, the church is dominated by its red brick façade, interspersed with blind arches and supported by brick buttresses. As it has no protruding apse, both the west and the east end of the church is marked by straight façades that end in crow-stepped gables. On the external wall of the vestry, St. Lawrence is depicted. During a renovation in 1965, an immured runestone was discovered and laid bare in one of the walls.
The interior today is a typical hall church, dominated by white-washed vaulting. Remains of medieval fresco painting has been laid bare during 20th-century restorations. The church also contains some noteworthy inventories, such as a late medieval altarpiece (possibly French), a triumphal crucifix (possibly made in Vadstena circa 1400), a processional crucifix from the 13th century and several medieval carved wooden statuettes of saints.
The church has been the venue for royal coronations in Sweden on two occasions. The first time was when Hedwig of Holstein, wife of Magnus III of Sweden, was crowned Queen of Sweden on 29 June 1281. The second was when Birger Magnusson and Martha of Denmark were crowned King and Queen of Sweden in the church in 1302.References:
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.