St. Nicolai Church dates to the 13th century. Originally built in late Romanesque style and dedicated to the patron saint of merchants and seafarers, the church is the oldest building in the community. Renovations in the 15th century developed the church into a Gothic hall with two transepts and a tower 27.2 m high.
On display in a glass-covered sarcophagus in the northern transept are the remains of the Haraldskær Woman, one of the best conserved of the iron age bog bodies. The southern transept houses the sarcophagi of Kai de la Mare and his wife. The exterior brick wall of the north transept has an interesting feature of 23 spherical indentations approximately 15 cm in diameter, which hold the skulls of 23 robbers who were caught and beheaded in the nearby Nørreskov forest. In front of the church stands a sculpture of the priest Anders Sørensen Vedel.
The church was seriously damaged during the Thirty Years' War by the Catholic troops of Wallenstein. Since that time it has undergone several major restorations: in 1744, 1855-56, 1887-88 and 1964-66.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.