Rheinfels Castle construction was started in 1245 by Count Diether V of Katzenelnbogen. After expansions, it was the largest fortress in the Middle Rhein Valley between Koblenz and Mainz. It was slighted by French Revolutionary Army troops in 1797.
The main entrance to the castle complex is a tall square clock or gate tower (~1300 AD) opposite the hotel. A connecting path joins the clock tower to the remains of the living quarters of the Earls of Hessen-Darmstadt (the so-called Darmstadt Building). The Darmstadt building was designed in Tudor style with pointed gables. The connecting path was the site of the former moat of the main castle buildings; part of which is now the large cellar or basement. This large cellar was arched over in 1587-89 in two visible phases. It is the largest self-supporting vaulted cellar in Europe and has a length of 24 metres, a width and height of approximately 16 metres and can accommodate up to 400 people.
The walls are up to 4 metres thick. Previously a 200,000 litres wine barrel was constructed for storage. The cellar was renovated in 1997 and restored to its original condition and now serves as a meeting place for concerts, theater performances, and other shows.
The castle museum is located in the former castle chapel which is the only finished room of the original castle. It is accessed through an internal gate and up the path. The museum contains a model reconstruction of the castle before its destruction giving one a sense of how big the castle used to be. The medieval castle courtyard is found beyond the castle museum building (slightly uphill). This was the center of the medieval castle which contained a bakery, pharmacy, garden, brewery, well, and livestock—which would have allowed it to withstand an extended siege. Remnants of the original 13th-century plaster which was painted white can still be found on some walls.
While much of the castle is a ruin, some of the outer buildings are now a hotel and restaurant.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.