Esch-sur-Sûre Castle was founded around 927 AD, when Meginaud or Maingaud and his wife Hiletrude acquired the site of Esch-sur-Sûre. He built a Romanesque tower eight metres square as well as farm buildings. The castle was considerably enlarged in the Gothic style by the two last Counts of Esch during the 13th century.
With the introduction of gunpowder in the 15th century, additional defences were required. The entire village was reinforced with a solid wall stretching 450 metres around the village complete with two defensive towers. The round watchtower or Lochturm opposite the keep was also built in the 15th century as were the entrance gate and the castle stables. The castle started to deteriorate in the middle of the 16th century and was dismantled in 1685 by the troops of Louis XIV. The outer wall was however left intact as many of the houses used of it for their back walls. The castle fell into the hands of commoners. When Victor Hugo visited the village in 1871, several families were still living there. In 1902, the Egyptian Martin Riano d’Hutzt bought the ruins from the State for 1,000 francs. He charged the architect Charles Arendt with restoration work and the chapel was restored in 1906 but then funds appear to have run out.
Today only the ruins of the castle remain although the State acquired the site in 2005 and began restoration work the following year. The site is open to the public and is illuminated in the evenings.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.