The Varbola Stronghold was the largest circular rampart fortress and trading centre in Estonia in the 10th-12th centuries. The first record of Varbola is written by Henry of Livonia, who mentions the Castrum Warbole being besieged in 1211 for several days by Mstislav the Bold of Novgorod. The conflict was resolved with a payment of seven hundred Marks.
During the Livonian crusade Livonian Brothers of the Sword invaded the territory and the people from Varbola asked for the terms of peace. The terms offered by Livonian Brothers of the Sword were accepted by Varbolians, but later the people of Varbola became the subjects of the King of Denmark. On the basis of the Danish Census Book the estate surrounding the Varbola trading center remained a possession of the Lode family, nobility of Estonian origin at the time. The Varbola stronghold lost its importance only in the second quarter of the 14th century, after having played in important part in the anti-Christian and anti-German St. George's Night Uprising of 1343.
In the 16-17th centuries the stronghold was used as a cemetery. The first known fort plan dates from 1786 and was drawn by Ludwig August von Mellin. Archaeological excavations at the site have been undertaken in 1938-41, 1953 and 1974. Among the archaeological finds were dice made of bone.
Parts of the ruins of the 580 metre long and 8-10 metre high limestone wall of the fortress stand still this day. The long gateways with multiple gates were built to defend the entrances. In these sections higher defensive towers were erected. There was a 13 metre deep well in the middle of the fortress and the territory held about 90 structures with furnaces for accommodation built with limestone floors and foundations.
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.