The Dominican monastery at Prenzlau was founded in 1275, joining an existing Franciscan monastery and the Nunnery of Mary Magdalen. The monastery was thus a further spiritual centre serving Prenzlau's citizens, playing an important role in the growth of the town and ensuring its significance in the medieval Mark of Brandenburg.
The Dominican monastery's compound comprises the monastic church and the originally single-storey conclave. The oldest part of the compound is its eastern wing, which was built at the same time as the monastic church (beginning in 1275). After the completion of the southern and western wing halfway through the fourtheenth century, extensive structural work was undertaken, the resultings vaults taking in the entire space of the cloister.
The monastery was to be disbanded, with the town appropriating the monastic land as a consequence of the Reformation (1543-1544). The town put the conclave area to various uses; it served (amongst other uses) as a poorhouse, a gaol; as emergency housing, a boarding school and a retirement home, as well as being used several times as a hospital. The varying ways in which the building was used throughout the ages meant a large number of alterations were undertaken to reflect these uses: for example, the building's masard-style top storey was added in the early 19th century.
The former monastic church served to house the Evangelical Parish once worshipping at St. Nicolas' Church after the disbanding of the Dominican monastery. Today, the church adheres to the Evangelical Confession and boasts its own ecclesiastical superintendent.
The continual usage of the former Dominican monastery over the centuries as well as the fact that it was spared by the Second World War fighting that largely destroyed the rest of Prenzlau in April 1945 is responsible for the almost complete preservation of the monastery. Between 1945 and 1989, the site of the one-time conclave again housed municipal health services.
Extensive structural preservation work was undertaken by the Brandenburg State Office for the Preservation of Monuments beginning in 1990, so as to ensure the preservation of the building materials originally used in the construction of the monastery. Today, the Dominican monastery is regarded as one of the best-preserved examples of a 13th-14th century monastic compound in northern Germany. Particularly impressive is the monastery's almost entirely preserved spatial structure, which boasts all the typical Gothic ornamentation such as ribbed vaulting, embellished cornerstones, the extensive use of tracery and richly decorated columns and pillars, in addition to Late Gothic frescos painted onto the walls of the former guest refactory. Today, the monastery houses the town's Museum of Cultural History, the town archives and the municipal library. Selected spaces in the monastery are also available for hire to those organising cultural or artistic events in the town.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.