Saint Michael's Church was built in a late Gothic style. Documents from 1105 testify to the existence on the site of a chapel dedicated to St. Michael which was subordinate to another parish. The building was twice destroyed by fire early in the 12th century and rebuilt. From 1147 it was recognized as an independent parochial church.
Construction of the current late Gothic church was probably commenced in 1440, and took place in two phases, separated by a long interval. During the first phase, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the western part of the building was built, including the tower, the three-aisled nave and transept. This was completed in 1528. The construction of the western tower continued and by 1566 two levels of the tower were completed. Then, due to religious conflicts, not only did construction stop, but looting and destruction took place. Part of the church was destroyed in 1578 by Calvinists and in 1579 the old choir was demolished.
Reconstruction of the church only started in 1623. The early Gothic choir was replaced by a choir in Brabantine Gothic. Local architect Lieven Cruyl made a design for the unfinished western tower in 1662. The design provided for a spire of 134-metre-high in Brabantine Gothic style but was not implemented. As a result of these delays and cost concerns, the tower was in the end never completed. Only in 1828 was a flat roof built over the unfinished tower.
The sacristy in the north-east was constructed in Baroque style in 1650-1651.
The exterior of the sober late Gothic church is entirely constructed with sandstone from Brussels and Ledian sandstone. The church has a rich Neo-Gothic interior, including an altar and a pulpit in that style. There are various 18th century statues, including a Saint Livinus by Laurent Delvaux, a wooden St. Sebastian by J. Franciscus Allaert, eight marble statues of saints and a copy of Michelangelo's Madonna of Bruges by Rombaut Pauwels.
The church contains many Baroque paintings, including Christ Dying on the Cross by Anthony van Dyck, the Resurrection of Lazarus by Otto Venius and paintings by Gaspar de Crayer, Philippe de Champaigne, Karel van Mander, Jan Boeckhorst, Antoine van den Heuvel, Theodoor van Thulden and others.
There are confessionals from various style periods including a Baroque confessional from the early 17th century by François Cruyt with statues sculpted by Michiel van der Voort.
There are numerous silver and gold artifacts in the silver collection. An important item is the relic of St Dorothea, in silver. Very famous is the relic of the sacred 'Doorn' brought to the church by Mary, Queen of Scots, and a relic of the true Cross a gift of the Archduke Albrecht to Isabella in 1619.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.