After the creation of the Bishopric of Bamberg by Emperor Henry II, the first Bishop of Bamberg, Eberhard I, founded the Michaelsberg abbey in 1015 as the bishop's private monastery. Accordingly the abbot answered directly to the bishop of Bamberg, and to no-one else. The monks for the new establishment were drawn from Amorbach Abbey and Fulda Abbey.
The chronicler and author Frutolf of Michelsberg was prior here until his death in 1103. The abbey flourished under Bishop Otto (d. 1139), whose burial in the abbey church and subsequent canonisation in 1189, together with the papal protection granted to the abbey in 1251, was of enormous advantage in increasing the independence of the abbey from the bishops. The award to the abbots of the pontificalia had taken place some time before 1185. The abbey's financial status rested securely upon its great ownership of lands in 441 places in the bishopric.
In 1435 the abbey came into conflict with the townspeople of Bamberg and was plundered. It also suffered during the German Peasants' War of 1525, the Franconian Margrave War (Markgräflerkrieg) in the 1550s and from an occupation of several years' duration by the Swedish army during the Thirty Years' War. In the 17th and 18th centuries the abbey recovered, and enjoyed a new period of prosperity.
By the time of the secularisation of Bavaria of 1802 the abbey still owned substantial property in Bamberg itself as well as estates in no fewer than 141 places in the surrounding area. On 30 November 1802 Bavarian troops confiscated the abbey's assets. Valuable books were removed to the library of the Bavarian court, the predecessor of the present Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. The 24 monks then resident were obliged to leave the monastery. The abbey buildings passed into the possession of the city of Bamberg, who by popular request transferred into them the old almshouses from the city centre; these are still located there.
The first church on the site, dedicated to Saint Michael, was built in about 1015 and was destroyed by an earthquake, probably in 1117. The present building is basically a Romanesque church, consecrated in 1121. In 1610 it was badly damaged by a fire, as a result of which the nave (with its ceiling paintings of the Garden of Heaven, completed in 1617) and the westwork, with the two west towers, had to be more or less rebuilt from scratch. The still-extant organ-loft was also constructed very soon after the fire, in 1610, and is a significant work of the German Late Renaissance. From 1696 Leonhard Dientzenhofer, under the instructions of abbot Christoph Ernst, created a two-storey Baroque exterior façade. Johann Dientzenhofer built the terrace in 1723.
In 1833, on the orders of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, the gravestones and memorials of the bishops of Bamberg from the 16th to the 18th century were removed from Bamberg Cathedral and set up in the Michaelskirche.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.