Banz Abbey, now known as Schloss Banz, is a former Benedictine monastery. It was founded in about 1070 by Countess Alberada of Schweinfurt and her husband, Count Hermann of Habsberg-Kastl, and until the secularisation of 1803 was the oldest monastery on the upper Main. In the late Middle Ages and until 1575 only members of the nobility were accepted as monks.
After the Thirty Years' War the abbey had to be re-built. The abbots Eucharius Weiner and Kilian Düring commissioned Johann Leonhard Dientzenhofer and after his death in 1707, his brother Johann Dientzenhofer. Construction began in 1698. The church, built in of Baroque style, was consecrated in 1719. The interior is unexpectedly built, not with right angles, but with a series of ellipses. The main altar, the chancel and the statues of saints in the church and on the facade are by Balthasar Esterbauer; the ceiling frescoes are by Melchior Steidl. The choir stalls were made by the court cabinet maker and ebonist of Schönborn, Johann Georg Nesstfell.
In the second half of the 18th century Banz Abbey was known throughout the Holy Roman Empire as a place of Catholic enlightenment and for the scholarship of its monks. This did not save it from secularisation and dissolution in 1803.
In 1813 Duke Wilhelm in Bavaria, acquired the former abbey premises, which were thereafter known as Schloss Banz.
In 1933 Duke Ludwig Wilhelm in Bavaria, sold the buildings to the Community of the Holy Angels, an order dedicated to the spiritual care of expatriate Germans. Since 1978 the former monastery has been in the possession of the Hanns Seidel Foundation, an organisation closely associated with the political party the CSU in Bavaria, and is used as a conference centre. It also accommodates a collection of fossils and other curiosities, such as Egyptian mummies.
The estate of the former monastery, including vast forests, is today owned by Duke Max Emanuel's eldest daughter Sophie, Hereditary Princess of Liechtenstein.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.