Elchingen Abbey was a Benedictine monastery in Oberelchingen. For much of its history, Elchingen was one of the 40-odd self-ruling imperial abbeys of the Holy Roman Empire and, as such, was a virtually independent state that contained several villages aside from the monastery itself. At the time of its secularisation in 1802, the abbey covered 112 square kilometers and had 4000-4200 subjects.
Dedicated to the Virgin Mary and Saints Peter and Paul, the monastery was founded by the Counts of Dillingen in 1128. The abbey was one of the very few that enjoyed Imperial immediacy (independent of the jurisdiction of any lord and answering directly to the Holy Roman Emperor, and thus a territorial principality in its own right). The abbot sat in the Reichstag of the Holy Roman Empire.
Like all the other imperial abbeys, Elchingen lost its independence in the course of the secularisation process in 1802-1803 and the monastery was dissolved. By 1840 the buildings had been almost entirely demolished. In 1921 the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate settled on the site. Today the abbey church remains.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.