Gars Abbey was founded in 768 by the cleric Boso from Salzburg for Tassilo III, Duke of Bavaria. For centuries it belonged to the archbishopric of Salzburg. The Augustinian Canons erected the present monastery building after 1122. In 1128 Bishop Conrad I of Salzburg transferred the monastery to the Augustinian Canons.
In 1648 the Swedes pillaged and devastated the town and the monastery. Under Provost Athanasius Peitlhauser the monastery was rebuilt between 1657 and 1659. The monastery wings and the Church of the Assumption were renovated by Italian artists to their present form. The pilaster church was rebuilt after 1661, one of the first Baroque churches in the region. The painted cast stone Pieta on a side altar dates from 1430, and was formerly the main altar of the church. The monastery is interesting for the relics of the martyr Felix. Ceiling paintings and an altar show the importance of this saint to the monastery.
In 1803 the Augustinian Canons were expelled as part of the Bavarian secularization program. The buildings and inventory were sold to private individuals. In 1855 the Redemptorists showed an interest in Gars Monastery, and in 1858 they formally re-opened the monastery. Between 1873 and 1894 under the Kulturkampf only three fathers and brothers were allowed to remain. After the monastery was restored in 1894 the first missionaries were sent to Brazil.
As of 2013 the monastery housed about 16 brothers and 13 priests. The brothers follow various professions including work as bakers, butchers, gardeners, carpenters and tailors. The Fathers work as ward missionaries, helping in the surrounding communities and in education. The monastery has a plant nursery that is well known in the region.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.