Langheim Abbey was a well-known Cistercian monastery in Klosterlangheim, part of the town of Lichtenfels. Three brothers from the city of Bamberg made a gift of the estate of Langheim to Saint Otto I, bishop of Bamberg, who in 1132 offered it Adam of Ebrach, abbot of the Cistercian Ebrach Abbey, on condition that it should be used for the establishment of a new monastery of that order. The first stone was laid on 1 August 1132 and in 1142 the buildings were completed. The abbey, like Ebrach, was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Nicholas.
The first abbot was Adam (1141–80), who succeeded in gaining the support not only of the bishops of Bamberg but of the local nobility. In consequence the new abbey rapidly acquired extensive property and the cure of many parishes. Pope Eugene III and the emperors granted it many privileges. It was famous at this time for its wealth and magnificence.
By about 1380, however, as result of plague and economic difficulties, the abbey administration had more or less failed, and in 1385 Lambrecht von Brunn, bishop of Bamberg, was able without resistance to divert the abbey's management and property to the cathedral chapter. In 1429 the Hussites destroyed the buildings by fire.
Langheim was able nevertheless to recover from these misfortunes and to re-build the premises and its economic stability, but in 1525, during the German Peasants' Wars, it was once again burnt down by a rioting mob.
It was re-built yet again, only to be destroyed yet again with particular brutality in 1632 by the Swedes during the Thirty Years' War.
It took a century for the abbey to recover from this, but abbot Stephen Mösinger (1734–51) was at last able to have the monastery reconstructed on a scale and to a standard that recalled the first building. During this interval the bishops of Bamberg had again become favorable to the abbey, although they failed to restore either the property they had taken or the former privileges. The bishop did intervene in the abbey's finances, when in 1788 he suspended the then abbot on account of the huge debts that had been incurred for building works.
The final catastrophe occurred on 7 May 1802, when fire destroyed the splendid buildings erected by Stephen Mösinger and put an end to Langheim. On 23 June 1803, the community, at that time numbering forty-nine members, was secularised by a decree of the Prince Elector of Bavaria. The monks were dispersed to various places, and the last abbot, Candide Hemmerlein, received a pension of 8000 florins, with which he retired to Thieb Castle, where he died in 1814.
The remnants of the buildings after the fire were unsafe and were demolished, including the abbey church. A few structural items survive incorporated in the town centre of Klosterlangheim.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.