Castle ruins stand dominantly on Jurassic rocks above the market town of Wellheim in the ancient Danube valley.Of its former palas and the other buildings of the main castle only parts of the exterior walls and enceinte remain. The palas was sited in the east, a balcony linking it to a residential building in the south. In the north rises the mighty, quadratic tower of the bergfried, made of rusticated ashlar blocks with channelled joints. The roughly 35-metre-high tower is topped by a later, brick, upper storey (with round arch window openings) that once had a saddle roof. The original tower was topped by crenellations, that can still be made out from the stonework. The round arched, walled up elevated entrance is on the south side. Today the castle courtyard is filled with rubble to a depth of a metre and overgrown; formerly the entrance was about six metres about the level of the ground. The north wall had to be rebuilt in 1935, because many of the ashlars had been removed since 1836 for use as construction material. The walls are made of double-skinned limestone masonry with mortar and rock filling.
In 1857 an entire storey of the palas had to be demolished as it was in danger of collapse.
The enceinte runs down the slope to ring the middle bailey. Here, too, there was once a smaller, quadrangular building of which only a few remnants have survived.
Below that is the lower bailey. The enceinte here appears to have been repaired several times. Outside a small tower enabled grazing fire to be brought to bear. The wall remains of the two small rooks near the gate were used as livestock sheds. Of the gateway itself only a gap in the wall remains today.
In the 15th century, a zwinger was built in front of the lower ward. Its northern point was guarded by a round tower. The local road to Gammersfeld runs along the northwestern part of the external moat today. The moat is secured on the steep eastern hillside by a retaining wall, which was reinforced on the outer side by a square flanking tower.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.