Around 1076 Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg, a follower of Pope Gregory VII in the Investiture Controversy, had the Petersberg fortress erected above the town in order to prevent Emperor Henry IV from crossing the Alps. The archbishop also had fierce enemies in the Carinthian ducal House of Sponheim, who after his deposition made several attempts to take possession of Friesach. Constant attacks by Duke Engelbert were finally repelled in 1124. In 1149 King Conrad III of Germany stayed at the castle on his way back from the Second Crusade, as did Richard the Lionheart returning from the Third Crusade in 1192, attempting to elude the guards of Duke Leopold V of Austria.
Today the castle is home to the Friesach City Museum, which features exhibits about the town's history, culture, mining industry and trade.
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.