Piona Abbey is a religious complex on the bank of Lake Como. The abbey is set at the top of a small peninsula, the Olgiasca, which points into the lake, creating an inlet.
The original church of Saint Justina was founded in the 7th century; the ruins of an apse behind the current church of San Nicola belong to this original edifice. A new church was added some centuries later, though before 1138, as testified by an inscription reporting its reconsecration in that date. which was followed - some centuries afterwards - by a priory, with its monastery complex, part of the political-religious network which was led by Cluny and its reform movement.
The location, although away from the main town, was on a military route of critical importance in the wars of the times.
The abbey was built in Lombard Gothic style, with French influences. The church has a single nave, and the edifice dates mostly from the 12th century reconstruction. The bell tower dates from the 18th century. A previous one, with an octagonal plan, was located on the other side of the church.
The apse has internally some depleted frescoes, dating from the 12th-13th centuries, with Apostles of Byzantine style. The cloister has an irregularly quadrangular plan, and has round arches supported by columns with different type capitals. The northern wall of the portico has a fresco with a symbolic calendar, depicting the months and the different works associated to them.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.