Teurnia was a Roman city in western Carinthia. In late antiquity it was also a bishop's see, and towards the end of Roman times it was mentioned as the capital of the province of Noricum mediterraneum.
As early as 1100 BC, people had lived there on Holzerberg hill, which may well have also been the centre of the Celtic Taurisci nation. Before c. 50 AD the Roman town was built with a forum, a market basilica, a temple on the city's Capitol, Thermae or public baths, terraced housing on two terraces, and a temple dedicated to Grannus, the Celtic counterpart deity of Aesculap, god of medicine and healing, but in Teurnia invoked as Grannus Apollo. Usually older hill-top settlements were moved by the Romans to lower-lying areas with the one exception of the oppidum at Teurnia in the tribal region of the Ambidravi, where old names are said to have been retained and no renaming took place.
Teurnia was one of the largest places in all Noricum with, in its peak period, a population of 30,000. Towards the end of the Empire the population decreased; people left the housing terraces, and the slopes being no longer suitable for agriculture were used as cemeteries. At the same time walls went up surrounding the hilltop with material from the deserted houses.
By the 4th century, Teurnia was already a Christian town and it was a bishop's see until the city's decline and its end in 610.
Holzerberg hill was a well-known place of antique finds as early as the Middle Ages. Professional excavations began with the accidental discovery of the cemetery church in 1908. The mosaic of its donor, the praeses or governor Ursus, in the right side-chapel of the three-naved basilica is in near-perfect preservation. In twelve pictures the mosaic shows christological, mythological and biblical symbols as well as the names of one Ursus, the donor, and his spouse, Ursina.
In 1984, the Early-Christian bishop's church was discovered, which has now been roofed over and is open to visitors. The episcopal church was built at the beginning of the 5th century and a century later, after a destructive fire, was rebuilt in basilica style with three naves and three apses.
In the village centre of St. Peter-in-Holz there is a recent 'Römer-Museum' exhibiting numerous artefacts from the city area of Teurnia. Nearby are the preserved remains of a Roman town villa or villa urbana boasting a simple hypocaust in form of the letter Y. Next to the bishop's church the Hospitium, the bishop's guest house, was found, but for protection purposes it has been covered with soil again. More excavation work is going on. Information on the city's history and the excavation work is provided in display cases all over the area.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.