The Sparrenburg castle in Bielefeld was erected sometime before 1250 by the counts of Ravensberg. It guarded the Bielefeld Pass over the Teutoburg Forest, as well as acting as the ruling seat of the counts of Ravensberg, and as protection for the city of Bielefeld, probably founded around 1200. Because the construction of a protective castle generally predates the foundation of a town, it is assumed that there was an older castle. In 1256, the castle was first mentioned in records.
Following the discovery of gunpowder and the resultant increasing use of cannon and other firearms, dukes of Cleves (the counts of Ravensberg, the) ordered the expansion of the castle into a fortress of the Early Modern Period that could withstand bombardment from siege guns and also employ its own cannon. Around 1530, a round bastion was added in the west, only accessible from the castle itself via a bridge, from which one could control Bielefeld Pass with artillery. The construction was finished in 1578 and created the largest fortress in Westphalia. The old castle was now surrounded by a terrace and a high defensive wall.
After the War of the Jülich Succession the castle was granted to Dutch confederates. Their occupation became effective in November 1615.
In 1623, in the course of the Thirty Years' War, the Dutch had to retreat before the overpowering advance of the Spanish army. In 1625, Brandenburg's colonel Gent unsuccessfully attempted to reconquer the Sparrenburg with the help of Ravensberg's peasants. In 1636 the Swedes and Hessians besieged the Spanish for nearly one year before they had to hand over the fortress in 1637. In 1642, they left Sparrenburg to their French allies.
In 1648, the Peace of Westphalia confirmed the affiliation to Brandenburg-Prussia. In the following years the Grand Elector Frederick William stayed several times at the fortress, and two of his children were born there.
During the Franco-Dutch War the Sparrenburg successfully resisted its last sieges, in 1673 against troops of Münster and in 1679 French troops.
At the end of the 17th century, the Sparrenburg no longer met the military requirements. Therefore, it was partly used as a prison, and partly subjected to decline. The outer walls were torn down by agreement of King Frederick II of Prussia and were used for the construction of the barracks 55, which still stands at the Hans-Sachs-Straße.
Used as a anti-aircraft emplacement during World War II, the Sparrenburg was heavily damaged in the course of the air raid on Bielefeld on 30 September 1944; only the tower remained undamaged. From 1948 to 1987 there was continuous cleanup and restoration work. From 1955 to 1983 the German Museum of Playing Cards was housed in the rebuilt estate building. A new visitor center was opened in 2014. The above-ground parts of the Sparrenburg can be visited year-round, free of charge. The rest of the castle can be visited daily from April to October.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.