Churwalden Abbey is a former Premonstratensian abbey, abandoned after the Protestant Reformation and was formally dissolved in 1803/07.
The abbey was founded under a provost around 1150 or 1164 by the Freiherr von Vaz. The abbey church of Saint Mary already stood on the site and was first mentioned in 1149 as S. Maria in silva Augeria. The vogt over the abbey lived in the nearby Strassberg Castle. Soon after its founding, in addition to the Permonstratensian canons regular, Augustinian nuns were living at the monastery. In 1208 an uprising of the lay brothers drove the provost and his supporters out of Churwalden. They eventually settled in Rüti Abbey in Rüti in the canton of Zürich. The monastery stood along one of the main trade roads over the alpine passes of Graubünden and became a resting place and hospital for travelers. By 1210 the hospital had its own chapel.
During the mid-13th century the Church of St. Michael was built about 250 m north of the abbey church. A fire around 1400 destroyed much of the monastery complex and over the following years it was gradually rebuilt. In 1446 it was raised from a monastery to an abbey. At some point during the 14th or 15th centuries the provost or abbot began building a comfortable tower house about 100 m south of the abbey church. The tower is four stories and an attic tall and was renovated multiple times over the following centuries. In 1472 it was partially gutted in a fire and the upper two stories were rebuilt in the early 16th century. The 1472 fire also destroyed the Church of St. Michael, which was rebuilt in the Gothic style and consecrated in 1502.
In the early 16th century the Protestant Reformation spread into the region and in 1527 was adopted partially adopted in Churwalden. A Protestant vogt was appointed over the abbey, abbey lands were confiscated and the monastery was forbidden to accept novices. In 1533 there was only one monk and the abbot still at Churwalden. In 1599, the previous abbot was not replaced and the remaining abbey lands were administered from Roggenburg. In 1616 the court in Churwalden declared that the church would have to be used for both catholic and Protestant services. In 1803 Roggenburg Abbey was closed and the remaining Churwalden lands were transferred to the seminary at St. Luzi. With this transfer, the abbey was formally dissolved. After 1599 the abbey buildings slowly fell into ruin and were eventually demolished, leaving only the abbot's tower and the Church of St. Maria and Michael.
The abbot's tower was built around the mid-15th century and rebuilt in the 16th century. The interior was renovated in 1870. Inside traces of late-Gothic murals are still visible, along with Renaissance wooden panels in the abbot's sitting room.
The original church on the site was the Romanesque Church of St. Michael, which was destroyed in a fire in 1472. It was rebuilt from 1477 until 1502 in the Gothic style. The current church is a three-apse building with a choirthat spans the entire width. The bell tower is located on the north side of the building. The unplastered tower was built between 1250 and 1340 and renovated in 1511. The west portal has a half-round arch that was once decorated with a coat of arms.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.