The Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos is one of the most representative examples of Byzantine architecture in Albania. The foundation of the church dates back to 6th century at the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian (527–565 AD). Justinian erected the church in memory of his mother. The present building dates from the 10th century or – according to another source – 13th century, during the time of the Despotate of Epirus.
The church retained a fragment of the True Cross due to a donation by the Byzantine Emperor. According to another tradition, the Byzantine Emperor donated the miracle-working icon of the Virgin, known as Labovitissa. Until 1967, it was a pilgrimage destination for the surrounding Christian communities. Each year on the day of the Dorminition of the Theotokos a procession of the Holy Cross fragment with the Labovitissa icon took place to the adjacent villages. In 1967, religious activities were forbidden by the atheistic policies of the People's Republic of Albania. Recently a number of initiatives to revive such festivities had limited results. The relic was lost in 1989. According to claims in the Albanian press it was stolen by the daughter of Enver Hohxa former head of the People's Republic of Albania.
The church shares a number of typical features of 9th–11th century Byzantine architecture. The connection of the central aisle to the subsidiary aisles as well as the narthex is ensured through a triple passage (tribilon).
Several architectural elements found at the exterior of the building, such as the dome, the windows and the combination of brick- and stonework, are influenced from contemporary Byzantine churches in western Macedonia. The 10th century dome is the oldest example of circular dome found in the region of Epirus, probably an evolution of the older octagonical style. The fishbone pattern of the exterior is also found in a number of contemporary church buildings in Epirus, western Macedonia and Lakonia, in Greece, although not a quite common feature in Byzantine architecture in general.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.