Santa Maria del Carmine is considered amongst the best examples of Lombard Gothic architecture. It was begun in 1374 by Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Duke of Milan, on a project attributed to Bernardo da Venezia. The construction followed a slow pace, and was restarted in 1432, being finished in 1461.
The church has an imposing façade commanding the square with the same name; the slender forms betray a residual Romanesque influence, although the decorations are undoubutably of Lombard Gothic style. The façade is divided into five vertical compartments by six pilasters surmounted by spires. The three central sectors have a portal each, remade by Giuseppe Marchesi in 1854. Over the portals are four large ogival mullioned windows and an elaborated rose window in brickwork.
The bell tower, dating to c. 1450, has numerous friezes and a triple mullioned window with marble columns.
The interior is characterized by an inspiring penumbra, and is on the Latin cross plan with a nave and numerous lateral chapels with frescoes and paintings.
In the transept are also precious 15th-century frescoes, while the sacristy (1576) has façade with Baroque stuccoes. Also notable is the Gothic tabernacle (1449) and the marble altar of the presbytery.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.