The Ilsestein (formerly also called Ilsenstein) is a prominent granite rock formation near the town of Ilsenburg in the Harz mountains of central Germany. Offering a scenic view over the Ilse valley to the Brocken massif, the highest mountain of the range, it is today a popular tourist destination.
The Ilsestein rock rises on the northwestern slope of the Harz range, on the eastern rim of the Harz National Park within the larger Harz/Saxony-Anhalt Nature Park area. The summit is located about 2 km (1.2 mi) south of Ilsenburg, about 150 metres (490 ft) high above the Ilse creek, at an elevation of .
Around 1000 AD, a small counter-castle was erected on the Ilsestein immediately after the conversion of the former Saxon fortress of Elysynaburg into Ilsenburg Abbey by the Bishops of Halberstadt. After about hundred years, it was destroyed around 1107, nevertheless its layout could be reconstructed.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe mentions the Ilsestein in the Walpurgisnacht scene in his drama, Faust I, and again, together with the Heinrichshöhe and Schnarcherklippen, in Faust II. Heinrich Heine described how he climbed the Ilsestein in his 1826 book, Die Harzreise (The Harz Journey). Engelbert Humperdinck's opera Hansel and Gretel mentions an Ilsenstein as the location of a haunted forest. There are several legends around a maid Ilse and one Duke Henry, which authors like Heinrich Pröhle, Otto Roquette and others wrote down.
On 18 October 1814, one year after the Action at Möckern on the first day of the Battle of Leipzig, Count Anton of Stolberg-Wernigerode (1785–1854) had an iron cross erected on the summit. The count had served as adjutant of Prince Wilhelm of Prussia and the monument commemorates his comrades who fell in the German campaign of the Napoleonic Wars. For the centenary of the Möckern battle, on 18 October 1913, a memorial plaque was unveiled here in the presence of Prince Christian Ernest of Stolberg-Wernigerode (1864–1940) with an explanation of the origin of the 1814 iron cross.
The nearby Ilsestein inn (closed in 2011) is checkpoint No. 30 in the Harzer Wandernadel hiking network.
Media related to Ilsestein at Wikimedia Commons