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The Abbey about 1895 The Abbey about 1935

Through their advocacy, Ilsenburg came in the Middle Ages under the rule of the Counts of (Stolberg-)Wernigerode, who, during the 1450s, pursued a renewed reform of the abbey. This is how they came to join the Bursfeld Congregation in 1465.

Coat of Arms of the Counts of Stolberg-Wernigerode in the 16th Century

In 1525 the abbey was largely destroyed during the Peasant War. After the Reformation, which was successful in the Harz region, an evangelical monastic school was created in the abbey, functioning until 1627. In 1572 the title of abbot died out. After 1573 the church was rebuilt by the Counts of Stolberg-Wernigerode. In 1609 Count Heinrich created a grand residence within the abbey, and since 1621 these buildings have been used as a mansion and dowager’s residence. During the 30 Years’ War the Counts moved their permanent residence to Ilsenburg. After years of changing fortunes Count Botho built the new mansion (Botho annexe) on the north and west sides in 1862.

In the years after 1929, and after 1947, the abbey and mansion were once more used for spiritual purposes as a preachers’ seminary and evangelical research academy. The abbey then stood empty for decades and was left to decay unprotected.

The Building of the First Abbey in the 11th Century

So far no remains have been found of the first Ilsenburg Abbey, built between 1003 and 1018. The reason could be that, as with the neighbouring Royal Harzburg, it was a wooden building, erected using remnants of earlier buildings. It is also uncertain whether there was already a cloister next to the first church, as was usual with Benedictines. So far one cannot exclude the possibility that the surviving south tower was basically a keep of the Ottonian castle, buttressing the church, because the existence of an Ilsenburg Castle was already mentioned in the 10th century. Excavations in the cloister during 2002/2003 raised hopes of new findings from this early phase.

Layout of the Abbey

Turning to the actual layout of the abbey, today only the south wing with monks’ dining hall (refectory) and cellar underneath, and the east wing with chapter hall and monks’ dormitory, remain. There are varying opinions on their precise dates of origin.