The fortress of the Tower of the Sun was built to guard against the Men of the White Mountains in the year SA 3320 by the Dúnedain of Gondor, those Faithful Númenóreans who escaped the destruction of Númenor the year prior. It was at that time named Minas Anor, meaning "Tower of the Sun". It served as the home of Anárion, as Minas Ithil, built to guard against Mordor, became the dwelling-place of Isildur. The South-kingdom, however, was jointly ruled from Osgiliath by both brothers under the overlordship of Elendil.
In the year SA 3429, Sauron invaded Gondor, capturing Minas Ithil and forcing Isildur to flee. Anárion successfully defended Osgiliath and retook Minas Ithil, driving Sauron back for a time, but in the following War of the Last Alliance, Anárion was slain and rule of Gondor passed to his descendants, who would continue to rule from Osgiliath. Before departing for the north, Isildur planted the White Tree of Gondor in the Court of the Fountain in memory of his slain brother.
King Ostoher rebuilt the fortress into a city in TA 420, establishing his summer court there. Gradually, it eclipsed Osgiliath in importance as the original capital slowly declined into ruin, and in TA 1640 King Tarondor permanently moved the King's House to Minas Anor. In the year TA 2002, the city of Minas Ithil on the borders of Mordor was captured by the Ringwraiths, and renamed Minas Morgul. It was then that Minas Anor was renamed Minas Tirith, meaning "Tower of Guard". Soon afterwards, the last king of Gondor, Eärnur, was slain in the Morgul Vale, and rulership of Gondor passed to the Stewards. It was also around this time that the Rammas Echor, the great wall encircling the rich farmlands and suburbs of the city, was built.
Minas Tirith in the Third Age
The might of Gondor would decline into the late Third Age, and although the White Tower was rebuilt by Ecthelion I in the year TA 2698, the White Tree died in the year TA 2872 with no replacement. After Sauron openly declared himself in the year TA 2951, Ecthelion II strengthened the city's defences. Only a few years later, Aragorn travelled to the city under the alias of Thorongil, and was said to have done great deeds there. By the time of the War of the Ring the city was in decline, with many houses uninhabited and the city less than half populated.
Siege of Minas Tirith
Minas Tirith was eventually, during the War of the Ring in the year TA 3019, besieged by the armies of Mordor, under the Great Darkness generated by Sauron's power. Prior to the assault the Rammas Echor wall was put back into repair, work being completed on the last section facing North with only days to spare. Most of the women, children and the old were evacuated in the week before the invasion and the city was fully provisioned for a long siege.
The Siege of Gondor began with the assault on Gondor's outer defenses. When these fell and when Denethor II's son Faramir was brought back severely wounded, the Steward fell into despair and played no further part in the city's defense.
The immense Battle of the Pelennor Fields took place in the fields surrounding the city. Although Gondor and its allies were victorious, Théoden, the King of Rohan, was mortally wounded during this battle by the Witch-king of Angmar. At about the same time, the Witch-king was destroyed by Éowyn, lady of Rohan. Aragorn later arrived at the hour of need with an army from southern Gondor, which he had released by defeating the Corsairs of Umbar, turning the tide of battle in favor of the Free Peoples. After the battle, the Pelennor Fields lay strewn with bodies, the Great Gate of Minas Tirith was broken and the first circle of the city much damaged by fire.
On May 1st, 3019, the Crowning of King Elessar took place on the plain outside Minas Tirith. After his coronation, he entered the city as the King of Gondor, as he was destined to become from the start of his lifetime. With his coronation, King Elessar re-founded the line of the Kings of Gondor, and as he was also the King of the Kingdom of Arnor, Minas Tirith became Capital of the Reunited Kingdom.
Minas Tirith was repaired by its new king and by the Dwarves of Erebor, particularly Gimli, who built a new gate and renovated the city, with Legolas and the Elves contributing new gardens. Minas Tirith was said to have been made even more beautiful than when it was at the time of its founding. The city is known to have stood firm and strong well into the Fourth Age.
- "For the fashion of Minas Tirith was such that it was built on seven levels, each delved into the hill, and about each was set a wall, and in each was a gate. But the gates were not set in a line: the Great Gate in the City wall was at the east point of the circuit, but the next faced half south, and the third half north, and so to and fro upwards; so the paved way that climbed toward the citadel turned this way and that and then that across the face of the hill."
- —The Return of the King, Chapter I: "Minas Tirith"
Minas Tirith was surrounded by the Rammas Echor, a large ringwall encircling the city and the Pelennor Fields. This wall was built after Minas Ithil fell and was renamed Minas Morgul. It was repaired by Ecthelion II and Denethor II before the War of the Ring, but it was too long to be adequately manned to defend the city from the Dark Lord Sauron's legions of Uruks from Mordor. The city itself lay on the Hill of Guard beneath Mount Mindolluin, which rose above the Citadel of Minas Tirith, by a height of a couple of thousand feet. Mount Mindolluin was where Aragorn found the seedling of the White Tree.
The city was divided into seven one-hundred-foot high levels, each surrounded by white walls, except the first wall, the Othram, which was built of the same indestructible black stone as Orthanc. The gates connecting the levels did not lie behind one another in a line, but faced in alternating directions, southeast then northeast, save for the first and seventh gates, which both faced east. Passwords were required for each gate. A spur of rock, whose summit was level with the city's uppermost tier, jutted out from the front of the city in an easterly direction, dividing all but the first and seventh levels in two. Each level was scattered with many alleys, narrow passageways, and full-fledged houses. On the sixth level were located the Houses of Healing, surrounded by pleasant gardens. Finally, within the seventh wall, was the Citadel of Minas Tirith, with the White Tower of Ecthelion - three hundred feet high, so that its apex was one thousand feet above the plain. The citadel contained armouries, barracks and mess halls as well as the residence of Gondor's rulers and the feast hall Merethrond. The Court of the Fountain was directly to the west of the citadel gate.
The First Level was the lowest tier of the city, at which the Great Gate of Minas Tirith was located.
During the Siege of Minas Tirith, Sauron's forces cast fire into the First Level, burning many buildings and causing general havoc amongst the defenders. Later on, the Main Gate was breached when Grond was finally used against it and the Witch-king of Angmar entered on horseback, the only enemy to successfully enter in three thousand years. Confronted by Gandalf, the Lord of the Nazgul retreated on the arrival of the host of Rohan.
Portrayal in adaptations
Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings films
Minas Tirith appears briefly in Peter Jackson's first movie The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, where Gandalf learns about the One Ring; as well as his second film The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers where it is seen as a glimpse in the distance when the rangers of Ithilien hold Frodo and Sam captive. It is a central and major location in Peter Jackson's third movie The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
Tolkien's description of the physical layout of Minas Tirith is largely followed in Peter Jackson's movie. The films crew built a model of Minas Tirith closely based on Tolkien's description, although there are several assumptions made by the director and differences from the book. One of these is the assumption that the top of the courtyard of the White Tree was flattened and paved. Another difference between film and book is that in the book the coronation of Aragorn takes place not in the courtyard atop the city but outside the city, and only after his coronation does he enter the city as new King of Gondor.
Despite the book's describing the first wall as dark in colour (similar to Orthanc), unusually high and almost indestructible, in the movies it is not only white and several times lower than the rest of the walls, it's also heavily damaged because of attacks. The film also shows the old White Tree with blossom at the arrival of Aragorn, though in the book Gandalf and Aragorn discover a new sapling on the slopes of Mount Mindolluin and replant it in the place of the old tree.
The Great Gate of Minas Tirith in the films was flanked by towers and bastions made from the same white stone which makes up the entire lower level. The Rammas Echor is not shown or mentioned in the films.
The full model of Minas Tirith, seen only in full shots of the city with the mountains behind it in the films, was made by John Baster and Mary Maclachlan of the Miniatures department of the crew.
The Battle for Middle-earth
In Electronic Arts' RTS The Battle for Middle-earth series, Minas Tirith can be played at in Skirmishes, and appears in the Campaign of the first installment The Battle for Middle-earth. The city's scale and depth are accurate to its depiction in the films.
|Foreign Language||Translated name|
|Belarusian Cyrillic||Мі́нас Ты́рыт|
|Bulgarian Cyrillic||Минас Тирит|
|Chinese (Hong Kong)||米那斯提力斯|
|Danish||Minas Tirith (Mundborg)|
|Kazakh||Мінас Тірітһ (Cyrillic) Minas Tirith (Latin)|
|Kyrgyz Cyrillic||Минас Тиритч|
|Macedonian Cyrillic||Минас Тирит|
|Mongolian Cyrillic||Минас Тиритh|
|Persian||(Minas Tirith) میناس تیریت
(Minas Anor) میناس آنور
|Serbian||Минас Тирит (Cyrillic) Minas Tirit (Latin)|
|Sindhi||مڳناس تڳرڳته ?|
|Uzbek||Минас Тиритҳ (Cyrillic) Minas Tirith (Latin)|
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