The White Tower of Ecthelion was the tallest tower in the Citadel of Minas Tirith.The thrones of the King and the Steward of Gondor were contained in the Tower Hall inside the tower, and the city's Palantir was kept in a chamber in the uppermost story.
By the time of the War of the Ring White Tower had graced the highest point of Minas Tirith for over a thousand years. The Tower of Ecthelion flew the plain white standard of the Stewards of Gondor from its pinnacle, and—at during the Fourth Age the Royal Standard. It was 50 fathoms (300 feet) tall. The Tower stood in the center of the Citadel on the seventh level of the city. In front of the Tower was the Place of the Fountain where the White Tree of Gondor grew.
In the Tower Hall was the throne of the King of Gondor upon a dais, and at the foot of the dais on the lowest step was a black chair where the Steward of Gondor would sit. There was a chamber high in the Tower, a secret room where the Palantír of Minas Anor, called the Anor-stone, was kept.
King Calimehtar first built the White Tower in TA 1900 in order to house the Palantír. In TA 2698, the Tower was repaired and rebuilt by the Steward Ecthelion I, some three centuries before the War of the Ring, and for whom the Tower came to be named.
The elite military unit in Minas Tirith was called the Guard of the Citadel or the Guard of the Tower. At the time of the War of the Ring, Boromir and Faramir - the sons of the Steward of Gondor - each bore the title Captain of the White Tower. Boromir, the Steward's heir, was also the High Warden of the White Tower.
- "Then Pippin cried aloud, for the Tower of Ecthelion, standing high within the topmost wall, shone out against the sky, glimmering like a spike of pearl and silver, tall and fair and shapely, and its pinnacle glittered as if it were wrought of crystals; and white banners broke and fluttered from the battlements in the morning breeze, and high and far he heard a clear ringing as of silver trumpets."
- —The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, Book Five, Ch. I: "Minas Tirith"
Pippin met Denethor II, the Steward of Gondor, in the Tower Hall. Denethor's son Faramir came to the Tower Hall the next day, and Pippin and Gandalf learned of his encounter with Frodo and Sam in Ithilien. When Faramir was brought back to the city gravely wounded on March 13, Denethor retreated to his chamber high in the Tower with his son and would not come down. In the secret chamber of the Tower, Denethor looked into the Palantír and saw images manipulated by Sauron that caused him to despair.
After the War of the Ring on May 1, 3019, the standard of the Stewards of Gondor was raised for the last time. That day Aragorn was crowned King and when he entered the Citadel; the standard of the Kings of Gondor bearing the White Tree and the Stars was unfurled on the pinnacle of the Tower of Ecthelion.
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- The Atlas of Middle-earth, The Lord of the Rings, "Minas Tirith"
- The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B: The Tale of Years (Chronology of the Westlands)
- The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, Book Five, Chapter I: "Minas Tirith"
- The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, Book Six, Chapter V: "The Steward and the King"
- The History of Middle-earth, Vol. 12: The Peoples of Middle-earth, VII: "The Heirs of Elendil"