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  • Updated 24 December 2023
  • Updates planned: 2

The main Gate of the city of Minas Tirith, in the lowest circle of the City, which opened outward from the easternmost point in that circle. It was more commonly called the Great Gate of Minas Tirith, but during the last millennium of the Third Age, Minas Tirith had become the City of Gondor, and so its Gate became the Gate of Gondor.1 The Gate was made in the early history of the realm, and consisted of doors cunningly crafted of iron mounted on posts of steel. It was at least wide enough for two wagons to pass through it side by side.

Outside the Gate, three roads met. Directly eastward from the Gate ran a broad way that led to Osgiliath on Anduin, the old capital of Gondor. Another road turned northward, leading around the skirts of the White Mountains toward Rohan and the northern lands beyond. The third turned southward, running toward the harbour city of Pelargir, and then on westward through the southern fiefs of Gondor.

To a traveller approaching the Gate along one of these roads, if the Gate were shut,2 its iron doors would roll open3 to admit them into the City. Passing through the Gate, such a traveller would find themselves in a wide courtyard, at the far end of which a sheer rockface rose upward: the 'keel' of the City that ran up to its highest level. From the sides of this courtyard, streets and alleys ran in all directions, including a broad way known as Rath Celerdain, the Lampwrights' Street. The Second Gate of the city was not in line with the main Gate of Gondor, so if a traveller wished to pass beyond the first circle, they would need to turn left (that is, southwards) and follow the inner wall for some distance before finding the Gate in that wall that led into Minas Tirith's second tier.

The Gate of Gondor in the War of the Ring

By March of III 3019, it was clear that Sauron intended to launch an imminent attack against Gondor. Defenders were called to Minas Tirith, which would be the Dark Lord's immediate target, and many of the citizens of Gondor also sought shelter behind the City's walls. Faramir and his Rangers had been attempting to hold the enemy at Osgiliath, but were driven back by the Nazgûl and made a desperate ride to reach the Gate and escape into the City. With help from Gandalf and Imrahil, they succeeded, although Faramir was left badly wounded. Finally, riders from the northern Rammas Echor, the outer wall of the Pelennor, passed through the Gate before it was finally shut against the coming Siege.

The besieging forces emerged from Osgiliath and filed onto the Pelennor Fields before the Gate. On 15 March, fighting broke out in earnest around the Gate, and at first the Men of Gondor were able to repel the enemy. The armies of Sauron then brought up an immense steel-headed battering ram, given the name Grond, which they wheeled to the Gate of the City. Swung with the strength of Trolls, and wound about with ruinous sorcery, the iron doors of the Gate could not hope to withstand this ram. They survived two of its mighty strokes, but on the third,4 a bolt of lightning was released, and the ancient Gate of Minas Tirith broke into shards.

The Lord of the Nazgûl, who was leading Sauron's attack, rode through the broken gate to find the Wizard Gandalf awaiting him, all other defenders having fled in fear. Before these two beings could clash, however, events conspired to draw them both away: Gandalf to attend to the madness of Denethor high above, and the Witch-king to deal with a new threat, the unforeseen arrival of the Rohirrim onto the battlefield. Thus the Gondorians were able to hold the courtyard behind the Gate, though the Gate itself had been shattered into fragments.

Under Prince Imrahil, indeed, the Men of Gondor were able to mount a sortie through the broken gateway to support the Rohirrim, and shortly afterward Aragorn drew into the docks of the nearby Harlond with vessels filled with further reinforcements. Thus, despite the breaking of the Gate of Gondor, the Gondorians and their allies were able to win the day and drive the enemy from Minas Tirith's walls.

After the War

After the victory at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, the War of the Ring came to its end with the destruction of the One Ring and the defeat of Sauron. Though Gondor's enemies had been defeated, it was not a simple matter to replace the ancient iron gate, and in the immediate aftermath of the War, a simple barrier was erected in its place.

It would be some time5 before the City of Gondor received a new Great Gate worthy of that name. After the War, the Dwarf Gimli brought many of his people south to settle at Aglarond in the White Mountains, and the craftsmen of these Dwarves constructed a new Gate of Gondor. This new Gate was wrought from mithril and steel,6 and it guarded the city of Minas Tirith into the Fourth Age.



In earlier times, Osgiliath had been the chief city of the realm, and so if the name 'Gate of Gondor' was used at all in those early years, it would have applied to Osgiliath rather than Minas Tirith (or Minas Anor as it was then known). Our records of the name 'Gate of Gondor' come from the time of the War of the Ring, when Osgiliath lay in ruins, and Minas Tirith was the pre-eminent city of the South-realm.


It seems unlikely that the Great Gate would have been kept shut in peacetime, at least during the day. We have an account from the War of the Ring of a trumpet call that signalled the closing of the Gate at sundown. This may indicate that the Gate was left open during the day, and then closed at night (although at this time the City was facing an imminent siege, so these arrangements may not have applied during less troubled times.)


The iron doors of the Gate must have been exceptionally heavy, which implies that some kind of mechanism existed to open and close them, or at least that they were mounted with extraordinary precision. The Great Gate was the workmanship of the early Gondorians, who had skills that were lost in later years. After the Gate was destroyed during the Siege of Gondor, Imrahil asked, '...where now is the skill to rebuild it and set it up anew?' (The Return of the King V 9, The Last Debate).


Or, possibly, on the fourth. The relevant passage of The Lord of the Rings is slightly ambiguous on this point, in that it describes Grond striking the door, and then has the Witch-king order strikes three times. It is not completely clear whether the first impact of Grond was included within these three ordered strikes, or whether the ram actually struck four times in total. The more direct reading seems to imply three strikes by the ram, but from the wording, a total of four would not be impossible.

The most directly relevant sentence, after the initial strike, is 'Thrice he cried.' (from The Return of the King V 4, The Siege of Gondor). This is describing the Witch-king's orders for the ram to strike, but the sentence appears after the initial blow has been struck. In context, despite the order of the descriptions, this seems to include the first strike (otherwise we might expect 'Thrice more he cried' or something of the kind).


We're not told when the new Gate was constructed, but for the Dwarves to first establish themselves at Aglarond implies a delay of at least several months, and possibly even some years. Presumably Minas Tirith would not have been left with a simple barrier for all this time, and probably a temporary lesser Gate was raised during this period before the Dwarves' mithril replacement was installed.


All we're told about the new Gate is that it was made of mithril and steel. The original Gate had doors of iron and pillars of steel, so perhaps we're to take it that the new Gate followed a similar arrangement, with doors made of mithril that were mounted on steel posts, though this is not specifically stated.


About this entry:

  • Updated 24 December 2023
  • Updates planned: 2

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