In LOTR, Minas Tirith in Gondor is described as having seven levels. What was the average difference in height between levels?

  • 2
    IIRC, the only thing that's said is that the overlook in front of the palace is 700 feet above the plain. Assuming the bottom level is at the level of the plain, that's an average (arithmetic mean) of 116 feet 8 inches between each level.
    – Spencer
    Dec 8, 2022 at 17:23
  • Did the movies show any of the gates of the city besides the main one?
    – FlaStorm32
    Dec 9, 2022 at 1:31
  • 1
    @FlaStorm32 if I remember correctly, in the Return of the King movie shows (Gandalf + Pippin) on Shadowfax riding from the main gate up to the courtyard of the White Tree; later, during the siege, there is a scene at the second gate with Gandalf speaking to Pippin. I think both scenes are only in the exented edition of the movie.
    – lfurini
    Dec 9, 2022 at 16:26
  • See The Art of the Lord of the Rings, pages 141-160 for all of Tolkien's drawings of Minas Tirith. A number of them are in profile, and you can see the height of the levels relative to other features.
    – ibid
    Jan 5, 2023 at 8:54

1 Answer 1


The Return of the KIng, Book v, Chapter 1 "Minas tirith":

For the fashion of Minas Tirith was such that it was built on seven levels, each delved into the hill, and about each level was a wall, and in each wall was a gate.

From the rear of the courtyard behind the gate in the first wall, a bastion of stone rose up.

Up it rose, even to the level of the topmost circle, and there was crowned by a battlement; so those in the Citadel, might, like mariners in a mountainous ship, look frm its peak sheer down upon the gate seven hundred feet below. The entrance to the Citadel also looked eastward, but was delved in the heart of the rock; thence a long lamp-lit slope ran up to the seventh gate. Thus men reached at last the High Court and the Place of the fountain below the the feet of the White Tower: tall and shapely, fifty fathoms from its base to the pinnacle, where the banner of the Stewards floated athousand feet above the plain.

Fifty fathoms is 300 feet, and 300 plus 700 equals 1,000, so everything adds up.

Ths we can be certain that the averge level of MInas Tirith is 100 feet higher than the one below, right?

Except that the number of height differences must be one less than the number of levels. So the average level must be 116.666 feet above the one below.

That would make it even harder for an enemy to capture each successive level of Minas Tirith. Storming ladders that can reach 116.666 feet high when leaned agaisnt a wall are even more impossibly tall than ladders that can reach 100 feet high.

The only way for nonflyers to scale the walls would be to use crossbows to shoot grappling hooks with ropes to the tops of rhe walls and climb the ropes, which is easier said than done. I think that it would take very athletic warriors to climb ropes that high without falling to their deaths part way up. And the defenders on the battlements would be busy cutting the ropes.

The only way to get inside a higher level of Minas Tirith would be to get through its gate.

And the bottom of each gate should be about 116.666 feet above the ground level below it.

So the route up to each gate from the lower level should be a long ramp that curves between the inner and other walls of its level, parallel to those walls, going up, up, up above the streets and houses of the lower level until it reaches the ground level of the level above. And when the ramp comes even to the gateway, it should make a right hand turn to reach the gateway. And part of that short right hand length should be empty air, bridged by a drawbridge from the gate, a drawbridge which can be raised to cut off any way to reach the gate.

At least that is the way I would design Minas Tirith to maximize the difficulty of capturing levels where the average height of a wall would be 116.666 feet plus the height of the battlements.

  • 2
    All this extra detail is unnecessary. All you need is the quote for the total height, and then do the maths.
    – OrangeDog
    Dec 8, 2022 at 23:38
  • 5
    -1 (not really) for misuse of significant figures
    – Buzz
    Dec 9, 2022 at 14:09
  • 2
    Instead of .666 feet, why not just say 8 inches? Dec 10, 2022 at 22:15

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