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  • Updated 31 March 2012
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Houses of the Dead

The Tombs of Rath Dínen

The name given to the Tombs of the rulers of Gondor, which lay on a narrow ledge of land on the slopes of Mount Mindolluin behind Minas Tirith.1 Along this ledge ran the so-called Silent Street, Rath Dínen, beside which stood the Houses of the Dead. Each King had his own Tomb, and these seem to have varied in design through the ages: for example, some were domed, while others displayed images of their occupants. Unlike the Kings, it seems that the Ruling Stewards used a single communal burial chamber, the House of the Stewards, and it was here that Denethor II took his own life during the War of the Ring.

Besides the entombed bodies of the Kings and Stewards, the Houses of the Dead also held the Crown of Gondor for nearly a thousand years. When Eärnur, the last King of the House of Anárion, departed to take up the challenge of the Witch-king, he placed the Crown on the lap of the statue of his father Eärnil II, perhaps sensing that he would not return. He did not, and so there the Crown remained throughout the last millennium of the Third Age, until the coming of Aragorn Elessar. For Aragorn's coronation, Faramir recovered the Crown of Gondor from its resting place.



It is perhaps curious that the earlier Kings should have been buried in the Houses of the Dead, because during the early history of the South-kingdom the royal seat was at Osgiliath on the Anduin. It wasn't until the time of Ostoher (who died in III 492) that the Kings dwelt in Minas Anor (as Minas Tirith was then known) as a summer residence, and not until much later (in the reign of Tarondor, some 1,300 years later) that it became the permanent royal city of Gondor.

It may be that the early Kings were entombed on Mindolluin in memory of Anárion, the founder of Minas Anor and also of the line of the Kings, or it may simply be that the mountain-shelf that held the Tombs was particularly suited to the task. Alternatively, it is possible that the early Kings were originally entombed in or near Osgiliath, and that their tombs were later removed to Rath Dínen (this last possibility seems rather impractical, but we know something similar happened with Elendil's remains, which were removed from his original Tomb to rest among the Houses of the Dead).

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