‘Game of Thrones’: What’s the Deal With the Citadel?

Kelly Woo
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
John Bradley as Samwell Tarly in HBO’s Game of Thrones. (Photo: HBO)

Season 7 of Game of Thrones will see worlds collide, as Daenerys Targaryen arrives in Westeros to stake a claim to the Iron Throne. She’ll have to wrest it from Cersei Lannister’s cold, scheming fingers, though. And then there are the Starks, who have finally returned to and regained their family seat in Winterfell. Of course, the greatest threat of all is waiting on the other side of the Wall — the Night King and his army of White Walkers.

As viewers count down the days until the HBO drama’s seventh-season premiere on July 16, Yahoo TV is launching our official countdown: #GoTIsComing. Check back here every day as we give updates on all of your favorite characters, details on an important new location, and a travel guide to the locations of Westeros. So pull on a thick coat and get ready for a long and brutal winter.

In the Game of Thrones Season 6 finale, “The Winds of Winter,” Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) and Gilly (Hannah Murray) finally concluded their long journey from the Wall via his home, Horn Hill, to Oldtown. There, Sam will study at the Citadel, where he will train to become the maester for the Night’s Watch.

It was our first glimpse at the venerable institution, which boasts an impressive library and at least one ornery maester-in-residence. So, what do you need to know about this new Game of Thrones location?


The Citadel is part of Oldtown, a city in the southwestern part of Westeros. Oldtown is the oldest city in Westeros, founded by the First Men some 12,000 years ago, and it’s the second-largest city after the capital, King’s Landing.

Oldtown is the seat of the Hightower family, who are loyal to the Tyrells of Highgarden.

Photo: HBO


The Citadel is the headquarters of the Order of Maesters — scholars who advise lords of Westeros about medicine, history, science, and other academic matters. They are not religious.

The Citadel is managed by a ruling council of archmaesters called the Conclave. Archmaesters determined the seasons — like when they sent out the flock of ravens in the Season 6 finale to announce that winter had begun.

The Citadel is a university-like complex of buildings, including a massive library. We saw in the finale that it houses an astrolabe (the spherical thing seen in the opening credits of the show).

Photo: HBO

Maester Training

Much like the men of the Night’s Watch, aspiring maesters are supposed to give up their family and political allegiances when they enter the Citadel.

Younger sons are often sent to the Citadel to train; girls and women are strictly forbidden. They begin as acolytes, and when they finish a particular course of study they are given a chain link of a certain metal as a token. Examples are silver for medicine and yellow gold for math and economics.

Once an acolyte’s chain is full, he becomes a maester and is assigned to a castle or keep. He is expected to be loyal to the place, no matter if there’s a change in ownership. In reality, many maesters hold onto old allegiances.

Maesters also study the use and care of ravens, their primary form of communication.

Famous Maesters

* Grand Maester Pycelle (Julian Glover) served for more than 40 years, but he was secretly loyal to the Lannisters rather than the crown. He was recently murdered by Qyburn, Cersei Lannister’s conspirator.

Julian Glover as Grand Maester Pycelle. (Photo: HBO)

* Qyburn (Anton Lesser) was a former maester who had been stripped of his chain for human experimentation. He Frankensteined the Mountain back to life. And for his loyal efforts, Qyburn became Cersei’s Hand of the Queen and presumably Grand Maester.

Anton Lesser as Qyburn. (Photo: HBO)

* Aemon (Peter Vaughan) was the maester for the Night’s Watch until his death. He was one of only three living Targaryens.

Peter Vaughan as Aemon. (Credit: HBO)

* Luwin (Donald Sumpter) was the maester at Winterfell until he was stabbed by an Ironborn during the sacking of the castle.

Donald Sumpter as Luwin. (Photo: HBO)

What’s Sam Going to Learn?

In the books, Sam meets an archmaester named Marwyn. Fans are speculating that Jim Broadbent has been cast as Marwyn, though the news said only that he was playing “an old professor character.”

Sam tells Marwyn about his experiences north of the Wall with White Walkers. He already knows that dragonglass and Valyrian steel can kill Walkers. But perhaps he will learn more to help in the fight against the Night King’s army.

John Bradley as Samwell Tarly. (Photo: HBO)

Fans have also posited the theory that Sam learns about R+L=J (friend Jon Snow’s true parentage) and sends a raven to Jon. That could encourage Jon to reach out to his aunt, Daenerys Targaryen.

Game of Thrones Season 7 premieres Sunday, July 16, at 9 p.m. on HBO.

Read more of our #GoTIsComing coverage: