Annotated map of Middle Earth reveals Tolkien was inspired by Ravenna

A recently discovered map of Middle Earth, the setting for JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, includes an annotation by the author revealing that the Italian hill town of Ravenna was the inspiration for the city of Minas Tirith.

Inside the Basilica di San Vitale, Ravenna.

Inside the Basilica di San Vitale, Ravenna. Image by Paul Baker / CC BY 2.0

Ravenna, which is famous for its lavishly mosaiced basilicas, was the final capital of the Western Roman Empire prior to its collapse in AD 476, a striking parallel with Minas Tirith, which in the books was the heavily fortified capital of Gondor and the final stronghold of the 'men of the west'. The map was found inside a copy of the book which once belonged to Pauline Baynes, an illustrator who collaborated with Tolkien in 1970 to create and publish a map of Middle Earth. Read more:

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