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Order of Maesters
Maester link by timdurning.jpg
A maester's chain, with links of different metals
Art by Tim Durning ©
Seat The Citadel, Oldtown
Region Seven Kingdoms

The maesters are an order of scholars, healers, messengers, and scientists. They educate new students at their "seat", the Citadel, which is located in Oldtown, a city in the Reach. House Hightower was integral in the Citadel's foundation, and continues to patronize the order. As advisers to the Westerosi nobility, the maesters have largely supplanted the Alchemists' Guild.[1] They are sometimes called "the knights of the mind."[2]



The governance of the Citadel is held by the Seneschal, chosen from among the archmaesters. A new Seneschal is appointed annually. Because the archmaesters tend to see the office as a thankless task, as it takes them away from their true work, the Seneschal is selected by lot, with the one who draws the black stone taking on the office.[3] When the archmaester who draws the black stone is not capable of fulfilling his duties as Seneschal, another archmaester might volunteer to serve his term instead.[3]


Further leading the Citadel are the archmaesters. These maesters have demonstrated that they have mastered a particular subject. They receive a mask, ring, and rod in the metal corresponding to the link of the maester's chain which signifies their expertise on the topic.[4] Archmaesters teach the students at the Citadel in their subject of expertise, and judge whether a novice or an acolyte has shown enough knowledge on their subject to receive a link for their chain.[4]

Archmaesters have the right to sit on the Conclave, a council which elects the Grand Maester[5] and determines when the seasons change.[6][7] The meetings of the Conclave are conducted behind closed doors at the Citadel.[5]

Each archmaester is said to carry a heavy, black iron key that will open most of the doors in the Citadel. They keep them close on their person, or hide them well.[8]

Grand Maesters

The Grand Maester is a maester who serves as the Citadel's representative at the royal court of the king on the Iron Throne, the Lord of the Seven Kingdoms.[9] The Grand Maester is elected by the Conclave, and only the Conclave can unmake him again.[5] Although the Conclave puts effort into demonstrating their consideration of ability before birth, this is only a pretense which is not usually the case in its final choice for Grand Maester.[5] Sworn to serve the whole realm,[10] the Grand Maester sits on the king's small council and acts as one of the his advisers.[11]

Grand Maesters are generally older men. Kaeth was chosen as Grand Maester at the age of eighty, Ellendor at almost ninety, and Merion at the age of sixty-six. After all three died within a short time span, King Aegon V Targaryen suggested to the Conclave that a younger man might be better. As such, Pycelle, aged forty-two, was raised to the office.[12]


A maester at his service

The maesters are scholars and healers who have completed their training at the Citadel. They can be send to serve at the holding of a lord by the Citadel. Maesters are only found in castles,[13] not in villages. Every great lord has a maester, and every lesser lord aspires to have one, as not having a maester in your service is taken to mean that you are of little consequence.[14] However, a lord has to pay the Citadel for a maester’s service,[15] and as a result only those lordlings with sufficient funds can afford a maester.

Maesters wear a collar, which is supposed to remind him of the realm he serves.[16] When he completes his education and takes his vows, a maester puts aside his House name.[17] Although he is supposed to be loyal to the seat to which he is assigned, regardless of the changes in (lawful and unlawful) control of that holding,[18] old allegiances or loyalties might continue linger.[14]

It is generally believed that not many maesters are willing to "dirty their hands" by helping smallfolk.[13]

Novices and Acolytes

Students who start their education at the Citadel are known as novices. Once they have earned a link, they become acolytes.[4] Most acolytes treat novices as if they are slow-witted.[4] Acolytes train at letters at the Scribe's Hearth,[19] and can be hired by Oldtowners to read their letters or write their wills.[3] When an acolyte is prepared to take his vows and become a maester, he is placed in a completely dark room with one of the Citadel's glass candles, made of razor-sharp obsidian. He must stay in that room for the entire night in darkness, unless he is able to light the candle. The tradition serves as a lesson about truth and learning.[4]

Students who violate the rules of the Citadel can be ordered confined to their rooms by the maesters.[8] They can also receive more physical punishments. For example, for stealing from the kitchens, rectors might place them in stocks at the Seneschal's Court, where acolytes may throw rotten vegetables at them.[3]



A maester at his studies

Boys and young men from all over Westeros come to study, learn, and forge their chains at the Citadel.[20] There is no age requirement,[21] and despite the prejudice of the archmaesters to status of birth, males of every social status are allowed to forge their chain. As such, baseborns (e.g., Pate),[4] bastards (e.g., Walys)[14], younger children of lords, and even royalty (e.g., Prince Oberyn Martell,[22] and Princes Aemon[17] and Vaegon Targaryen)[23] can study together at the Citadel.

Novices and acolytes are educated together. Archmaesters give open lectures, which the students can attend at will. Once a student believes he has sufficient knowledge on a particular subject, he can go before an archmaester to demonstrate his knowledge. If the archmaester judges the student’s knowledge to be proficient, he awards him with a link of a metal reflecting the topic.[8]

Not all who start their studies will complete their chain. Oldtown is full of aging novices and acolytes who have never started their chains, or never finished forging them.[21] Others leave the Citadel before completing their chain on purpose. Gunthor Hightower studied for several years at the Citadel,[3] although it is not known whether he earned any links while there. Both Lord Lyonel Strong,[24] and Prince Oberyn Martell[22] left the Citadel after forging six links. Some students learn only something about healing, and may become barbers, serving smallfolk with leeches, setting broken bones, and shaving and cutting their hair.[8]

It is not known how long a student generally takes to forge a chain. Maester Yandel earned his first link in 285 AC and completed his chain in 292 AC, at the age of twenty,[19] while Aemon, who took several more years to forge his chain,[N 1] took his maester's vows at the age of nineteen.[25] The speed at which a student earns his links differs between each student. While some might take a year per link (e.g., Armen),[4] exceptional students might earn as many as three links within a year (e.g., Alleras),[8] possibly even more.[N 2]


Students are educated at the Citadel, a complex of buildings found in Oldtown. The Citadel is financed by the lords who pay for having a maester in their service, and from certain taxes that the Citadel collects at Oldtown.[15]

Maester's vows

A maester taking the oath

When an acolyte has completed his chain, he can swear a maester's vows. The night before, the acolytes must stand a vigil in a vault with a black glass candle. The acolytes are not allowed any other source of light, and has to spend the night in total darkness unless he can light the candle.[8]

When an acolyte of noble birth takes his vows and dons his chain, he puts aside his House name.[17] He swears sacred vows, promising to hold no lands or lordships,[26] and to be celibate.[27]

Maester's serving in the Night's Watch on the Wall are doubly sworn, and uphold both the maester's vows and the oaths of the Night's Watch[28]

Subjects of knowledge and tasks

The order of maesters are sometimes called the knights of the mind.[2] Numerous subjects are taught at the Citadel. They include history, healing, herblore, the speech of ravens, the building of castles, navigating by the stars, the measurement of days and the marking of seasons.[2] Maesters have performed autopsies for centuries to better understand the workings of the human body.[29][30] They have observed that highborn girls get their first period at a younger age than lower born girls, and that very young mothers tend to have a significantly higher rate of death in childbirth.[31] They make star maps,[32] monitor temperature variations and the march of the seasons, so they can advise on what to plant and when to expect a harvest,[33] and measure the length of the days, as to determine the change of the seasons.[6] When the Conclave has decreed that the seasons have indeed changed, the Citadel sends out white ravens to the lords of Westeros, to herald the changing of the seasons.[6]

A maester advises his lord. © FFG

Maesters advise their lords on the operation of their households and lands.[34][35] Some lords trust their maesters to open and read letters, and to convey their contents to them. Others prefer to do so for themselves.[36] Maesters can be tasked with writing letters for their lords as well, and might be trusted to read and write the letters of those lords who are illiterate.[14] They are in charge of the ravens used as messengers. Although most ravens can only be trained to fly to one castle, a few can be trained to distinguish between two, and rarely even more.[37] Maesters assist in childbirth,[34] treat illnesses,[22] and teach children arithmetic, language, and history.[2][18][38]

Even among the maesters who have earned a Valyrian link, representing the higher mysteries,[39] there are those who believe that, though magic might have once been a mighty force in the world, it no longer is. They describe Valyria as the "last ember" of magic, which went out with the Doom.[39] Most archmaesters do not care much for ideas concerning occult matters.[40] The rare archmaester who does (e.g., Marwyn)[8] can expect it to impact his reputation. It is said that all those who study the higher mysteries try their own hands at sorcery eventually, but always fail.[39]

Some subjects are forbidden in the Citadel, including cutting open living people,[30] or practicing necromancy.[41]


Forging the chain - by Mike Capprotti. © Fantasy Flight Games

A maester can be recognized by the chain he wears around his neck. The collar is supposed to remind a maester of the realm he serves.[16] The links of the chain can be made of every metal known to man.[11] By earning their links, students "forge" their chain. This term is metaphorical; Though they do study metals at the Citadel, maesters do not necessarily train as blacksmiths[42] Maesters never remove their chain, not even when sleeping,[16] and it is considered a great shame for a maester to surrender his chain.[43] The Citadel can decide to strip a maester of his chain, thereby exiling him from the Citadel. This is done as a punishment for, for example, cutting open living people,[30] or practicing necromancy.[41]

According to George R. R. Martin, it is possible to earn multiple links of the same metal; Multiple links of the same metal on a maester's chain signifies the expertise of the maester on the subject.[44] The metals of which a student can earn links for their chain include:

Iron link for studies in the field of warcraft. Art by Tim Durning ©

While there are only fifteen known links, and thus fifteen known subjects of expertise taught at the Citadel, there are twenty-one known current archmaesters of the Citadel, for only eight of whom a specialism is known.[45] It is currently unknown if each of these archmaesters are specialized in a separate subject or whether multiple archmaesters can be specialized in the same subject.

Only one maester in one hundred holds a link of Valyrian steel.[39]


Although the origin of the Citadel is disputed, the Hightowers are considered to have been instrumental in its founding,[45] as most accounts credit its foundation to Prince Peremore the Twisted, the second son of King Uthor of the High Tower. The curious Peremore invited numerous scholars, including wise men, teachers, priests, healers, singers, wizards, alchemists, and sorcerors, to Oldtown. After Peremore's death, his brother, King Urrigon, granted land alongside the Honeywine to "Peremore's pets", who developed the tract into the maesters' Citadel.[20]

Before the Doom of Valyria, maesters and archmaesters often traveled to the Freehold of Valyria, searching for answers to the many questions they had.[20]

In recent centuries, the maester’s of the Citadel have supplanted the once powerful Alchemists’ Guild through most of the Seven Kingdoms.[1]

Even before the official formation of the small council, Grand Maesters held an important position at the royal court. However, over the course of history, several have found their deaths at the hands of their monarch: King Maegor I Targaryen had three Grand Maesters executed,[5] including Grand Maester Gawen and Desmond,[46] while Aegon II Targaryen had Grand Maester Gerardys fed to his dragon Sunfyre.[5] Grand Maester Hareth was executed as well, on grounds of treason.[22]

Archmaester Marwyn believes that the Citadel is behind the deaths of the last Targaryen dragons, because of a conspiracy against magic and prophecy.[3]

Recent Events

A Clash of Kings

When the red comet appears, the maesters are among the first to notice.[32][6]

The Conclave gathers to consider the reports and measurements made by maesters all over the realm. Based on that information, they declare the summer is over, and send out white ravens to herald the changing of the seasons.[6][7]

Acting as Hand of the King, Tyrion Lannister has Grand Maester Pycelle thrown into the dungeons of the Red Keep as punishment for betraying his confidential information to Queen Regent Cersei Lannister.[47]

A Storm of Swords

Accepting Pycelle’s dismissal, the Conclave gathers to discuss who his successor should be. After pretending to consider two lowborn maesters, the Conclave comes close to electing Maester Gormon, who had been born a Tyrell of Highgarden. Thanks to the presence of his little birds at the Citadel, Lord Varys learns of this, and warns Lord Tywin Lannister, the Hand of the King. To prevent the Tyrells from gaining more influence at court, Tywin immediately restores Pycelle to his office.[5]

A Feast for Crows

At the Citadel, the novice Pate steals a black key which supposedly opens every door in the Citadel. He trades the key with the Alchemist for a golden dragon. However, the Alchemist kills him,[8] and assumes Pate’s appearance and identity.[3]

Jon Snow, the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, sends his sworn brother Samwell Tarly to Oldtown to train at the Citadel and become a maester. Maester Aemon, the maester of Castle Black, is send with Samwell, but following a long period of illness dies, shortly before they reach Oldtown.[48][43] After hearing Aemon’s interpretation of a prophecy, Archmaester Marwyn decides to travel to Slaver's Bay to reach Daenerys Targaryen.[3]

A Dance with Dragons

Lady Barbrey Dustin expresses her distrust of maesters to Theon Greyjoy, and refers to them as "grey rats".[14]

Following the fall of Queen Regent Cersei Lannister, Grand Maester Pycelle successfully seizes control of King Tommen I Baratheon and the small council. He offers Ser Kevan Lannister the regency. Together, they attempt to restore the damage done by Cersei and to mend the Lannister-Tyrell alliance that supports Tommen's hold on the Iron Throne. When he sees they are going to succeed, Lord Varys, the former master of whisperers, assassinates both Pycelle and Kevan.[49]

Known Members



Acolytes and Novices

Historical Members

Grand Maesters




There are some who call my order the knights of the mind ... Have you ever thought that you might wear a maester's chain? There is no limit to what you might learn ... I can teach you history, healing, herblore. I can teach you the speech of ravens, and how to build a castle, and the way a sailor steers his ship by the stars. I can teach you to measure the days and marks the seasons, and at the Citadel in Oldtown they can teach you a thousand things more. But, Bran, no man can teach you magic.[2]

- Luwin to Bran Stark

If you do not have a maester, it is taken to mean that you are of little consequence.[14]

- Barbrey Dustin to Theon Greyjoy

Isn't it clever how the maesters go only by one name, even those who had two when they first arrived at the Citadel? That way we cannot know who they truly are or where they come from.[14]

- Barbrey Dustin to Theon Greyjoy

See Also


  1. According to Jeor Mormont, Aemon was "nine or ten" years old when he was sent to the Citadel (A Clash of Kings, Jon I). As he completed his chain at the age of nineteen, it had taken him nine or ten years to complete his studies.
  2. Aemon had started his education at the age of "nine or ten", and earned "half a dozen" links by the time Aerys I Targaryen ascended the Iron Throne in 209 AC (A Clash of Kings, Jon I), one or two years after arriving at the Citadel.
  3. Based on Archmaester Vaellyn's "subject to judge" being "the heavens" (A Feast for Crows, Prologue) and him being described as "the stargazer" (A Feast for Crows, Appendix)


  1. 1.0 1.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 20, Tyrion V.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 53, Bran VI.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 A Feast for Crows, Chapter 45, Samwell V.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 A Feast for Crows, Prologue.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 12, Tyrion II.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 A Clash of Kings, Prologue.
  7. 7.0 7.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 7, Catelyn I.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 8.7 8.8 8.9 A Feast for Crows, Prologue.
  9. George R. R. Martin's A World of Ice and Fire, Maesters.
  10. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 39, Cersei IX.
  11. 11.00 11.01 11.02 11.03 11.04 11.05 11.06 11.07 11.08 11.09 11.10 11.11 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 20, Eddard IV.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 A Feast for Crows, Chapter 36, Cersei VIII.
  13. 13.0 13.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 19, Arya V.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 14.6 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 37, The Prince of Winterfell.
  15. 15.0 15.1 So Spake Martin: ConJose (San Jose, CA; August 29-September 2) (August 29, 2002)
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 16.5 16.6 16.7 16.8 16.9 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 41, Jon V.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 60, Jon VIII.
  18. 18.0 18.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 66, Theon VI.
  19. 19.0 19.1 The World of Ice & Fire, Preface.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 The World of Ice & Fire, The Reach: Oldtown.
  21. 21.0 21.1 So Spake Martin: Citadel Entry Requirements (May 18, 1999)
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 22.4 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 36, Davos IV.
  23. The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Jaehaerys I.
  24. The World of Ice & Fire, The Riverlands: House Tully.
  25. George R. R. Martin's A World of Ice and Fire, Aemon.
  26. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 17, Cersei IV.
  27. A Clash of Kings, Prologue.
  28. So Spake Martin: SF, Targaryens, Valyria, Sansa, Martells, and More (June 26, 2001)
  29. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 61, Daenerys VII.
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 A Feast for Crows, Chapter 7, Cersei II.
  31. So Spake Martin: Age of Sexual Relations in Westeros (October 5, 1999)
  32. 32.0 32.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 66, Bran VII.
  33. So Spake Martin: The Effects of Winter (June 21, 2001)
  34. 34.0 34.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 6, Catelyn II.
  35. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 64, Jon VIII.
  36. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 3, Jon I.
  37. The Winds of Winter, Theon I
  38. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 40, Bran III.
  39. 39.0 39.1 39.2 39.3 39.4 39.5 39.6 39.7 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 28, Bran IV.
  40. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 44, Jaime VI.
  41. 41.0 41.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 64, Arya X.
  42. So Spake Martin: Maester Chains and Valyrian Steel Links (June 20, 2001)
  43. 43.0 43.1 A Feast for Crows, Chapter 35, Samwell IV.
  44. So Spake Martin: Dragon Limbs and Gender, Valyrian Weapons and Maesters' Chains (April 16, 2008)
  45. 45.00 45.01 45.02 45.03 45.04 45.05 45.06 45.07 45.08 45.09 45.10 45.11 45.12 45.13 45.14 45.15 45.16 45.17 45.18 45.19 45.20 45.21 45.22 45.23 A Feast for Crows, Appendix.
  46. The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Maegor I.
  47. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 25, Tyrion VI.
  48. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 5, Samwell I.
  49. A Dance with Dragons, Epilogue.
  50. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 9, Tyrion I.
  51. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 25, Eddard V.
  52. 52.0 52.1 The Sworn Sword.
  53. The World of Ice & Fire, The Westerlands: House Lannister under the Dragons.
  54. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 45, Catelyn VI.
  55. The Mystery Knight.
  56. The Hedge Knight.