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Lore:College of Winterhold

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College of Winterhold
Type District
Continent Tamriel
Province Skyrim
Hold Winterhold
(Broken Cape)
Settlement Winterhold
Appears in Skyrim, Legends
The College of Winterhold
College banner

The College of Winterhold is a school for magic in the city of Winterhold. Its campus is imposing and fortress-like, arranged around a large central courtyard and, following the Great Collapse, reachable only across a narrow stone bridge.[1] It functions much like the Mages Guild in other parts of Tamriel, but is a resolutely independent establishment separate from the Guild. The College holds documents dating back as far as the late Second Era,[2] though the College itself is even older.[3] It is said to have been founded in the First Era by the legendary mage Shalidor, although it is one of many dubious feats attributed to him.[4] One of the oldest reliable mentions of the College comes from the early Second Era.[5]

The College is a selective institution, which allows entrance only to those students who prove themselves adept at the magical arts.[1] However, once a student earns admittance, they are granted more freedom of experimentation than in the Mages Guild, with even Necromancy regarded as an acceptable arcane practice.[6] The College's main building is the Hall of the Elements, which is used for all kinds of magical practice. It holds the famous Arcanaeum library as well as the Arch-Mage's quarters, while accommodations for students and faculty are provided in separate buildings. Beneath the college campus lies the Midden, a remnant of the college's past where many of its greatest secrets lie.[1] The Eye of Shalidor is the symbol of the institution and is seen on many banners and stone reliefs across campus.[7][8]


The Rings of Preservation were fabled pieces of jewelry argued by some scholars to have been crafted in the Second Era for the Arch-Mages of Winterhold, to help with their personal protection.[9] Although it is unknown if he was the chief librarian of the College as of then, Urag gro-Shub already worked in the Arcanaeum during the Second Era, ensuring the survival of the rare books.[10]

In the late Third Era, the College became home to the Ysmir Collective, a library rescued from destruction in the east. It became the cornerstone of academic life at the College, and scholars from all over Tamriel descended on Winterhold to study its contents.[11] Being an independent organization, the College was not affected by the dissolution of the Mages Guild following the Oblivion Crisis,[12] and remained studiously neutral despite pressures from the Imperial Synod and the College of Whispers.[13]

The College has struggled to maintain its prominence in Skyrim in the Fourth Era for a number of different reasons. The local Nords, who remained skeptical of magic despite the prestige the College brought to their city, became even more distrustful after it came out conspicuously unscathed during the Great Collapse, perched on a surviving, inverted pyramid of rock that juts out of the sea.[14] The College maintains that it was spared thanks to ancient magical protections not afforded to the surrounding city.[14] However, the many troubles of the Fourth Era resulted in a significant loss of their history.[2] The war against the Thalmor caused much magical knowledge and talent to be destroyed, and so the College has dedicated itself to preserving what it can and passing it on to future practitioners of the arts.[15] By the Fourth Era, the fabled Ysmir Collective library has shrunk in size and importance to a collection of rare books on display within the Arcanaeum.[16]:778

Despite a fallen prestige after the Great Collapse, several high-profile mages study at the College in 4E 201. Some of these mages include the Conjuration instructor Phinis Gestor, who was said to be one of the greatest conjurers in all of Skyrim, and Tolfdir, the seemingly foolish Alteration professor that is actually one of the best Alteration scholars in all of Tamriel.[3] In addition, the mage Arniel Gane was a researcher of Dwemer artifacts that managed to use Keening, one of Kagrenac's Tools, in conjunction with a specially designed Soul Gem to recreate the events surrounding the disappearance of the Dwemer. Unfortunately, Gane was too successful, as he disappeared as well, bringing the knowledge of his great discovery with him.[17]

In 4E 201, the College discovered the ruins of Saarthal and found the Eye of Magnus, revealing ancient secrets of such great magnitude that members of the Psijic Order returned to Mundus and journeyed to the College for a rare intervention into the affairs of Tamriel. A Thalmor "advisor" to the College, Ancano, attempted to harness the power of the Eye for himself, killing several senior College faculty in the process. Ancano was eventually defeated and killed by the soon-to-be Arch-Mage, as the previous Arch-Mage was among those killed by Ancano's treachery.[1]

Known Arch-MagesEdit



  • A member of the Psijic Order advised the college before the second disappearance of Artaeum, around the year 4E 100.[2]

See AlsoEdit

  • For game-specific information, see the Skyrim place and faction articles, and the Legends article.