This article is about the city. For the region, see Winterhold (region).
|Appears in||Arena, Skyrim|
Winterhold (also spelled Winter Hold) is one of the nine major cities in the province of Skyrim, and capital of the eponymous hold, which consists of the northeast coast of the province. Winterhold served as Skyrim's capital in its early days, with a rich and expansive history, but with the Great Collapse in 4E 122, the city has become a shadow of its former self. In its prime, Winterhold was considered an ancient rival of Solitude. Winterhold is also known to contain the College of Winterhold, a school of magic founded by Arch-Mage Shalidor. The people of Winterhold are a simple folk that eke out a living by working the Sea of Ghosts.
Layout & Geography
Winterhold is situated on the northeast coast of Skyrim, atop of Hsaarik Head, on the Broken Cape. The land is harsh, and relentless, with constant blizzards. Winterhold, like the other cities of the Old Holds, is known to be isolated, both geographically and by choice. The main road from Winterhold turns around from Mount Anthor, along a mountain ridge that descends into the Sea of Ghosts. It then enters into an intersection that connects the cities of Dawnstar and Windhelm together. This intersection is also found along Lake Yorgrim. A gateway into the road towards Winterhold is the regional stronghold of Fort Kastav, named after Emperor Kastav. West of Winterhold lies the frozen wastes of the Hold, where various ruins are found, and moving glaciers are located. The ancient city of Saarthal, and the Dwarven hold of Alftand are found amidst the glaciers. The Ice Fortress of Winterhold, the former home of Arch-Mage Shalidor, is also found in the region. East of the city, descending into the Sea of Ghosts, is the Bleakcoast Ridge, where various shipwrecks and Nordic mounds like Snow Veil Sanctum are located across the snow. There are also islands off the coast of Winterhold, such as Olenveld, Serpentstone Isle, and an island containing Ysgramor's Tomb. Winterhold is neighbored by the settlements of Amol to the south, Dawnstar to the west, and Helarchen Creek to the southwest.
The city during the Interregnum was described as having little pasture for grazing, and the bitter winds coming off the sea are oft as not to see a herd of cattle stricken with ague. Both cow and goat's milk are in short supply. What little is at hand is made into a fresh, soft farmer's cheese called Ghostflesh, imbued with seaweed dried for weeks, and wrapped in a part-baked pastry that is composed of flour and horker suet that permits the brave fisherfolk to eat while working the sea, where often they can only spare one hand at a time. Winterhold's overall layout during its capital days is unknown. However, some claim that Winterhold was "quite something" in its prime.  When the Great Collapse occurred in 4E 122, a large portion of Winterhold was swept away into the Sea of Ghosts; now the city is but a shadow of its former self, lacking any form of physical defense or barriers. What remains of Winterhold is just a few Nordic buildings, the Jarl's Longhouse, and the College of Winterhold, which survived the collapse mysteriously unscathed. Behind the inn, across from the longhouse, lie several ruined buildings.
Winterhold's Early History
Winterhold's early history is shrouded in hearsay and superstition. One legend says that Arch-Mage Shalidor built Winterhold using nothing but a whispering spell.
The last monarch of the First Empire of the Nords, High King Borgas, came from Winterhold. When he died in the Wild Hunt of 1E 369, tensions in the fledgling province grew. The Moot's failure to appoint Jarl Hanse of Winterhold as Borgas' successor was a likely reason for the occurrence of the War of Succession. The war was a prime factor in the Nordic Empire's rapid decline, as well as the newly-wrested independence of their recently conquered territories. The War of Succession ended when Jarl Olaf One-Eye of Whiterun slew the Dragon Numinex, and established himself as High King. Cities from Winterhold to Falkreath bowed down to his might and acknowledged him as their leader.
The Second Empire & Eastern Skyrim
In 1E 2804, during the reign of Emperor Kastav, the Winterhold Rebellion broke out, in response to forced conscription of the populace. The Master of the Dragonguard refused to send help to quell the rebellion, on the grounds that doing so would violate their Oath of Allegiance. The Akaviri commander Kalien was then sent to Winterhold, and sacked the city a year later, breaking the trust established between the Dragonguard and the people of Skyrim. Fortunately, the Winterhold Rebellion ended on a high note, as Emperor Reman II was able to negotiate a swift end to the conflict.
In 2E 431, High King Logrolf was assassinated, leaving the High Kingship vacant. Naturally, the position was passed onto his next of kin, his daughter Freydis. But Jarl Svartr claimed that Freydis was an illegitimate heir to the throne and that a Moot was needed to determine a proper successor. The Moot chose Jarl Svartr, even though the Crown of Verity had chosen Freydis. This caused a schism between West Skyrim and the Old Holds, which formed two different High Kingships, with Svartr ruling the west from Solitude, and Freydis ruling the east from Windhelm. Winterhold was brought into the Eastern Kingdom. When the Ebonheart Pact was formed in 2E 572, Winterhold was brought into the alliance along with the rest of the east. A giant named Wallbreaker was transported from Winterhold to the Thizzrini Arena in 2E 582. Thadrig claims he left the city for the Alik'r when he was young because of a run-in with Hildrif, the "cold-hearted" daughter of the jarl during the Alliance War.
Winterhold in the Third Empire
During the reign of Uriel Septim VI, his half-sister Morihatha married Baron Ulfe Gersen of Winterhold which brought her wealth and influence enough to help Uriel VI assume full agency over his leadership. When Uriel VI passed away, Morihatha Septim was named Empress of Tamriel, and completed her brother's work, making Cyrodiil a government under the authority of the Emperor.
During the Imperial Simulacrum in the late Third Era, the city-state of Winterhold was ruled by King Erarne; it maintained rivalries with both Dawnstar and Windhelm. After acquiring the first piece of the Staff of Chaos in Hammerfell, the Eternal Champion eventually made their way into Skyrim, and gained an audience with the Guildmaster of the Mages Guild in Winterhold, Thelen Kaarn. Kaarn told the hero that the piece was located in Labyrinthian, the location of which had been long lost. Kaarn had sent the champion to the Fortress of Ice, which stored a tablet needed to decipher Labyrinthian's location. After finding the tablet and bringing it back to the guild, the Eternal Champion made their way to the Labyrinthian and found the second piece.
In the waning years of the Third Era, in 3E 432, the city-state of Winterhold experienced a renaissance of power and influence. The first wave of Dunmer refugees came into Winterhold, providing little burden to the capital city. The Dark Elves brought new ideas, enriching Winterhold's culture, and stimulating the old mercantile spirit of the city. A surge of scholars entered Winterhold after it became the new home for the "Ysmir Collective", a College-maintained library containing content rescued from strife in the east.
During the Oblivion Crisis in 3E 433, the Old Holds were attacked by the Daedric Horde. The crisis sparked no small amount of distrust towards magic, and the Nords of Winterhold expressed hatred towards the mages living in their city, even though they were at the forefront of the battle against the Mythic Dawn's endeavors. The second wave of Dunmer refugees came into Winterhold following the Red Year, but some of these Dark Elves left later, to return to Morrowind following the event. Some of House Telvanni fled to Winterhold as a result of the Accession War in 4E 6. When Solstheim was given to the Dark Elves around 4E 16 by the High King, a great many in Winterhold were expecting the College's mages to relocate to Solstheim. This, in reality, did not happen, leaving Winterhold's everymen dispirited and anxious.
Winterhold and the Great Collapse
The Nords' growing distrust towards magic users came to a climax in 4E 122. The Great Collapse, as it is known, brought the destruction of nearly all of Winterhold, the majority of the city being swallowed by the Sea of Ghosts and plunged into the depths below. Winterhold's tenure as Skyrim's capital city was lost, leaving nothing but a collection of a few untouched Nordic buildings. It was heavily noted that the College of Winterhold was left intact, leaving many citizens to believe that the College was responsible for the destruction, though Arch-Mage Deneth denied this in correspondence to Jarl Valdimar. In any case, the massive loss of life borne from this crisis shattered Winterhold apart, its population and power a fraction of what it once was.
During the Skyrim Civil War in 4E 201, Winterhold was ruled by Jarl Korir, who supported Ulfric Stormcloak, and his endeavor to make the province of Skyrim an independent state from the Third Empire of Cyrodiil, and crown him the High King of Skyrim. Kai Wet-Pommel was the head of the Stormcloaks' armies in Winterhold. The hate towards the College of Winterhold persisted to this day.
During this time, the College of Winterhold was spearheaded by Arch-Mage Savos Aren, and under his leadership made a momentous discovery in the ruins of Saarthal: the Eye of Magnus. As the college took in the Eye of Magnus, the Thalmor showed interest through their agent, Ancano. At some point, the Arch-Mage sent an apprentice of the College to locate the Staff of Magnus, to tame the dangers that the eye apparently possessed, and discovered that it was located in Labyrinthian. Their return to Winterhold revealed a disturbing fact: Ancano had attempted to harness the power of the Eye, and had sealed himself off from the college's mages. Savos Aren's attempt at interrupting this effort cost him his life, and magic anomalies had spread across Winterhold proper, though the college was quick in dealing with these anomalies. After retrieving the Staff of Magnus, the apprentice defeated Ancano, and the Eye of Magnus was recovered by the Psijic Order, to be taken to Artaeum where it is believed to have remained since.
Winterhold Illusionist in Legends
- The Nords of Winterhold are known to favor six-foot-long axes.
- Arena was originally conceived as a fighting game featuring a tournament that took the player to each of Tamriel's cities to challenge different gladiatorial teams. According to a file from that stage of development left behind in the final game, Winterhold's gladiatorial team would have been called "the Annihilators".[UOL 1]
- For game-specific information, see the Arena and Skyrim articles.
- For information on the College of Winterhold, see here.
- Map of Skyrim — Pocket Guide to the Empire (3rd Edition)
- Map of Skyrim — The Elder Scrolls: Arena
- Map of Skyrim — The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
- Kraldar's dialogue in Skyrim
- On the Great Collapse — Arch-Mage Deneth
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, 3rd Edition: The Throat of the World: Skyrim — Imperial Geographical Society, 3E 432
- A Minor Maze
- Cheeses of Skyrim: Whiterun, Winterhold, Eastmarch — B.
- A History of Daggerfall — Odiva Gallwood
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, 1st Edition: Skyrim — Imperial Geographical Society, 2E 864
- King Olaf's Verse
- Annals of the Dragonguard — Brother Annulus
- Reman II: The Limits of Ambition — High King Emeric
- Ring of Preservation description in Blades
- The Crown of Freydis — Taleon Mythmaker
- Loremaster's Episode of ESO-RP ZOS Interview
- East Skyrim Scout Outfit costume description
- Feluni's dialogue in ESO
- Mad Thadrig's dialogue in ESO
- Brief History of the Empire v 4 — Stronach k'Thojj III
- Winterhold location and rumors in Arena
- Labyrinthian quest in Arena
- Rumors in Oblivion
- Winterhold Loading Screens in Skyrim
- Brelyna Maryon's dialogue in Skyrim
- Winterhold location in Skyrim
- Under Saarthal quest in Skyrim
- Revealing the Unseen quest in Skyrim
- Containment quest in Skyrim
- The Eye of Magnus quest in Skyrim
- The Third Door — Annanar Orme
Note: the following references are not from official sources. They are included to provide a rounder background to this article, but may not reflect established lore.