Origins, History and Life of the Muzeul Castelul Corvinilor

a monumental complex and one of the largest castles in Europe



The Corvin Castle derives its name from a legend. On the coat of arm of the Corvin family is carved a raven with a golden ring in its beak. It is said that Ioan of Hunedoara was the illegitimate son of king Sigismund of Luxemburg of Hungary and his mother was Elisabeta, a very beautiful woman from the Haþeg region. In order not to dishonor her, the king married Elisabeta to one of his knights, Voicu. Sigismund also gave her a ring, as a gift for the unborn child, which will help him to be recognized when he will go to the royal court. During a trip of the family, when they halted for lunch, the ring was forgotten on a side of the towel were the food was placed. A raven, attracted by the shining of the ring stole it. Ioan of Hunedoara takes a bow, strokes the raven down and gets his ring back. When Ioan grew up and got to the royal court tells this story and the king, impressed by it, decides that the family’s symbol shall be the raven with a golden ring in its beak.

History

The true origin of the fortress is uncertain. The construction was between the 14th and the 15th centuries. The first fortress had an ellipsoidal shape, with pointed, northern and southern extremities. The walls were built with dolomite limestone and pebble stone, directly on the native rock. In the northern part of the ellipse was a triangular tower with two rooms of triangular and trapezoidal shape, with analogies in the 13th to 14th centuries France and Germany.
After 1440, John Hunyadi initiated buildings of vast proportions focusing to transform the fortress in a castle, the first stage aiming to erect two curtains around the old fortress, constructed from dolomite-limestone blocks crenellated to the upper part. Circular and rectangular towers, the first ones being an innovation for the military architecture of Transylvania in the 15th century, flanked these curtains. Circular towers (Capistrano Tower, Uninhabited Tower, Drummers’ Tower) except the painted one (Mace Tower) were provided with a storey of solid brick, followed by other two storeys, the lower ones being used as rooms for gunmen and the upper ones as living and/or protection areas. There should be noticed that the Capistrano Tower includes a gothic fireplace (restored), the only one left in the monument in Hunedoara. The painted tower (Mace Tower) has a single protection storey. On the outside this tower is painted in fresco with geometrical motives on the embrasures, with typological correspondence in the German space.
The rectangular towers located in the northwestern and the southeastern sides of the castle (the Old Gate Tower, the New Gate Tower) were provided with gatehouses and protection storeys for string weapons and firearms. The entrances in the castle were done over drawbridges, supported by stone pillars.
A very interesting place in the castle is the well dug between the old and the new curtain wall.
It is generally admitted that the first stage of construction was finished before 1446, when John Hunyadi, now the Governor of the Hungarian Kingdom, decided to transform the fortress into a castle, a residence that would show the Governor’s new social status.
One of the most interesting buildings of this stage is the Chapel, located on eastern side of the castle. The precinct is rectangular and is preceded by a narthex. Above the narthex there is a platform supported by hexagonal pillars. The constructive particularities of the altar, found again at other clerical buildings of this area are related to the local Gothic architecture.
The proper palace, located on the western side, consists of the Knight’s Hall, the Council Hall and the winding staircase. This is an unique example of civil architecture and high refinement in the Transylvanian area. Both halls have a rectangular plane; they were divided in two precincts with five octagonal marble pillars, with arches and bedecked arms that belong to the late Gothic style. The functionality of these halls is suggested by the typological correspondences in Germany, respectively festive mess hall for the Knight’s Hall and solemnities’ hall for the Council Hall. A special place in the castle is the Gallery of the Hunyadi’s, an unique element of civil architecture in Transylvania, with analogies in Germany. This gallery is located on the western side of the Council Hall.
An important military system is the Gallery and the Nje Boisia Tower (Don’t be afraid!). The Serbian mercenaries that protected the castle during king Matia Corvin’s time probably gave this name. The Nje Boisia tower consists of 5 defensive storeys, all of them provided with embrasures. The connection of the tower with the castle is provided by a suspended gallery, more than 33 m long supported on massive pillars of limestone.
The second stage of construction ended at the same time with the death of John Hunyadi. More works were initiated after 1458, in the northern side of the castle, the Matia Loggia. Here the visitor can still see the only laic fresco in the 15th century Transylvania.
It is generally admitted that the completion of the castle works is around 1480, the monument being compared with castles of Western Europe as proportion and pomp.
Only a few civil constructions are related to this period of time and were identified in the area of the Old Gate Tower during the latest restoration works.
In the 17th century, prince Gabriel Bethlen modifies some parts of the castle according to the spirit of those times, as required the civil and military needs. On the eastern side, on old foundations was constructed a building body called the Big Palace facing the Town. This palace is built on two storeys, respectively living rooms and a dining room. The Council Hall was re-arranged by dismantling the entire Gothic stone architecture and rethinking its compartmentalization, thus resulting rooms with different functionality. At this new first storey was painted a fresco depicting noble men and an image of the castle at that time. Gabriel Bethlen has changed the interior aspect of the Chapel significantly. The Gothic arches were removed; the windows were transformed in rectangular ones by burying their upper part in rubble stone. A passage that connected the Bethlen wing and the Matia loggia was opened at the second storey of this chapel. The White Tower and the Artillery Terrace represent the military works. The latest tower mentioned herein has a semi-circular shape, and it is provided with 3 defense storeys supported by wooden beams and embrasures for firearms. The Artillery Terrace is an opened platform for heavy firearms.
The Hussars’ Yard was also built in the 17th century. It was a space that sheltered the houses of the administrator, of the clerk, greyhounds’ stable and storehouses for food and hay.
This moment coincides with the most important restoration works done in the castle. It is now that the neo-gothic gallery and the monumental staircase were added to the Bethlen Palace and the roofs were built much higher than the original ones and were covered with glazed tiles. A line of crenels and a supervision tower were added to the Artillery Platform, aiming to increase the monument’s attractiveness. During this first stage of restoration work a lot of decorative stone elements were removed and replaced with new ones in accordance with the specific rules of those historical times.

Thematic Galleries

Gallery

Multimedia materials

Videos.

Legend of the Raven – Legend of the Fountain – Dracula’s Legend – Trailer Film Documentar
Watch the videos at: http://www.castelulcorvinilor.ro/category/castelul-corvinilor-muzeul/videos/

Visit the castle

An amazing way to visit the castle: the aerial view of the castle by Cosmin Vaschi with music of Gandalf
Watch the video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSvSji0-yhM

Corvin castle

An overview of the Corvin castle, one of the most important monuments in Romania.
Watch the video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XM9XD0th38Y

Corvin castle

A special visit to the Corvin Castle
Watch the video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bhzj4rCUp3g

Description of architectural elements

As one of the most important properties of John Hunyadi, the castle was transformed during his reign. It became a sumptuous home, not only a strategically enforced point. With the passing of the years, the masters of the castle had modified its look, adding towers, halls and guest rooms.

The towers

The gallery and the keep - the last defense tower (called "Neboisa" which means "Not afraid" in Serbian language), which remained unchanged from John Hunyadi's time, and the Capistrano Tower (named after the saint, Franciscan monk from the Battle of Belgrade in 1456) are some of the most significant parts of the construction.

The Matia logia

The Matia logia is decorated by fresco realized in the 15th century. Opposite to it there was another one depicting a series of coat of arms (coat of amrs of the Corvins and their friends), completed with mythological or hunting scenes.

The Knights’ Hall and the Diet Hall

Other significant parts of the building are the Knights' Hall (a great reception hall), the Club Tower, the White bastion, which served as a food storage room, and the Diet Hall, on whose walls medallions are painted (among them there are the portraits of Matei Basarab, ruler from Wallachia, and Vasile Lupu, ruler of Moldavia).

The Mantle

In the wing of the castle called the Mantle, a painting can be seen which portrays the legend of the raven from which the name of the descendants of John Hunyadi, Corvinus came.

References

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