I have wanted to visit Hunedoara and especially Corvinus Castle since I first saw it in the picture. During our first visit to Romania in the summer of 2017, we did not succeed. My dream came true almost 3 years later, in February 2020 while getting to know Romanian Wallachia. I know that Hunedoara is in Transylvania, but Oltenia, the western part of Wallachia, is right behind the hill.
How to get to Hunedoara?
Hunedoara hides in southwestern Transylvania in western Romania.
National road 68B connects Hunedoara with the largest town of Hunedoara County – Deva, which is 15 km / 15 minutes by car north.
The bus station (Autogara Interservice SRL) is located 2 km / 24 minutes walk north of the castle. Buses run from Deva to Hunedoara approximately every 20 minutes. The bus ride takes about 40 minutes. A travel ticket costs 9-9.50 lei / 1.87-1.97 eur / person.
Hunedoara was once connected to Simeria by railway line 207, which is not currently in operation. If the line is renewed, the train station is right next to the bus station.
What to do, see and visit in Hunedoara?
I guess all visitors who come to Hunedoara are heading to Corvinus Castle. In addition to the castle, the city has 4 smaller museums, a historical park and a ZOO.
Corvinus Castle (Castelul Corvinilor, Castelul Huniazilor) is an important Gothic-Renaissance fortress in Romania. It is one of the largest castles in Europe. It is one of the most important examples of secular and military architecture in Transylvania. It dominates the List of 7 Wonders of Romania, the TOP 10 castles in Europe and is visited annually by more than 300,000 visitors.
The first stone fortress is supposed to date back to the 14th century, but some historians date it to the first half of the 15th century. In 1440, the castle underwent a major reconstruction, led by its owner John Hunyadi. We assume that this stage of castle construction ends before 1446, when Hunyadi became the governor of Hungary. In the 14th and 15th centuries, Hunedoara was the main center of iron mining and processing in Transylvania. The swords and spears produced here during this period were known throughout Europe.
Who was John Hunyadi?
John Hunyadi (Romanian Iancu de Hunedoara, Hungarian János Hunyadi; 1387-1456) was a Transylvanian nobleman, duke and legendary Turkic slayer. In Slovakia, he fought against John Jiskra of Brandýs. For his wife Elizabeth Szilágyi, he had a house built in Baia Mare in the Maramureș region in northern Romania, which bears his name. John Hunyadi spent most of his life on the battlefield in the battles against the Turks – in 1444 near Varna, in 1448 the second battle on the Kosovo field, which he lost and finally the siege of Belgrade in 1456. Although Hunyadi won, a plague epidemic broke out in the military camp, which on August 11, 1456 finally succumbed. He was buried in the Catholic Cathedral of St. Michael in Alba Iulia.
The next, third stage of the castle construction, which is expected to end of the year 1480, is already associated with his son Matthias Corvinus.
Who was Matthias Corvinus?
Matthias Corvinus (Romanian Matei Corvin, in Hungarian Mátyás Hunyadi, 1443-1490) was the second-born son of John Hunyadi. He was born in the current „capital“ of Transylvania – Cluj-Napoca. You can still see his birthplace there today. In the years 1458-1490 he was king of Hungary. We know him in Slovakia thanks to the Academia Istropolitana (the oldest university in Slovakia territory), which he founded in 1465, and the promotion of the ideas of humanism and the Renaissance in the Kingdom of Hungary. We can thank his wife, Queen Beatrix of Aragon of Naples, for this. He died at the age of 47 two days after suffering a stroke. He was upset when the servants brought him unwashed figs.
John Hunyadi has a raven in his coat of arms, which symbolizes wisdom and longevity. The raven comes from the Latin corvus, the Romanian is called corb. Although we call his son as Matthias Corvinus, he himself was never called that.
The fourth, late Renaissance reconstruction of the castle took place in the 17th century, when the castle was inhabited by Gabriel Bethlen, who was Prince of Transylvania (1580-1629). We know him from our history as the leader of the uprising during the 30-year war. But he was not the only one. A few years later, another leader of the anti-Habsburg peasant uprising, Emeric Thököly (1657-1705), lived in the castle. Emeric was born in Kežmarok, Slovakia, where he is also buried. Since the 18th century, the castle has been the property of the state, first Austria, later Austria-Hungary and finally Romania.
On April 13, 1854, a fire caused by lightning destroyed all wooden parts of the castle. Already in the 19th century, the first restoration work began on the castle, which can be described as the 5th construction stage. Work continued in the early and second half of the 20th century. In 1974, the Hunedoara Museum was founded. In addition to this function, the castle also serves as a film backdrop. It even served as a model for the Museum and Library of Hungarian Agriculture in Budapest.
Corvinus Castle is entered by a long narrow bridge on high stone pillars. Immediately after entering, there is an exhibition of torture instruments in the rooms on the left and right. The largest rooms of the castle include a knight’s and banquet hall. They are dominated by octagonal columns with Gothic vaults decorated with marble.
At Corvinus castle you will find a few rooms furnished with period furniture. There is an extensive lapidary in the basement of the castle. A significant element of the castle is the tower „Nje boisia“ („Do not be afraid“) in the western part. It got its name thanks to Serbian mercenaries who were in the castle garrison. It is connected to the castle by a gallery, which is 33 m long.
The legend of the castle well
In 1442, John Hunyadi defeated the Turks on the Ialomița River and captured them at his castle. He wondered how they could help him before he sold them into slavery. He suggested that if they dug a well in the castle, he would release them. Three Turkish prisoners dug for 15 years and 28 days before water first appeared in the well.
Meanwhile, in 1456, however, John Hunyadi died, so the release of the prisoners remained with his wife, the noble Elizabeth Szilágyi. She feared the revenge of the Turks after their release and therefore sentenced them to death. The last wish of the Turkish prisoners was to place an inscription with their names (Ali, Mehmed and Ibrahim). Names written in lower case in a certain order are said to be text from the Koran, which means:
„You have a well, but you have no soul.“
However, the actual inscription is:
„The one who wrote this inscription is Hassan, who lives as a slave in the rocks in the fortress near the church.“
The inscription is at a height of about 2.50 m on the outer wall of the chapel near the well.
Set aside 1-2 hours for a tour of the castle. The tour is unmanned, so you can roam the castle freely. Admission to the castle is 31 lei / 6.43 eur / person.
Museums, park and garden
In Hunedoara you can visit 4 other museums, a historical park and a zoo.
The Museum of Archeology, History and Ethnography of Hunedoara (Muzeul de Arheologie Istorie Eti Etnografie Hunedoara) is a permanent exhibition focusing on the history of the town from prehistory to the Middle Ages. The „Guild’s House“ Museum (Muzeul Casa Breslelor) contains various objects on the ground floor dedicated to 4 guilds – weavers, tanners, shoemakers and furriers. It exhibits numismatic collections upstairs. Admission is 9 lei / 1.87 eur / person.
Torture Exhibition (Expoziție Inedita Ev Mediu Tortura și Execuție), as the name suggests, focuses on medieval torture and torture instruments. All three museums are located in the outer (hussar) courtyard of the castle. Exposition „The steps of Romania through socialism and democracy (Expoziție Permanentă Pașii României prin Socialism Demi Democrație) is located 2.5 km / 30 min. walk east of the castle. Based on the photographs I found, this is an exhibition of objects from the period of socialism in Romanian territory.
Hunedava (1 km / 10 min. walk west of the castle) is a kind of park of living history, which will transport you to antiquity and the Middle Ages and through the Dacians, Romans or Turks will bring you closer to life in this area. The ZOO Hunedoara (Grădina Zoologică Hunedoara) is located 3.5 km / 10 min. by car east of the castle.
Where to stay and eat in Hunedoara?
It is true that the inside of Corvinus Castle may not be as impressive as the outside, but I am very happy that I finally visited it. A tour of the castle is definitely an unforgettable experience that I will remember forever.
Prices were converted according to the current exchange rate of the National Bank of Slovakia valid on 12 March 2020 (EUR 1 = LEI 4.8213).
I did not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage of the services provided by tourism businesses, institutions and organizations.
© Ing. Adam Vanečko