Corvin Castle

Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles meet here to create a unique 14th century castle.

There are many legends related to Corvin Castle, the most famous being the legend of the raven.
The symbol of the old Corvin familly is a raven holding a golden ring in its beak. The legend sais that John of Hunedoara (Ioan de Hunedoara) was the illegitimate son of king Sigismund and his mother was Elisabeta, a beautiful woman from the region of Hateg. To avoid dishonoring Elisabeta, the king married her to one of his knights. Sigismund also gave her a ring, as a gift for the unborn child, in order for him to be recognized in future when he will return to the royal court.

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One day, during a familly picknic, the ring was forgotten on a side of the towel and a raven, attracted by the shining gold, stole it. Ioan of Hunedoara managed to strike the raven with an arrow and got his ring back form the raven’s beak. When this story was told at the royal court, the king decided to make the raven with the ring in the beak, the symbol of the royal familly. Also, the name of Corvin itself comes from the Latin “corvus” (“corb” in Romanian), which means “raven”.

As any respectable Castles, this one has two a large number of legends and stories to tell but we advise you to discover them by going there.

 

Story and History

The Royal fortress (the 14th century)
Some researchers place this first stone fortress in the 14th century. There are others thatclaim this to be a 15th century fortress. This first fortress had an ellipsoidal shape, with pointed, northern and southern extremities. The walls are up to 2 m wide. They were built with dolomite limestone and pebble stone, directly on the native rock. Researches performed before the First World War show that 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.

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The 15th century castle
After 1440, Ioan of Hunedoara initiated buildings of vast proportions focusing to transform the fortress in a castle, the first stage aiming to erect two curtains around theold 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 Ioan of Hunedoara, 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 Huniads, 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 Ioan ofHunedoara. 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.

The castle in the 16th century
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.

The castle in the 17th century

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.

The castle in the 19th century

This moment coincides with the most important restoration works done in the castle. It is now that the neogothic 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.

Interior architecture

Furniture
We have no relevant data regarding the original furniture, its quality, number or style. We suppose that, taking into account financial power of the Corvins Family, the castle was furnished with the most refined creations of those times. George of Brandenburg transferred the furniture up to the 16th century in Germany, at Anspach. Most of it became part of the imperial collections in the 17th century.
The furniture exhibited in present times reunites valuable parts, belonging to some different schools and trends, starting with exhibits in Gothic style, Renaissance style, and eclectic style.

  


Fire places
Most of the original fireplaces were destroyed in the 19thcentury, during the first restoration works. Documented sources, as well as the archaeological researches prove that the monument had brick stoves in the kitchens, bedrooms and soldiers’ rooms, tile stoves, some parts of these installations being identified in the Golden room and the vestry of the Chapel. In the 19th century an archaeological excavation led to the discovery, in the Bears’ Pit, of a glazed tile representing a knight in tournament. This proved that in the castle existed at least one tile stove with a special artistic refinement. One of the most beautiful fireplaces in Transylvania, built in late Gothic style, can be found inside the Capistrano Tower.


Objects with domestic destination
Some of the most interesting objects are two knife levers decorated with aristocratic characters. These objects are typical for the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17thcentury, illustrating the mature Renaissance.

Decorative items

Frameworks
Based on these elements, art historians, architects, archaeologists dated the construction phases of the monument, taking into account stylistic and historical reference points of the frameworks. The oldest frameworks in semi-circular shape with the edges flattened inside, specific to the early Gothic style, can be observed on southern and eastern sides of the monument. Another series of frameworks in late Gothic style are located at the upper storey of the big palace and entrance into the Chapel, some of them being art creations in late Gothic style.

The Renaissance simplifies these elements. Examples of this kind of frameworks of windows placed on the northern side of the administrative palace.

 


Coat of arms
Most of these elements are specific for the 15th century and represent the coat of arms of Corvins Family (civil and military coat of arms), the Hungarian kingdom’s coat of arms during the Corvins’ times. The goat carved on Elizabeth Szilagyi’s coat of arms; she was Ioan of Hunedoara’s wife. The Anjou family’s coat of arms and the one of Pavel Chinezul (Pavel the Chinese) – Administrator of Timisoara County.

  


Key stones
The keystones complete the arches, arranged in cross, typical for big halls with civil destination (Knight’s Hall, Council Hall) (photo), Chapel and Capistrano Tower. Their typological range is a diverse one: from floral elements or geometrical compositions up to royal coat of arms.

  


Frescos
The fresco on the Matia loggia is preserved until the present times. Opposite to it there was another one depicting a series of coat of arms (coat of arms of the Corvins and their friends), completed with mythological or hunting scenes. Stylistically this fresco belongs to the 15th century.

On the outside walls of the Mace Tower , Drummers’ Tower and Old gate Tower are still visible the frescoes painted there in the 15th century. These ornamental themes arranged in spiral or oblique, painted with white or redbrick colors are similar as style with buildings belonging to the Teutonic Order in Prussia.

The fresco kept in the Council Hall is a 17th century one, belonging to the late Renaissance style. It consists of representations of royal personalities, high-church prelates as well as images of the most important fortifications in Transylvania. This achievement is completed by a series of floral scenery, which can be identified at the entrances to the Hunyads’ gallery.

The fresco on the second level of the Matia pat of the castle dates from the second half of the 15th century. It is the only laic painting in Transylvania at that time. The fresco depicts how the Corvin family got its coat of arms. It consists of four scenes painted on the wall with the windows of the loggia, above and in between the three semicircular openings.

The description of the fresco follows from right to left. The first scene depicts two human figures, a man, very poorly preserved, that holds his right arm in a calling position and a girl that holds in her right hand an apple with a cross above. She is looking at the man. This scene suggests the moment when the two of them met. The apple that the girl is having indicates the importance of this character, because the apple is the symbol of the Hungarian kingdom.

On the column that separates the first two openings is barely visible a human figure. The second scene shows the same characters. The man is holding in his right hand a ring and the left hand on the heart. The female figure is more mature. She is not looking at the man any more and she is holding her left arm lifted. This is considered to be the moment when the man pledges faith to the woman but she is refusing him. A raven bearing in its beak a band that probably had an inscription on is painted on the second column.

The two characters are represented in the third scene too. The man has both of his arms toward the woman with a gesture of rejection. The woman is now mature – she has her head covered – and pregnant. In her left hand she holds a link with two rings. The two rings are a symbol of the marriage, but the man now refuses it.

On the third column is painted a child that hold in his hand an apple identical to the woman’s in the first scene. The child is pointing to the man. This indicated that the child is the man’s son. It is supposed that the man is king Sigismund of Luxemburg. Above the child’s head was a band and some suggest that on it was written “Johannes”, Ioan of Hundoara’s Latin name.

The last dial represents a boar-hunting scene, with a male character that bears a hunting spear. This character was identified as king Matia Corvin.

On the same wall with the entrance into the Golden Room there was another fresco that represented coat of arms of various dignitaries of the Hungarian kingdom. This fresco was entirely destroyed at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th

  


Inscriptions
One of the most important inscriptions preserved in the castle is the one in the Knight’s Hall, on the capital of the second column. The inscription, written on a flat bar, is in Latin, written with Gothic characters. Its content is the following “Mag(nifi)c(us) Johannes de Hunyad regi(s) Hung(ar)I(ae) gub(e)r(n)a(t)or A(nn)o D(omin) MCCCCLII hoc opus fecit fieri”. The translation of this inscription is: “This work was performed by the brave and great Ioan of Hunedoara, the Governor of the Hungarian Kingdom, in the 1452 AD”. A famous inscription is the one that is now on one of the buttresses of the chapel. The text is in Old Arabian and for a long time it was thought to say, “You have water but you have no soul”. Mihail Guboglu, an expert in Arabian languages translated this inscription as follows “The one who dug this well is Hassan, a prisoner to the giaours in the fortress next to the church”. The characteristics of this inscription place it at the half of the 15th century.

  

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