Great for filming some Hollywood blockbuster, Corvin Castle or Hunjadi Castle is one of the biggest in Europe and is considered one of the few wonders of Romania…
Castles were medieval fortifications owned by some very important person. They were dark, cold and always nicer on the outside than on the inside.
Like any castle, Corvin is placed on an elevated position so that the enemy can be seen better, and the friend can be better hosted.
In addition, the Middle Ages simply LOOOOOOVE their cobblestones.
All this together was “super” welcoming for me and my wheelchair. Right from the start, I didn’t expect much from Romanians and their understanding of what wheelchair accessible means, so I was not disappointed. I would expect the same here in Serbia if we happened to have a castle. So I could only come close to Corvin on one side and see him in his full splendor and beauty.
What do you need to know about the castle?
Corvin Castle was built by a famous member of the high nobility John Hunyadi, or as we know him, Janko Sibinjan, who, as early as 1440. on the basis of the old Roman fort began to rebuild the ruin.
Otherwise, John Hunyadi is a great military commander who stopped the Turks from moving towards Central Europe. Janko Sibinjan was very efficient.
In the famous battle of Belgrade, he defeated the Turks to such an extent that Europe was peaceful for the next several decades. In preparation for the battle of Belgrade, then-Pope Callist III ordered that at noon the church bells call on all Christians to pray for victory. That command was never withdrawn so the bells continue to ring today. Not looking a gift horse in the mouth allowed us to take a break from the Turks at least.
After this magnificent victory, John Hunyadi ended his life in no great way. He died of the plague and was buried in a chapel in Alba Iulia which I also visited and you can read about here.
After his death, his son Matthew Corvinus continues the renovation of the castle.
How did the castle get its name?
Corvinus means a raven. Specifically, John Hunyadi is believed to be the illegitimate son of King Sigmund of Luxembourg. When King Sigmud left these areas, he gave his mother a ring to recognize him later and to recognize him as king.The ring was at one point stolen by a raven killed by the young John, and since then it is their symbol, a raven carrying a ring in it’s beak and a twig in it’s claws.
Later, many of the people living in the castle added their own elements to the castle. This did not stop it from, at one point, being abandoned.
Today it is being renovated full steam because it is a magnet for tourists, but it will take time because the original furniture is gone.
Corvin has 42 chambers, 2 bridges and several platforms. The approach to the castle is via the wooden bridge above the river Zlasta. From here, you enter a very spacious but empty courtyard.
There are no specific signposts that tell you where to go. Disability tickets have been reduced, and this only tells you one thing: Wheelchair users are NOT welcome!
What do you need to see inside the castle?
There are several landmarks to look at, and they are:
The Knights’ Hall, which is divided into two parts: the feasting section and the judging and meetings section of the then nobility. This gothic-style hall built during the time of John Hunyadi can accommodate up to 300 guests.
When you climb the stairs, you come to the chapel where King Matthew Corvin is buried. Today, this is officially a Catholic church that has an interesting history. It was originally an Orthodox church, but at some point in Romanian history it was converted to Catholicism for political reasons. The ceiling was lowered by about 1.5m and built in Gothic style while the rest still has all the hallmarks of the Orthodox religion. The altar could not be moved northwest as the Catholic canons dictated, so this mix of styles remained.
Continue walking, and you will reach the wing where the private royal chambers are.
In this part of the castle there is also a loggia overlooking the inner courtyard. This is considered to be the first example of Renaissance culture in Translivania as the masters who worked on the castle were brought from Italy.
From the upper floor of the loggia you can continue your tour towards the Diet Hall.
They call it the Diet Hall because it was used for banquets, but it is very similar to the previous hall and served for organizing ceremonies during the reign of John Hunyadi.
These two halls made Corvin castle the only one of its kind in what was then Transylvania.
Next on the list is the Nebojša Tower, which by its purpose was the last refuge in case of a castle conquest. It is supposed to be named after mercenaries of Serbian descent who worked for the then owner, Matthias Corvinus.
There is also the Capistrano Tower, which is supposedly named after a monk who was caught spying on nobles in the Counsil Hall, so when they caught him, they burred him alive inside its walls.
Then comes the well to which the first of many legends is tied. Namely, the well was dug by Turkish prisoners who were promised freedom if they found water. They found it at a depth of 28 m after 15 years of digging. John Hunyadi who gave them this assignment has long since died and his wife did not fulfill his promise.
That is why there is an inscription on the wall that says: “You have water but you have no soul”.
Later, this inscription was interpreted differently: “This inscription is written by Hasan, who lived as a prisoner of Kaur, in a fort next to the church.” If I had given a project 15 years I would have also signed myself…
The walk ends with an artillery terrace, which, together with a white tower, was built during the reign of Gabriel Bethlem. It served to defend against invaders. Between the two inner walls of the castle was the Bear Hole which can be seen from the terrace. Legend has it that they kept bears here that were used to dispose of the prisoners.
You can also visit the Museum of Torture, which was formed many years later and evokes the ‘beauty’ of the Middle Ages. At the time, they did not know, or care, about lawyers and their human rights were as non-existent as Bigfoot.
Legend has it that Vlad Tepes, better known as Dracula the Impaler, was detained here. He was imprisoned by King Matthias for allegedly writing several letters to the Turks and for that reason they declared him a traitor. In fact, many historians believe that King Matthias did this to conceal his “sins.” Vlad Tepes (Dracula the Impaler) was married to one of John Hunyadi’s illegitimate daughters, so he was King Corvin’s brother-in-law. The trial was to be held, but they could not find a high enough nobility in an appropriate rank worthy of judging the famous Tepes. So he had to wait for about seven years. They say he lost his mind during that time because he had to listen to the screams of all the prisoners who were thrown into the Bear Hole.
Vlad was not a flower, but he was a genuine fighter against the Ottomans. Dracula was not killed by a silver bullet or Van Helsing’s stake but treason. His body was cut to pieces and his head was sent to Turkey, to Mehmed II.
And so ends my visit to the first castle in Romania. I will not lie, while very beautiful, Corvin castle is inaccessible to us wheelers, and the crowds don’t do us any favors… Still this is a must see for anyone traveling through Romania!
Did I miss anything?
What do you think about Corvin castle?
Traveled and enjoyed,