Corvin Castle - A view from our expert author

Corvin Castle, transylvania, Romania by Gaman Mihai-Radu, Shutterstock
Corvin Castle is the archetypical fortress © Gaman Mihai-Radu, Shutterstock

With pointed turrets and towering buttresses, this magnificent icon epitomises the archetypal Transylvanian castle.

A truly magnificent sight and the highlight of any trip to southwest Transylvania. The late, great travelogue maestro Patrick Leigh Fermor called it ‘fantastic and theatrical’ and ‘at first glance, totally unreal’ and visitors from Budapest will immediately recognise it from a fairytale copy, the Vajdahunyadvár, built in the Hungarian capital’s City Park (Városliget) for the nation’s 1896 millennial celebrations.

In 1409, Hungarian king Zsigmond of Luxembourg gave Voicu de Hunedoara/Vajk Hunyadi a castle at Hunedoara as a reward for his military expertise. Voicu passed the property on to his son, Ioan  who enlarged and strengthened the fortress, adding new precincts, seven protective towers, a chapel and an interior palace complete with a Council Hall and Knight’s Hall.

The wide stone bridge over a deep moat makes the approach to the castle, with its many towering battlements and pointed turrets, quite magical. Ioan died in conflict with the Ottoman Empire at the 1456 Battle of Belgrade. His wife Erzsébet Szilágyi added Renaissance features, constructing the Matthias loggia in the north wing and finishing the chapel and the Council Hall. Ioan and Erzsébet’s son Matei Corvin further developed the castle, which remained in the family until 1508. One of a succession of 22 owners was Transylvanian prince Gábor Bethlen who added some Baroque elements.

In the 18th century, the Habsburgs took control of Hunedoara’s castle and the building was turned into the administrative headquarters for the mining industry and even a storage place (1724–1854) for iron products. In 1854, a great fire destroyed all the wooden interior structures and restoration work in 1868–74 replaced the shingle roof with tiles, some of the towers were elevated and a neo-Gothic façade was built by the Bethlen Palace. In 1974, the castle was made into a museum. More sensitive restoration works that took place in 1956–68 and again after 1997 have made Hunedoara’s Corvin Castle an unmissable item in any Transylvania agenda.

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