In the heart of the mountains, between myth and reality, stands the legendary Hunyadi Castle. Its gothic doors open a world of terrifying myths and the darkest stories you would ever hear.
The first mention of the castle’s existence came from foreign travellers who spoke about a brilliant and powerful city, carved into the rock, the city that could be entered only on a rope pulled by a crane. We do not know if it is really true that ghosts of nobles, knights, ladies, men, Turkish prisoners, vampires or spirits are still haunting the towers and bastions of the castle. But it is certain that this medieval fortress in Transylvania is a popular tourist spot of immense historical significance.
The Huffington Post, a popular American newspaper , sent a survey to the users of Twitter and Facebook, asking them to nominate the scariest man-made structure on the planet. Hunyadi (aka Corvin) Castle ranked second, surpassed only by the Rong Khun Wat temple in Thailand. According to the publication, the castle and its dark history are enough to thrill any visitor; somber Gothic architecture together with legends born between its city walls make Corvin Castle a classical ‘house of horror’. For instance, it houses a torture hall at the end of a narrow corridor that descends in the basement of the castle, where replicas of human bodies hanging from the ceiling are terrorizing the visitors. Victim’s groans and rattles of their chains add to a terrifying atmosphere of the place.
Corvin Castle is one of the most remarkable monuments of medieval Gothic art in Europe. It has 42 rooms, two terraces, two bridges and covers an area of 7,000 square meters. It is a place of tourist attraction with thousands of visitors passing through its gates every year.
The castle was built on the site of an ancient fortifications on the orders of John Hunyadi , born an illegitimate son of a Hungarian king. The city served both as a feudal residence and a strategic defense point of the times of John Hunyadi. Over the years, numerous owners of the castle changed its appearance, enlarging it with towers, halls and guest rooms.
Most interesting sights in the castle include the Capistrano tower, Knights Hall, White Bastion and the Clubs Tower.
The immense historical significance of the place prompted intensive restoration of the castle and its conversion into a museum. Of a particular interest is a fresco depicting Corvin family legend , considered to be the oldest fresco art in Transylvania. The family crest portrays Corvin as a raven holding in his beak a shinning golden ring.
Legend of the raven
Legend tells that John Hunyadi was a bastard son of a Hungarian king Sigismund of Luxembourg and a beautiful young woman. To protect her from shame and to acknowledge an unborn child as his own, the king gives his beloved a golden ring. Once the child is grown, he is to travel to the court where the king would recognize his son by the ring he brings with him. The story goes that when John was still a boy his mother took him to a haunting trip. Accidentally, the rings gets wrapped away with the napkin with leftovers left on the table after a meal. A raven that came to feast on leftover, sees a shiny ring and snatches it away. John, young but an excellent hunter, shoots the raven and recovers his father’s ring. Years later, John arrives to the royal court where his father the king, upon seeing the ring, recognizes his son. Once he hears the ‘raven’ story, the king decides that the symbol of raven holding a golden ring in his beak should forever remain on the order of arms of the Corvin family. Hence is the family name Corvin, from the Latin “Corvus” meaning raven, regarded as a symbol of wisdom and longevity.
The beautiful legend was confirmed in the 16th century by a historian Gaspar Heltai. And John Corvin, called Hunyadi, went to become the national hero who stopped the Turks at Belgrade, after their conquest of Constantinople in 1456. Not many people know that by a decision of the Vatican, even today Catholic church-bells toll in the middle of the day, in honor of that victory.
Among other legends born behind the castle gates is the one about the dreaded Vlad Tepes, who was locked for 7 years in a fortress prison. Forced to feed on rats and constantly living in fear of death, Vlad looses his mind, later becoming the prototype in notorious Dracula stories.
Legend of the Well
Once, after a fierce battle John brought three Turkish prisoners into his castle and ordered them to look for water, presumably running somewhere under the rocks in the courtyard. He promised them freedom when they reach water for the castle well.
Dreaming of the promised freedom, Turkish prisoners began their work . With hammer and chisel they would break the rocks from dawn to sunset. Three men were given food and water, but no one else helped them. Every morning at dawn, prisoners went back to their back breaking work.
Many years passed but the rock would not show any signs of water. In 15 years prisoners went down for 28 meters. At last, one cold morning, when the stars descended into the depths of a dry well shaft, a thin trickle of water appeared from within the rock. Barefoot Turks, clothed in tattered rags and old turbans, screamed loudly … Water! Water! The castle guards did not believe them at first, but in the dark abyss of the well everyone could see a glimmer of water.
The Turks, who dreamed of this moment for years, asked a permission to leave, according to the promise made to them by captor, the great Hunyadi. Unfortunately for them, their former master was already dead, and his wife being afraid of Turkish invasion had no intention to keep the promise made 15 years ago by her husband. Instead, she ordered that those poor people wto be put to death.
Resigned to their unlucky fate, the three unfortunate men asked for a last wish. Surprisingly all they begged for was to have their names – Ali, Mehmet and Ibrahim – be inscribed in Arabic letters on the wall of the well. The letters were to be arranged exactly in the way the prisoners have written them. Their wish was fulfilled and the Turks were allowed to chisel their names in Arabic…No one knew that while read in their own language, the actual translation of what they inscribed was a verse from a Koran which meant “you do have water, but lack a soul” . This writing has been seen by thousands of people until today.
The story of Capistrano tower of the Corvin castle
There lives another legend about the Capistrano Tower.
There is niche which is said to be built in the XV century as secret place. No one knew of its existence, besides John Hunyadi and his confessor, Father Capistrano. The priest’s duty was to spy on the nobles of the castle at the meetings when John was not present there. To hide himself, the niche was built inside the wall from where he could listen to conversations in the Dining Hall. Names of the nobles opposing the king were given to him by Father Capistrano, and the poor souls went on to loosing a nose, an eye, or a tongue, while less fortunate had melting lead poured into their ears.
Legend has it that the last tenant was caught spying on everything that happened in the Dining Hall, through a hole in the wall. Following the discovery, the monk was walled off alive with bricks exactly in the place in the wall where he was hiding to hear people talk.
Those, any many other myths are stories are waiting for you at the mysterious Corvin Castle, where John Hunyadi had lived his most unusual life.