Matthias Corvinus of Hungary: Wikis


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Matthias Corvinus
King of Hungary
Reign 1458 – 1490
Coronation 1464
Predecessor Ladislaus the Posthumous
Successor Władisław II
Duke of Austria
Reign 1486-1490
King of Bohemia
Reign 1469-1490
Predecessor George of Poděbrady
Successor Ladislaus II
Spouse Elizabeth of Celje
Catherine of Poděbrady
Beatrice of Naples
John Corvinus
Father John Hunyadi
Mother Erzsébet Szilágyi
Born 1443
Kolozsvár, Hungary (present-day Cluj-Napoca, Romania)
Died 1490

Matthias Corvinus (Hungarian: Hunyadi Mátyás or Corvin Mátyás, 23 February 1443 – 6 April 1490) also called the Just, was King of Hungary from 1458 to his death. After conducting several military campaigns he became also King of Bohemia, (1469-1490) and Duke of Austria.[1][2][3]


Names in other languages

Hungarian: Hunyadi Mátyás or Corvin Mátyás, Czech: Matyáš Korvín, Croatian: Matijaš Korvin, German: Matthias Corvinus, Medieval Latin: Mattias Corvinus, Polish: Maciej Korwin, Romanian: Matia/Matei/Mateiaş Corvin, Serbian: 'Matija Korvin (Матија Корвин), Slovak: Matej Korvín, Slovene: Matija Korvin

Early life

The Hunyad Castle, where Matthias grew up
Signature and the royal stamp

Matthias was born in Kolozsvár in the Kingdom of Hungary (today Cluj, Romania) in a house now known as the Matthias Corvinus House. He was second son of John Hunyadi, a successful Hungarian General of Romanian[4][5][6][7][8][9] descent who had risen through the ranks of the nobility to become regent of Hungary. Matthias' mother was Erzsébet Szilágyi, from a Hungarian noble family.

His tutors were the learned János Vitéz, bishop of Nagyvárad, whom he subsequently raised to the primacy, and the Polish humanist Gregory of Sanok. The precocious Matthias quickly mastered German, Italian, Romanian, Latin and principal Slavic languages apart form his native Hungarian, frequently acting as his father's interpreter at the reception of ambassadors. His military training proceeded under the eye of his father, whom he began to follow on his campaigns when only twelve years of age. In 1453 he was created count of Beszterce, and was knighted at the siege of Belgrade in 1456.

The same care for his welfare led his father to choose him a bride in the powerful family of the Counts of Cilli. Mattias was married to Elizabeth of Celje. She was the only known daughter of Ulrich II of Celje and Catherine Cantakuzina. Her maternal grandparents were Đurađ Branković and Eirene Kantakouzene. But the young Elizabeth died in 1455, before the marriage was consummated, leaving Matthias a widower at the age of fifteen.[10]

After the death of Matthias's father, there was a two-year struggle between Hungary's various barons and its Habsburg king, Ladislaus the Posthumous (also king of Bohemia), with treachery from all sides. Matthias's older brother László Hunyadi was one party attempting to gain control. Matthias was inveigled to Buda by the enemies of his house, and, on the pretext of being concerned in a purely imaginary conspiracy against Ladislaus, was condemned to decapitation, but was spared on account of his youth. In 1457, László Hunyadi was captured with a trick and beheaded, while the king died suddenly in November that year; rumors of poisoning were dispelled by research in 1985 which gave acute leukemia as the cause of death. Matthias was taken hostage by George of Poděbrady, governor of Bohemia, a friend of the Hunyadis who aimed to raise a national king to the Magyar throne. Poděbrady treated Matthias hospitably and affianced him with his daughter Catherine, but still detained him, for safety's sake, in Prague, even after a Magyar deputation had hastened thither to offer the youth the crown. Matthias took advantage of the memory left by his father's deed, and by the general population's dislike of foreign candidates; most the barons, furthermore, considered that the young scholar would be a weak monarch in their hands. An influential section of the magnates, headed by the Palatine László Garai and by Miklós Újlaki, voivode of Transylvania, who had been concerned in the judicial murder of Matthias's brother László, and hated the Hunyadis as semi-foreign upstarts, were fiercely opposed to Matthias's election; however, they were not strong enough to resist against Matthias's uncle Mihály Szilágyi and his 15,000 veterans.



Early rule

Corvinus heraldry and young Matthias as depicted in Johannes de Thurocz's German manuscript (1490)

Thus, on 20 January 1458, Matthias was elected king by the Diet. This was the first time in the medieval Hungarian kingdom that a member of the nobility, without dynastic ancestry and relationship, mounted the royal throne. Such an election upset the usual course of dynastic succession in the age. In the Czech and Hungarian states they heralded a new judiciary era in Europe, characterized by the absolute supremacy of the Parliament, (dietal system) and a tendency to centralization. At this time Matthias was still a hostage of George of Poděbrady, who released him under the condition of marrying his daughter Kunhuta (later known as Catherine). On 24 January 1458, 40,000 Hungarian noblemen, assembled on the ice of the frozen Danube, unanimously elected Matthias Hunyadi king of Hungary, and on 14 February the new king made his state entry into Buda.

Forints of Matthias
Forints of Matthias

Matthias was 15 when he was elected King of Hungary: at this time the realm was environed by perils. The Ottomans and the Venetians threatened it from the south, the emperor Frederick III from the west, and Casimir IV of Poland from the north, both Frederick and Casimir claiming the throne. The Czech mercenaries under Giszkra held the northern counties and from thence plundered those in the centre. Meanwhile Matthias's friends had only pacified the hostile dignitaries by engaging to marry the daughter of the palatine Garai to their nominee, whereas Matthias refused to marry into the family of one of his brother's murderers, and on 9 February confirmed his previous nuptial contract with the daughter of Poděbrady, who shortly afterwards was elected king of Bohemia (2 March 1458). Throughout 1458 the struggle between the young king and the magnates, reinforced by Matthias's own uncle and guardian Szilágyi, was acute. But Matthias, who began by deposing Garai and dismissing Szilágyi, and then proceeded to levy a tax, without the consent of the Diet, in order to hire mercenaries, easily prevailed. He recovered the Golubac Fortress from the Ottomans, successfully invading Serbia, and reasserting the suzerainty of the Hungarian crown over Bosnia. In the following year there was a fresh rebellion, when the emperor Frederick was actually crowned king by the malcontents at Vienna-Neustadt (4 March 1459); Matthias however drove him out, and Pope Pius II intervened so as to leave Matthias free to engage in a projected crusade against the Ottomans, which subsequent political complications, however, rendered impossible. On 1 May 1461, the marriage between Matthias and Poděbrady's daughter took place.

From 1461 to 1465 the career of Matthias was a perpetual struggle punctuated by truces. Having come to an understanding with his father-in-law Poděbrady, he was able to turn his arms against the emperor Frederick. In April 1462 the latter restored the holy crown for 60,000 ducats and was allowed to retain certain Hungarian counties with the title of king; in return for which concessions, extorted from Matthias by the necessity of coping with a simultaneous rebellion of the Magyar noble in league with Poděbrady's son Victorinus, the emperor recognized Matthias as the actual sovereign of Hungary. Only now was Matthias able to turn against the Ottomans, who were again threatening the southern provinces. He began by defeating the Ottoman general Ali Pasha, and then penetrated into Bosnia, capturing the newly built fortress of Jajce after a long and obstinate defence (December 1463). On returning home he was crowned with the Holy Crown on 29 March 1464. Twenty-one days after, on 8 March, the 15-years-old Queen Catherine died in childbirth. The child, a son, was stillborn.

After driving the Czechs out of his northern counties, he turned southwards again, this time recovering all the parts of Bosnia which still remained in Ottoman hands.

Wars in central Europe

Western conquests of Matthias Corvinus.
Coat of arms
Matthias Corvinus as depicted in Chronica Hungarorum by Johannes de Thurocz

Matthias gained independence of and power over the barons by dividing them, and by raising a large royal army, fekete sereg (the King's Black Army of Hungary of mercenaries), whose main force included the remnants of the Hussites from Bohemia. At this time Hungary reached its greatest territorial extent of the epoch (present-day southeastern Germany to the west, Dalmatia to the south, Eastern Carpathians to the east, and southwestern Poland to the north).

Soon after his coronation, Matthias turned his attention upon Bohemia, where the Hussite leader George of Poděbrady had gained the throne. In 1465 Pope Paul II excommunicated the Hussite King and ordered all the neighbouring princes to depose him. On 31 May 1468, Matthias invaded Bohemia; however, as early as 27 February 1469, he anticipated an alliance between George and Frederick by himself concluding an armistice with the former. On 3 May the Bohemian Catholics elected Matthias king of Bohemia, but this was contrary to the wishes of both pope and emperor, who preferred to partition Bohemia. George however anticipated all his enemies by suddenly excluding his own son from the throne in favour of Ladislaus, the eldest son of Casimir IV, thus skillfully enlisting Poland on his side. The sudden death of Poděbrady in March 1471 led to fresh complications. At the very moment when Matthias was about to profit by the disappearance of his most capable rival, another dangerous rebellion, headed by the primate and the chief dignitaries of the state, with the object of placing Casimir, son of Casimir IV, on the throne, paralysed Matthias's foreign policy during the critical years 1470-1471. He suppressed this domestic rebellion indeed, but in the meantime the Poles had invaded the Bohemian domains with 60,000 men, and when in 1474 Matthias was at last able to take the field against them in order to raise the siege of Breslau, he was obliged to fortify himself in an entrenched camp, whence he so skillfully harried the enemy that the Poles, impatient to return to their own country, made peace at Breslau (February 1475) on an uti possidetis basis, a peace subsequently confirmed by the congress of Olomouc (July 1479).

During the interval between these peaces, Matthias, in self-defence, again made war on the emperor, reducing Frederick to such extremities that he was glad to accept peace on any terms. By the final arrangement made between the contending princes, Matthias recognized Ladislaus as king of Bohemia proper in return for the surrender of Moravia, Silesia and Upper and Lower Lusatia, hitherto component parts of the Bohemian monarchy, till he should have redeemed them for 400,000 florins. The emperor promised to pay Matthias a huge war indemnity, and recognized him as the legitimate king of Hungary on the understanding that he should succeed him if he died without male issue, a contingency at this time somewhat improbable, as Matthias, only three years previously (15 December 1476), had married his third wife, Beatrice, daughter of Ferdinand I of Naples.

The emperor's failure to follow through on these promises induced Matthias to declare war against him for the third time in 1481. The Hungarian king conquered all of the fortresses in Frederick's hereditary domains. Finally, on 1 June 1485, at the head of 8,000 veterans, he made his triumphal entry into Vienna, which he henceforth made his capital. Styria, Carinthia and Carniola were next subdued; Trieste was only saved by the intervention of the Venetians. Matthias consolidated his position by alliances with the dukes of Saxony and Bavaria, with the Swiss Confederation and the archbishop of Salzburg, establishing henceforth the greatest potentate in central Europe.

Wars against the Ottoman Empire

The roughly 50 years old Matthias (contemporary sculpture from Buda Castle)
Bronze bust of Matthias in National Historical Memorial Park, Ópusztaszer.

In 1471 Matthias renewed the Serbian Despotate in south Hungary under Vuk Grgurević for the protection of the borders against the Ottomans. In 1479 a huge Ottoman army, on its return home from ravaging Transylvania, was annihilated at Szászváros (modern Orăştie, 13 October 1479) in the so-called Battle of Breadfield. The following year Matthias recaptured Jajce, drove the Ottomans from northern Serbia and instituted two new military banats, Jajce and Srebernik, out from reconquered Bosnian territory.

In 1480, when an Ottoman fleet seized Otranto in the Kingdom of Naples, at the earnest solicitation of the pope he sent the Hungarian general, Balázs Magyar, to recover the fortress, which surrendered to him on 10 May 1481. Again in 1488, Matthias took Ancona under his protection for a while, occupying it with a Hungarian garrison.

On the death of sultan Mehmet II in 1481, a unique opportunity for the intervention of Europe in Ottoman affairs presented itself. A civil war ensued in Ottoman Empire between his sons Bayezid and Cem; the latter, being worsted, fled to the knights of Rhodes, by whom he was kept in custody in France. Matthias, as the next-door neighbour of the Ottomans, claimed the custody of so valuable a hostage, and would have used him as a means of extorting concessions from Bayezid. But neither the pope nor the Venetians would accept such a transfer, and the negotiations on this subject greatly embittered Matthias against the Papal court. The last days of Matthias were occupied in endeavouring to secure the succession to the throne for his illegitimate son John; Queen Beatrice, though childless, fiercely and openly opposed the idea and the matter was still pending when Matthias, who had long been crippled by gout, expired very suddenly on 6 April 1490, just before Easter.

Policies in Wallachia and Moldavia

At times Matthias had Vlad III the Impaler, Prince of Wallachia, as his vassal. Although Vlad had great success against the Ottoman armies, the two Christian rulers disagreed in 1462, leading to Matthias imprisoning Vlad in Buda. However, wide-ranging support from many Western leaders for Vlad III prompted Matthias to gradually grant privileged status to his controversial prisoner. Vlad was eventually freed and married Matthias' cousin, Ilona Szilagy. As the Ottoman Empire appeared to be increasingly threatening as Vlad Tepes had warned, he was sent to reconquer Wallachia with Hungarian support in 1476. Despite the earlier disagreements between the two leaders, it was ultimately a major blow to Hungary's status in Wallachia when Vlad was assassinated that same year.

In 1467, a conflict erupted between Matthias and the Moldavian Prince Stephen III, after the latter became weary of Hungarian policies in Wallachia and their presence at Kilia; added to this was the fact that Matthias had already taken sides in the Moldavian conflicts preceding Stephen's rule, as he had backed Alexăndrel (and, possibly, the ruler referred to as Ciubăr Vodă), deposing Petru Aron. Stephen occupied Kilia, sparking Hungarian retaliation, that ended in Matthias' bitter defeat in the Battle of Baia in December (the King himself is said to have been wounded thrice).


Matthias Church in Budapest.
Statue of Matthias, Heroes' Square, Budapest, Hungary

Matthias was educated in Italian, and his fascination with the achievements of the Italian Renaissance led to the promotion of Mediterranean cultural influences in Hungary. Buda, Esztergom, Székesfehérvár and Visegrád were amongst the towns in Hungary that benefited from the establishment of public health and education and a new legal system under Matthias' rule. In 1465 he founded a university in Pressburg (present-day Bratislava, Slovakia), the Universitas Istropolitana. His 1476 marriage to Beatrice, the daughter of the King of Naples, only intensified the influence of the Renaissance.

An indefatigable reader and lover of culture, he proved an extremely generous patron, as artists from the Italian city-states and Western Europe were present in large numbers at his court. The most important humanists living in Matthias' court were Antonio Bonfini Galeotto Marzio and the famous Hungarian poet Janus Pannonius.

Like many of his acculturated contemporaries, he trusted in astrology and other semi-scientific beliefs; however, he also supported true scientists and engaged frequently in discussions with philosophers and scholars.

He spoke Hungarian, Croatian, Latin, and later also German, Czech.

Royal library

Mátyás Hunyadi memorial coin (Coins of the Hungarian forint, by László Szlávics, Jr., 2008)

Matthias Corvinus's library, the Bibliotheca Corviniana, was Europe's greatest collections of secular books: historical chronicles, philosophic and scientific works in the fifteenth century. His library was second in size only to the Vatican Library. [11] In 1489, Bartolomeo della Fonte of Florence wrote that Lorenzo de Medici founded his own Greek-Latin library encouraged by the example of the Hungarian king. Corvinus's library is part of UNESCO World Heritage.[12]


Matthias on the 1000 Hungarian forint banknote
Statue of Matthias Corvinus in front of St. Michael's Church in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, the city where he was born (formerly Kolozsvár, Hungary).
Matthias as a figure of Romance: The Mátyás Fountain, Budapest (Alajos Stróbl, 1902).

In the course of his expansion, Matthias strengthened his state's diplomacy. Apart from his regular network of relations with his neighbours, as well as the Pope and Kingdom of Naples, he established regular contacts with France, Burgundy, Switzerland, Florence, most German states, Russia and, occasionally, with Persia and Egypt.

Matthias's empire collapsed after his death, since he had no children except for an illegitimate son, John Corvinus, whom the noblemen of the country did not accept as their king. Matthias' rival as King of Bohemia, Ladislaus II of the Jagiellon line, followed him.

High taxes, mostly falling on peasants, to sustain Matthias' lavish lifestyle and the Black Army (cumulated with the fact that the latter went on marauding across the Kingdom after being disbanded upon Matthias's death) could imply that he was not very popular with his contemporaries. But the fact that he was elected king in a small anti-Habsburg popular revolution, that he kept the barons in check, persistent rumours about him sounding public opinion by mingling among commoners incognito, and harsh period known witnessed by Hungary later ensured that Matthias' reign is considered one of the most glorious chapters of Hungarian history. Songs and tales refer to him as Matthias the Just (Mátyás, az igazságos in Hungarian), a ruler of justice and great wisdom, and he is arguably the most popular hero of Hungarian folklore. There is a Hungarian proverb still used today saying Matthias has died, justice is gone (Meghalt Mátyás, oda az igazság). He is also one of the sleeping kings, e.g. as Kralj Matjaž in Slovenia.

This popularity is partially mirrored in modern Romania: 19th century Romantic nationalism invested in Matthias and his fathers' Vlach origins, their Christian warrior stances, and their cultural achievements.


His titles in the 1486 laws: King of Hungary, Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Rama, Serbia, Lodomeria, Cumania and Bulgaria, Prince of Silesia and Luxembourg, Margrave of Moravia and Lusatia [13]



This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.


  1. ^ Matthias I. (2009). In Encyclopædia Britannica.
  2. ^ In English, his first name is occasionally given as Matthew, while Corvinus may be rendered as Corwin or Corvin
  3. ^
  4. ^ [1] Ronald D. Bachman, ed. Romania: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1989.
  5. ^ János Hunyadi in the Encyclopaedia Britannica
  6. ^ [2] The Catholic Encyclopedia
  7. ^,P%C3%A9ter+Han%C3%A1k,Tibor+Frank&cd=1#v=onepage&q=&f=false] A History of Hungary‎ Peter F. Sugar, Péter Hanák, Tibor Frank - History - 1994
  8. ^ Babinger, Franz. et al. Mehmed the Conqueror and His Time. Princeton University Press. 2nd Edition. 1992. p. 20.
  9. ^ Engel, Pal. Realm of St. Stephen : A History of Medieval Hungary, 895-1526. London, , GBR: I. B. Tauris & Company, Limited, 2001. p xii.
  10. ^ Ulrich II of Celje and his children in Medieval Lands by Charles Cawley
  11. ^ Marcus Tanner, The Raven King: Matthias Corvinus and the Fate of his Lost Library (New Haven: Yale U.P., 2008)
  12. ^ [3]
  13. ^

External links

Matthias Corvinus of Hungary
Born: 23 February 1443 Died: 6 April 1490
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Ladislaus Posthumus
King of Hungary
Succeeded by
Vladislaus II
Preceded by
George of Poděbrady
King of Bohemia


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