World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

János Hunyadi

Article Id: WHEBN0000514635
Reproduction Date:

Title: János Hunyadi  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Mehmed the Conqueror, Murad II, Croats, Kecskemét, Szózat, Kingdom of Croatia (medieval), Bácsalmás, Ineu, Public place names of Budapest, Békésszentandrás
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

János Hunyadi

For his younger brother, see John Hunyadi, Jr..
John Hunyadi
Regent-Governor of the Kingdom of Hungary
Voivode of Transylvania

Regent-Governor of the Kingdom of Hungary, Voivode of Transylvania
Spouse Erzsébet Szilágyi
Ladislaus Hunyadi
Matthias Corvinus
House House of Hunyadi
Father Voyk[1] (Voicu, Vajk)[2] Hunyadi
Mother Elizabeth Morsina[3] or Morzsinay[4]
Born c. 1407
Died 1456
Kingdom of Hungary (now Serbia)
Burial St. Michael's Catholic Cathedral,
Gyulafehérvár/Alba Iulia,
Kingdom of Hungary (now Romania)

John Hunyadi (Bulgarian: Сабинян Янко / Sabinjan Yanko, Croatian: Janko Hunjadi, Hungarian: Hunyadi János, Latin: Ioannes Corvinus or de Hunyad, Romanian: Iancu or Ioan de Hunedoara, Serbian: Сибињанин Јанко / Sibinjanin Janko, Slovak: Ján Huňady, Slovene: Ivan Hunjadi) (c. 1407–11 August 1456), was a leading Hungarian[5][6] military and political figure in the 15th-century history of Central and Southeastern Europe. According to most contemporary sources, he was son of a noble family of Walachian (Romanian) ancestry. He mastered his military skills on the southern borderlands exposed to Ottoman attacks of the Kingdom of Hungary. Appointed voivode of Transylvania and head of a number of southern counties, he assumed responsibility for the defense of the frontiers in 1441.

Hunyadi adopted the Hussite method of using wagons for military purposes. He employed professional soldiers, but neither did he refrain from mobilizing local peasantry against invaders. These innovations contributed to his earliest successes against Ottoman troops plundering the southern marches in the early 1440s. Although defeated in the battle of Varna in 1444 and in the second battle of Kosovo in 1448, his successful "Long Campaign" across the Balkan Mountains of 1443-44 and the defence of Belgrade/Nándorfehérvár in 1456, against troops led personally by the Sultan established his reputation as a great general. The bells of Catholic and older protestant churches are daily rung at noon to commemorate the Belgrade victory, although the pope had ordered this in advance, a week before the siege, in order to encourage the soldiers fighting for Christendom.

John Hunyadi was also an eminent statesman. He actively took part in the civil war between the partisans of Wladislas I and the minor Ladislaus V, two claimants to the throne of Hungary in the early 1440s, on behalf on the former. Popular among the lesser nobility, the Diet of Hungary appointed him, in 1445, as one of the seven "captains of the realm" responsible for the administration of state affairs until Ladislaus V (by that time unanimously accepted as king) came of age. The next Diet went even further, electing Hunyadi as sole regent with the title of governor. When he resigned from this office in 1452, the sovereign awarded him with the first hereditary title (perpetual count of Beszterce/Bistrița) in the Kingdom of Hungary.[7] Furthermore, Hunyadi who had by this time become one of the wealthiest landowners in the kingdom, preserved his influence in the Diet up until his death.

This Athleta Christi ("Christ's Champion"), as Pope Pius II referred to him, died some three weeks after his triumph at Nándorfehérvár, falling to an epidemic that had broken out in the crusader camp. However, his victories over the Turks prevented them from invading the Kingdom of Hungary for more than 60 years. His fame was a decisive factor in the election of his son, Matthias Corvinus king by the Diet of 1457. Hunyadi is still a popular historic figure among Hungarians, Romanians, Serbians, Bulgarians and other nations of the region, many of them even considering him as their own hero.


Main article: Hunyadi family

The Hunyadi family were a noble family in the medieval Kingdom of Hungary from Wallachia[8] and had Romanian[9][10][11] origin according to the majority of sources. Hunyadi was named Valachus or Balachus ("the Wallachian") in some contemporary texts.[12] According to some historians (including Ferenc Glatz), he was of Cuman origin.[13][14]

According to other opinions, John Hunyadi came from a modest Romanian noble family from Hațeg.[15] The Hunyadis were first recorded in a royal charter of 1409 in which Sigismund of Luxembourg, then King of Hungary, granted Vojk the Hunyad Castle (in contemporary Hungarian: Hunyadvár, later Vajdahunyad, in present-day Romanian: Hunedoara) and its estates for his distinction in the wars against the Ottomans.

Woyk, Hunyadi's father, was described as being of Vlach descent by medieval chroniclers[16][17] and modern historians.[18][19][20][21][22] He was a nobile Knyaz[23] from Wallachia.[23][24][25] However the name "Vayk" may suggest a Tatar-Cuman origin.[26]

Matthias Corvinus' court historian Antonio Bonfini flattered his king by tracing the family's ancestry to the Roman gens Corvina, or Valeriana, while adding: "for this man was indeed born of a Romanian father and a Greek mother"[27][28] A contemporary Hungarian historian Johannes de Thurocz, similarly flattering his king, wrote in the Chronicle of the Hungarians (Chronica Hungarorum) that the Hunyadi family was of Hunnic origin, even calling Matthias Corvinus the "Second Attila".[29] The 16th century Saxon historian Gáspár Heltai made Hunyadi the illegitimate son of king Sigismund and the young noble Erzsébet Morsina/Morzsinay.[30][31]

Corvinus legend

The epithet Corvinus (referring to the raven) was first used by Antonio Bonfini the biographer of his son Matthias Corvinus, but is also applied to Hunyadi.[32] According to a legend invented[33] by Gáspár Heltai said that Hunyadi was the illegitimate son of Hungarian King Sigismund of Luxembourg,[34] and that Vojk was a faithful soldier of his father for two decades. After the death of his wife, King Sigismund met Elizabeth Morzsinai, a virgin noblewoman, and fell in love. In the morning, the king gave a royal ring to the lady, promising her that he would take care of the son. After the boy was born, the family set off to Buda to the palace of Sigismund. During the trip, they took a rest, and baby Hunyadi started crying. Elizabeth gave him the ring to make him quiet, whereupon a rook stole the ring. Elizabeth's brother took his bow and arrow and shot the rook, whereupon, as if by a miracle, the rook did not die, and the ring was recovered. Arriving at the royal court in Buda, Sigismund filled the baby's cradle with precious stones.[35]


Hunyadi's mother was Elizabeth Morsina/Morzsinay (Hungarian: Erzsébet Morzsinay, Romanian: Elisabeta Morşina), a lady of the lesser nobility from Karánsebes (Caransebeş),[36] Kingdom of Hungary. According to Gáspár Heltai she was the daughter of a Romanian[37] lesser noble from Hunyad (Hunedoara), Transylvania, Kingdom of Hungary. Her family (also known as the Demsusi Muzsina family) was a family of Romanians ennobled in the second half of the 15th century[38]


In 1432, Hunyadi married Erzsébet Szilágyi (c. 1410-1483), a Hungarian noblewoman. John Hunyadi had two children, Ladislaus and Matthias Corvinus. The former was executed on the order of King Ladislaus V for the murder of Ulrich II of Celje, a relative of the king. The latter was elected king on 20 January 1458, Matthias after Ladislaus V's death. It was the first time in the history of the Kingdom of Hungary that a member of the nobility, without dynastic ancestry and relationship, mounted the royal throne.

Rise of a general

While still a young man, Hunyadi entered the retinue of Sigismund, who appreciated his qualities. He also loaned the king money on several occasions. A document describing a loan agreement of 1.200 gold florins, dated from 1434 refers to him "Johannes dictus Olah".[39][40] He accompanied the monarch to Frankfurt in Sigismund's quest for the Imperial crown in 1410, took an active part in the Hussite Wars in 1420, and in 1437 was sent south to successfully raise the Turkish siege of Semendria. The young knight served many powerful magnates and strategists of Sigismund, including Stefan Lazarević and Philippo Scolari. Between 1431 and 1433 he made the acquaintance of the condottiere (mercenary captain) Francesco Sforza at the court of prince Filippo Maria Visconti.[41] In Milan Hunyadi studied the new military art of Italy.[42] Later he received numerous landed estates and a privileged position in the royal council of Hungary. His star was soon in the ascendant and in 1438 King Albert found Hunyadi promoted to Ban of Severin[34] that lay south of the defensible southern frontiers of Hungary; the Carpathians and the Drava/Sava/Danube complex, a province subject to constant Ottoman harassment.

On the untimely death of Albert in 1439, Hunyadi was of the volition that Hungary was best served by a warrior king and lent his support to the candidature of young King of Poland Władysław III of Varna in 1440, and thus came into collision with the powerful magnate Ulrich II of Celje, the chief proponent of Albert's widow Elisabeth of Bohemia (1409–1442) and her infant son, Ladislaus Posthumus of Bohemia and Hungary. Featuring prominently in the brief ensuing civil war, Władysław III's side was thus reinforced by Hunyadi's noticeable military abilities, and was rewarded by Władysław with the captaincy of the fortress of Belgrade, a latter dignity that he shared with Mihály Újlaki.

He became the king's trusted adviser and most highly regarded soldier, and was put in charge of military operations against the Ottomans. The king recognized Hunyadi's merits by granting him estates in Eastern Hungary. Hunyadi became the greatest landowner in Hungarian history. At the peak of his career he could call himself master of 2.3 million hectares of land, 28 castles, 57 towns and about 1,000 villages.[9] Unlike most of his contemporaries, Hunyadi did not use his great revenues or the military and political weight of his thousands of retainers simply for his personal aggrandizement. For many years, he bore a large share of the cost of fighting the Ottomans.[43]

First battles with the Ottomans

The main theater of the war with the Turks now came into his jurisdiction and Hunyadi soon showed and displayed an extraordinary capacity for marshalling its defences with the limited resources at his disposal. In 1441 he scored a pitched battle victory at Semendria over Ishak Bey. The following year, he annihilated an Ottoman force invading Transylvania at Hermannstadt/Nagyszeben/Sibiu . Following this victory, Wallachia again accepted the suzerainty of the Kingdom of Hungary. In February 1450, he signed an alliance treaty with Bogdan II of Moldavia.

In July 1442, an undaunted and intrepid Hunyadi proceeded march against the Turks with 15,000 Hungarian and Siculi irregulars against a massed formation of a third Turkish invasion force, reinforced by the choicest Ottoman troops numbering 80,000 sent to avenge previous defeats. Hunyadi's engagement at the Iron Gates is one of Hungary's more celebrated victories, Hunyadi's maneuver of infantry, cavalry and war wagons performed superbly to the astonishment of the Turkish commander Sehabbedin, who was astounded by the smallness of the Magyar army.

These victories made Hunyadi a prominent enemy of the Ottomans and renowned throughout Christendom, and was a prime motivator to undertake in 1443, along with King Władysław, the famous expedition known as the long campaign. Hunyadi, at the head of the vanguard, crossed the Balkans through the Gate of Trajan, captured Niš, defeated three Turkish pashas, and, after taking Sofia, united with the royal army and defeated Sultan Murad II at Snaim (Kustinitza). The impatience of the king and the severity of the winter then compelled him (February 1444) to return home, but not before he had utterly broken the Sultan's power in Bosnia, Herzegovina, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Albania.

When he'd returned to Hungary he received offers from Pope Eugene IV, represented by the Legate Julian Cesarini, from Đurađ Branković, despot of Serbia, and George Kastrioti Skanderbeg, prince of Albania, to resume the war and realize his ideal of driving the Ottomans from Europe. All the preparations had been made when Murad's envoys arrived in the royal camp at Szeged and offered a ten years' truce on advantageous terms. Branković bribed Hunyadi – offering him his vast estates in Hungary to support a peace treaty. Cardinal Julian Cesarini found a traitorous solution. The king swore that he would never give up the crusade, so all future peace and oath was automatically invalid. After this Hungary accepted the Sultan's offer and Hunyadi in Władysław's name swore on the Gospels to observe them.

Battle of Varna

Two days later Cesarini received tidings that a fleet of Venetian galleys had set off for the Bosporus to prevent Murad (who, crushed by his recent disasters, had retired to Anatolia) from recrossing into Europe, and the cardinal reminded the King that he had sworn to cooperate by land if the western powers attacked the Ottomans by sea. In July the Hungarian army recrossed the frontier and advanced towards the Black Sea coast in order to march to Constantinople escorted by the galleys.

Đurađ Branković, however, fearful of the sultan's vengeance in case of disaster, privately informed Murad of the advance of the Christian host, and prevented Kastrioti from joining it. On reaching Varna, the Hungarians found that the Venetian galleys had failed to prevent the transit of the Sultan - indeed, the Genoese transported the Sultan's army (and received, according to legend, one gold piece for each soldier shipped over). Hunyadi, on 10 November 1444, confronted the Ottomans with less than half the Hungarian forces. Nevertheless, victory was still possible in the Battle of Varna as Hunyadi with his superb military skills managed to rout both flanks of the Sultan's army. At this point, however, King Władysław, who up to that point had remained in the background and relinquished full leadership to Hunyadi, assumed command and with his bodyguards carried out an all-out attack on the elite troops of the Sultan, the Janissaries. The Janissaries readily massacred the king's men, also killing the king, exhibiting his head on a pole. The king's death caused disarray in the Hungarian army, which was subsequently routed by the Ottomans; Hunyadi himself narrowly escaped. On his way home, Vlad II Dracul of Wallachia imprisoned Hunyadi; only the threats of the palatine of Hungary brought the Wallachian ruler, theoretically an ally of Hunyadi against the Ottomans, to release him.[44]

Voivode of Transylvania

At the parliament which met in February 1445 a provisional government consisting of five Captain Generals was formed, with Hunyadi receiving the Voivode of Transylvania title and four counties bordering on the Tisza.[45]

Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary

Brief personal rule

As the anarchy resulting from the division became unmanageable, Hunyadi was elected regent of Hungary (Regni Gubernator) on 5 June 1446 in the name of Ladislaus V and given the powers of a regent. His first act as regent was to proceed against the German king Frederick III, who refused to release Ladislaus V. After ravaging Styria, Carinthia, and Carniola and threatening Vienna, Hunyadi's difficulties elsewhere compelled him to make a truce with Frederick for two years.

In 1448 he received a golden chain and the title of Prince from Pope Nicholas V, and immediately afterwards resumed the war with the Ottomans. He lost the two-day Second Battle of Kosovo (7–10 October 1448). Branković also imprisoned Hunyadi for a time in the dungeons of the fortress of Smederevo, but he was ransomed by his countrymen and, after resolving his differences with his powerful and numerous political enemies in Hungary, led a punitive expedition against the Serbian prince, who was forced to accept harsh terms of peace.

In 1450 Hunyadi went to Pozsony to negotiate with Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III the terms of the surrender of Ladislaus V, but no agreement could be reached. Several of John Hunyadi's enemies, including Ulrich II of Celje, accused him of conspiracy to overthrow the King. In order to defuse the increasingly volatile domestic situation, he relinquished his regency and the title of regent.

On his return to Hungary at the beginning of 1453, Ladislaus granted him the district of Beszterce (Bistrița), belonging to the Saxons of Transylvania, together with the hereditary title of 'perpetual count' (perpetuus comes Bistriciensis).[46] He was also named and Captain General of the kingdom.

Belgrade victory and death

Meanwhile, the Ottoman issue had again become acute, and, after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, it seemed natural that Sultan Mehmed II was rallying his resources in order to subjugate Hungary. His immediate objective was Nándorfehérvár (today Belgrade). Nándorfehérvár was a major castle-fortress, and a gate keeper of south Hungary. The fall of this stronghold would have opened a clear way to the heart of Central Europe. Hunyadi arrived at the siege of Nándorfehérvár at the end of 1455, after settling differences with his domestic enemies. At his own expense, he restocked the supplies and arms of the fortress, leaving in it a strong garrison under the command of his brother-in-law Mihály Szilágyi and his own eldest son László Hunyadi. He proceeded to form a relief army, and assembled a fleet of two hundred ships. His main ally was the Franciscan friar, Giovanni da Capistrano (known today as St. John of Capistrano), whose fiery oratory drew a large crusade made up mostly of peasants. Although relatively ill-armed (most were armed with farm equipment, such as scythes and pitchforks) they flocked to Hunyadi and his small corps of seasoned mercenaries and cavalry.

On 14 July 1456 the flotilla assembled by Hunyadi destroyed the Ottoman fleet. On 21 July, Szilágyi's forces in the fortress repulsed a fierce assault by the Rumelian army, and Hunyadi pursued the retreating Ottoman forces into their camp, taking advantage of the Turkish army's confused flight from the city. After fierce but brief fighting, the camp was captured, and Mehmet lifted the siege and returned to Constantinople. A 70-year period of relative peace on Hungary's southeastern border began with his flight. However, plague broke out in Hunyadi's camp three weeks after the lifting of the siege, and he died August 11. On his deathbed Hunyadi said Defend, my friends, Christendom and Hungary from all enemies... Do not quarrel among yourselves. If you should waste your energies in altercations, you will seal your own fate as well as dig the grave of our country..[47] He is buried in the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Alba Iulia, former Gyulafehérvár next to his younger brother, John. Sultan Mehmet II paid him tribute:"Although he was my enemy I feel grief over his death, because the world has never seen such a man."

The Noon Bell

Pope Callixtus III ordered the bells of every European church to be rung every day at noon, as a call for believers to pray for the Christian defenders of the city of Belgrade.[48][49] The practice of Noon bell is traditionally attributed to the international commemoration of the Belgrade victory and to the order of Pope Callixtus III.[50][51][52]

The custom still exist even among Protestant and Orthodox congregations. In the history of Oxford university, the victory was welcommed with a peals of bells and great celebrations in England too. Hunyadi sent a special courier (among other), Erasmus Fullar, to Oxford with the news of the victory.[53]


Along with his son Matthias Corvinus, Hunyadi is considered a Hungarian national hero and praised as its defender against the Ottoman threat.[54][55][56][57] He was born into and ably served the Kingdom of Hungary and the Catholic Church. Hunyadi was a member of the Hungarian aristocracy and a subject of the Hungarian crown. He is mentioned in Szózat, a poem which is considered a "second anthem" of Hungary.

Romanian historiography gives Hunyadi a place of importance in the history of Romania too.[58] He is remembered in Romania as a national hero mostly due to his Romaniannote 1 origin and his role as Voivode of Transylvania (a region at the time part of the Kingdom of Hungary and now part of Romania). Hunyadi was also responsible for establishing the careers of both Stephen III of Moldavia and the controversial Vlad III of Wallachia.

Pope Pius II writes that Hunyadi did not increase so much the glory of the Hungarians, but especially the glory of the Romanians among whom he was born.[59][60][61][62]

The French writer and diplomat Philippe de Commines described Hunyadi as a very valiant gentleman, called the White Knight of Wallachia, a person of great honour and prudence, who for a long time had governed the kingdom of Hungary, and had gained several battles over the Turks[63]

Hunyadi was "recognised as being Hungarian..." and "frequently called Ugrin Janko, 'Janko the Hungarian'" in the Serbian and Croatian societies of the 15th century,[64][65] while another bugarštica makes him of Serbian origin[65] He is also portrayed as an ardent supporter of the Catholicization of Orthdox peoples[66]

In Bulgarian folklore, the memory of Hunyadi was preserved in the epic song hero character of Yankul(a) Voivoda, along with Sekula Detentse, a fictitious hero perhaps inspired by Hunyadi's nephew, János Székely.[67]

Nicolaus Olahus was the nephew of John Hunyadi.[68]

Among Hunyadi's noted qualities, is his regional primacy in recognizing the insufficiency and unreliability of the feudal levies, instead regularly employing large professional armies. His notable contribution to the development of the science of European warfare included the emphasis on tactics and strategy in place of over-reliance on frontal assaults and mêlées.

His diplomatic, strategic, and tactical skills allowed him to serve his country well. After his death, Pope Callixtus III stated that "the light of the world has passed away", considering his defence of Christendom against the Ottoman threat. The same pope ordered the noon bell to be rung for the memory of Hunyadi's victory in siege of Belgrade, and to mark the resistance to Islamic progression inside Europe.


^ According to the majority of references, modern historians and mainstream sources. There are also alternative researches suggesting other origin as it is already explained in the article.


  • Template:1911
  • Sources cited by the Encyclopædia Britannica:
    • R.N. Bain, "The Siege of Belgrade, 1456", in Eng. Hist. Rev., 1892.
    • Antonio Bonfini, Rerum ungaricarum libri xlv, editio septima (in Latin; ~contemporary source). Hungarian edition Balassi Kiado 2001
    • J. de Chassin, Jean de Hunyad, (in French), Paris, 1859.
    • György Fejér, Genus, incunabula et virtus Joannis Corvini de Hunyad (in Latin), Buda, 1844.
    • Vilmos Fraknói, Cardinal Carjaval and his Missions to Hungary, (in Hungarian), Budapest, 1889.
    • P. Frankl, Der Friede von Szegedin und die Geschichte seines Bruches (in German), Leipzig, 1904.
    • A. Pcr, Life of Hunyadi (in Hungarian), Budapest, 1873.
    • József Teleki, The Age of the Hunyadis in Hungary (in Hungarian), Pest, 1852–1857; (supplementary volumes by D. Csinki 1895).
  • Enea Silvius Piccolomini (Pope Pius II) In Europa - Historia Austrialis, BAV, URB, LAT. 405, ff.245, IIII kal. Aprilis MCCCCLVIII, Ex Urbe [6]
  • Camil Mureşanu, John Hunyadi. Defender of Christendom, Iaşi-Oxford-Portland 2001

Further reading

Crusades portal

In English:

Additional Books that Mention John Hunyadi:

In Hungarian:

Political offices
Preceded by
Franko Talovac
Ban of Severin
alongside John Hunyadi, Jr. (1439–1440)
alongside Nicholas Újlaki (1445–1446)

Succeeded by
Preceded by
Ladislaus Jakcs
& Michael Jakcs
Voivode of Transylvania
alongside Nicholas Újlaki

Succeeded by
Nicholas Újlaki
& Emeric Bebek
Preceded by
Emeric Bebek
& Stephen Bánfi
Count of the Székelys
alongside Nicholas Újlaki

Succeeded by
Francis Csáki
Preceded by
George Orbonász
Ispán of Temes
alongside Nicholas Újlaki (1441–1446)

Succeeded by
Ladislaus Hunyadi
Preceded by
Seven captains
Regent of Hungary
Succeeded by
Ladislaus V
as King
Preceded by
Sebastian Rozgonyi
Ispán of Pozsony
Succeeded by
Ladislaus Hunyadi
Preceded by
Ulrich II, Count of Celje
Ispán of Trencsén

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.