Johann Hunyadi

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Johann Hunyadi (1407-1456)

Johann Hunyadi ( Hungarian Hunyadi János , Romanian Ioan de Hunedoara , Croatian and Serbian Sibinjanin Janko , nickname Janko or Yanko ; * 1387 or 1407 ; † August 11, 1456 ) was a statesman and military leader who worked for Hungary. He came from Transylvania and was probably the son of Vojk (Voicu) Corbu , one of the Wallachians ennobled by Sigismund von Luxemburg , and Elisabeth Morzsinay. He derived his family name from the small Hunyad estatefrom which his father came into possession in 1407. Hunyadi had the family castle , today's Hunedoara Castle , built on this property .

Origin of the family name

Coat of arms of Johann Hunyadi (helmet gem: half a flight turned to the left).
Hunyadvár Castle , built from 1440

The nickname Corvinus , later adopted by his son Matthias , has its origin in the family coat of arms of his family Hunyadi , which shows a raven ( Latin corvus ). The "Schlesische Annalen" report that a raven once stole a ring that Matthias had slipped from his finger; Matthias then pursued and killed the raven and thus regained his ring. In memory of this event, he chose the raven as a symbol for his seal. Another opinion is that the heraldic animal was derived from another property of the family, the "raven rock" (in Romanian Piatra Corbului ). Another legend has it that when Matthias was imprisoned in Prague , his mother was able to send him a letter with a raven. This legend , which was cast in literary form by János Arany in his famous ballad Mátyás anyja (The Mother of Matthias), is also the reason why the Hungarian Post had a raven as a symbol for more than a century.

His struggles against the Ottoman Empire

Johann has sometimes been mistaken for an older brother who died fighting for Hungary around 1440. When he was young, he entered the service of King Sigismund , who valued his qualities and borrowed money from him. In 1410 he accompanied the monarch in his pursuit of the royal crown in Frankfurt am Main , took part in the Hussite Wars in 1420 and drove the Ottomans out of Smederevo in 1437 . For these services he received numerous goods and a seat on the royal council. In 1438 King Albrecht II made him Ban von Severin , an area between Olt and Danube that was constantly involved in battles with the Ottomans. After the sudden death of Albrecht II in 1439, Hunyadi stood up for the candidacy of the young Poland Wladyslaw III. a (1440). This led to a conflict with the powerful Cilliern , the main supporters of Albrecht's widow Elisabeth and her underage son Ladislaus Postumus . Hunyadi took a leading role in the following civil war and was rewarded by King Wladyslaw with the leadership of the fortress of Belgrade and the Voivodeship over Transylvania . However, he had to share the latter dignity with his rival Mihály Újlaki .

As the most important voivode on the Hungarian border with the Ottoman Empire, he played a special role in the subsequent clashes with the Turks. In 1441 he triumphed over the Turks at Smederevo . In 1442 he destroyed a Turkish army near Sibiu , where he had to retreat. In July he defeated a third Turkish army near the Danube Gorge . These victories made Hunyadi's name feared among the Turks and famous among Christians, and in 1443 spurred him on to undertake the famous "long campaign" with King Wladyslaw. As part of the vanguard, he crossed the Balkans, conquered Niš and defeated three Turkish pashas . After taking Sofia , he united his army with the army of King Wladyslav and defeated Murad II at Snaim . The king's impatience and the severity of winter forced him to return home in February 1444. By this time, the sultan's power over Bosnia , Herzegovina , Serbia and Albania had largely collapsed.

Before he even got back to Hungary, he received offers from the Pope (represented by the legate Cardinal Giuliano Cesarini ), from the Serbian despot Đurađ Branković and from the Albanian prince Gjergj Kastrioti to resume the war and push the Turks back further. All preparations had already been made when Murad's ambassadors appeared at the royal encampment in Szeged to propose a ten-year armistice on favorable terms. Both Hunyadi and Branković suggested accepting the offer, and King Wladyslav swore on the Bible to accept the terms. Two days later, Cesarini received news that a fleet of Venetian galleys had set out for the Bosporus to prevent Murad from crossing Europe again (he had withdrawn to Asia Minor after his defeats ). The cardinal reminded the king of his oath to participate in a campaign by land if the Western powers attacked the Turks by sea. With the power conferred on him he absolved the king of his second oath, and in July the Hungarian army set out for the Black Sea to march on Constantinople, escorted by the galleys . However, Brankovic feared the sultan's revenge if the campaign failed and informed Murad in advance of the arrival of the Christians; he also prevented Kastriotis from participating in the advance. When the Hungarians reached Varna , they found that the Venetian galleys had not been able to prevent the sultan's passage. He now faced them with a four-fold superiority, and on November 10, 1444 there was the battle of Varna , in which the Christian army was crushed. King Wladyslaw lost his life on the battlefield, while Hunyadi narrowly escaped.

Johann Hunyadi (1387-1456)

At a meeting held in 1445, a provisional government was formed, consisting of five Magyar generals. Hunyadi received Transylvania and the districts beyond the Tisza . The fallen king was succeeded by Ladislaus Postumus , the son of King Albrecht II ; however, since Ladislaus was still a small child, a regency was necessary. On June 5, 1446 , Hunyadi was unanimously elected imperial administrator ( vicarius generalis et gubernator ) on behalf of Ladislaus. His first act as regent was against the German King Friedrich III. who refused to hand over the young king. After plundering Styria , Carinthia and Carniola and threatening Vienna , other difficulties forced Hunyadi to conclude an armistice with Friedrich for two years. In 1448 he received a gold chain and the title of prince from Pope Nicholas V. When he immediately resumed the war with the Turks, he lost the battle of several days (7 October to 10 October) on the Blackbird Field in Kosovo . The betrayal on the part of Dans, a ruler of Wallachia, and his old enemy Branković, who had him locked up in the dungeon of the fortress of Smederevo for a time, played an important role. But he was ransomed by the Magyars, and after settling the differences with his powerful opponents in Hungary, he led a punitive expedition against the Serbian prince, on whom he imposed humiliating peace conditions. In 1450 Hunyadi went to Pressburg (now Bratislava ) to negotiate with Frederick the terms of a surrender of Ladislaus V, but no agreement could be reached. The Cillis and other enemies accused him of targeting the throne. He silenced them by renouncing all his dignities in favor of the young king as soon as he returned to Hungary in early 1453 . Ladislaus therefore appointed him Count of Beszterce and captain general of the kingdom.

In the meantime the Turkish question had become acute again, because it was clear that after the fall of Constantinople in 1453 , Mehmed II was gathering his resources to fight against Hungary. His immediate destination was the strategically important Belgrade, and so, after a public reconciliation with all his enemies, Hunyadi went here in 1455 to equip and arm the fortress at his own expense. After leaving them heavily fortified under the command of his brother-in-law Mihály Szilágyi and his older son Ladislaus , he formed a relief army and a fleet of two hundred galleys . He was supported by the Franciscan Giovanni da Capistrano , who preached the crusade so effectively that Hunyadi's army was reinforced by numerous peasants enthusiastic about the war. The core of the army consisted of mercenaries and noble horsemen. On July 14, 1456 , Hunyadi destroyed the Turkish fleet with his flotilla; On July 21st, Szilágyi defended himself against a violent attack, and on the same day Hunyadi pursued the confused Turks to their camp, which he captured after a desperate and violent clash. Mehmed then lifted the siege of Nándorfehérvár (now Belgrade) and returned to Constantinople. This ensured Hungary's independence for another seventy years. The Magyars had to pay dearly for this crowning victory. Hunyadi died of the plague in his camp three weeks later (August 11, 1456).

Hunyadi in historical memory

Grave of Johann Hunyadis in the catholic cathedral in Alba Iulia

Hunyadi is so firmly anchored in historical memory as the incarnation of Christian chivalry that it is forgotten that he was both a famous military leader and a great statesman. He is said to have fought with his head instead of his arm. Recognizing the inadequacy and unreliability of feudal tax levies, he deployed a large-scale regular army, and relied more on strategy and tactics than just bravery. Indeed, he was the first Hungarian general in the modern sense of the word. He learned to read and write late in his life, and his Latin always left much to be desired. He owed his influence in part to his natural talent and his character, praised by contemporaries as a chivalrous character. He is described as a short, sturdy man with round, rosy cheeks, long, snow-white, curly hair and cheerful black eyes.


By the imperial resolution of Franz Joseph I. from 28 February 1863 Johann Hunyady was in the list of "most famous, to the everlasting emulation worthy warlords and generals of Austria" added to their honor and memory of a life-size statue in the general hall of the then newly The Imperial and Royal Court Weapons Museum (today: Heeresgeschichtliches Museum Wien ) was built. The statue was created in 1872 by the sculptor Karl Peckary (1848–1896) from Carrara marble and was dedicated by Emperor Franz Joseph himself.


  • Joseph Hero: Hunyadi. Legend and reality . East European Monographs et al., Boulder CO et al. 1985, ISBN 0-88033-070-8 , ( East European monographs 178).
  • Karl Nehring: Hunyadi, János , in: Biographical Lexicon for the History of Southeast Europe . Vol. 2 ed. Mathias Bernath / Felix von Schroeder. Munich 1976, pp. 193-196
  • Vilmos von Zsolnay: Unification attempts of Southeast Europe in the XV. Century. John of Hunyadi . Selke, Frankfurt am Main and others 1967 (Also: Mainz, Univ., Diss. 1963: Johann von Hunyadi and the defense of Belgrade in 1456 ).


  • Liliana Le Hingrat: The dark heart of the world . Knaur TB, 2015

Web links

Commons : Johann Hunyadi  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. Gerhard Herm : The Balkans. The powder keg of Europe . Econ Verlag GmbH, Düsseldorf and others 1993, p. 166, ISBN 978-3-430-14445-2
  2. ( Memento of the original from June 12, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , Janos Hunyadi Champion of Hungary or Savior of Europe?  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  3. ^ , János Hunyadi
  4. ^ Johann Christoph Allmayer-Beck : The Army History Museum Vienna. The museum and its representative rooms . Kiesel Verlag, Salzburg 1981, ISBN 3-7023-0113-5 , p. 29