The city of Hunedoara has the most important Gothic-style secular building in Transylvania: Hunyad Castle, which is closely connected with the Hunyadi family. The castle was originally a small royal citadel and was given to Vajk (Voicu) by King Sigismund of Luxemburg in 1409. Vajk's son, Johannes de Hunyad, began enlargement of the castle into a Gothic residence in 1446. The castle was damaged by fire three times, but underwent successive renovations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by the architects Imre Steindl, Frigyes Schulek and István Möller.
Besides the Romanian population, there are also ethnic Hungarians and Germans living in Hunedoara. A Roma population also thrives in a small village near the city, called Hasdat. The city contains many green gardens, and old trees flank the streets. The castle has been turned into a museum, following recent reconstruction. A large dam, with tourist facilities, is located a few kilometres from the city, up in the mountains. A big, nice hotel, recently renovated, lies in the city center.
During the 20th century, Hunedoara increased its population to 86,000 inhabitants. The city used to contain the second largest steel works in Romania, but this has now closed down. However, the economy of the city is now benefiting from new investment.
After Dacia was conquered around 106 AD and turned into a Roman province, the iron-rich region attracted the attention of the Romans, who began to exploit it by building furnaces. A "Villa Rustica" emerged in Teliuc, a Roman castrum on Sanpetru hill, outpost of the legio XII Gemina. Other Roman artifacts were discovered in the city area, and also in Pestis, where the remains of a Roman village were discovered.
After the Roman military and administrative retreat due to migrations of people from the east in 267 AD, the Romanized and Christianized population continued to thrive in the mountains and isolated valleys and was able to keep faith and connections with the Byzantine Empire and the civilized world. This is attested by discoveries of artefacts and Christian burial places around the city. Thus, Romanians were born, in the passing of time. Around 1000 AD, small political feuds arose and Transylvania fell under the Hungarian Kingdom and became part of it. Later on, an autonomous principate arose, with populations of Romanians, Hungarians, Szeklers and Saxons.
The first recorded evidence of the city was made in 1265 under the name Hungnod as a hub for leather tanning and wool processing. The city of Hunedoara became an important iron extracting and processing center in Transylvania. "Corpus Inscriptiorum Latinorum" refers to a local inhabitant as "natas ibi, ubi ferum nascitur", that is, "born where the iron was born". The swords and spears, made in the 14th and 15th centuries in the iron foundries and works, were famous for their stiffness in a period of intense fighting with the Ottoman Turks.
The city has been known since the 14th century mainly as the residence of the Hunyadi family. On October 18, 1409, Voicu, a wallachian, was rewarded for military bravery by Sigismund of Luxembourg, and received the domain of Hunedoara. The same document mentions Mogos, Radu and Iancu, sons of Voicu. Ioannus Corvinus (Hungarian: János Hunyadi; Romanian: Iancu Corvin de Hunedoara), the son of Voicu, spent his childhood here. He married Erzsébet (Elisabeta), a Hungarian noblewoman, and advanced to be named voivode of Transylvania, which was by then an autonomous part of the kingdom of Hungary. He consolidated the citadel on top of an ancient fortress and took care of the small city. He studied military tactics in the Italian republics, and became the most skilful warrior of Hungary. Elected regent of Hungary, he engaged in crusades against the Turks. The victories reputed there by coalitions of Serbian, Romanian and Hungarian forces of the region, with help from European lords, managed to secure the Hungarian kingdom from the Turks for more than two centuries. After he died in a military camp after his biggest military triumph, his son, Mátyás (Matthias) later became the most famous Hungarian king, and he also consolidated the castle and the feudal domain of Hunedoara. The castle of Hunedoara became one of the biggest in the world, standing as a witness to the greatness of this family of noble warriors and statesmen, in an era of war and despair, as the Ottoman Empire approached Central Europe.
In the times of Corvins, Hunedoara became a market (opidum) for iron. Matthias Corvinus named the city a tax-free area, and this privilege extended until the 17th century. The population varied between 784 people in 1512 and 896 people in the 17th century. After Matthias died, Hunedoara was owned by his son, John (Hungarian: János; Romanian: Ioan), but he too died young. His wife, Beatrice de Frangepan, married Georg of Hohenzollern, Marquis of Brandenburg in 1509. But Georg de Brandenburg would not establish in Hunedoara, instead naming a representative, György Stolcz.
In 1514, the rebellion of György Dózsa made peasants to revolt, and some of them were imprisoned in the castle. The 17th century ruler of Transylvania, Gabriel Bethlem, also extended the castle. Hunedoara had a Catholic cathedral built around 1600 and a smaller Orthodox church for the Romanian population.
The first tall industrial furnace in the world for iron extracting, it has been argued, was built in 1750 in Topliţa near Hunedoara, and a later one in Govajdia in 1806. Both furnaces can be visited today. To reach it, there is a system of narrow-gauge railway built in the 19th and 20th centuries that still runs today through the breathtaking landscape of "Ţara Pădurenilor" (Woodlanders' country).
In the 19th century, Hunedoara became more and more industrialized, peasants from regions nearby began to move to the city and the population increased. As the Romanian nation was underprivileged, it revolted a few times. The peasants supported the Revolt of Horea, Cloşca and Crişan, and the Avram Iancu resistance in Apuseni mountains. Transylvania was given to the kingdom of Romania after World War I. The Romanian populations in and around the city quickly earned political rights and representation, and industrial development continued at an ever-increasing rate.
During the years of the communist regime, industry was favored, and Hunedoara had for a time the biggest steel-producing factory in Romania and even the Balkans. The city grew larger, and the factories extended so much that they equalled or exceeded the size of the city. The population also increased to over 87,000. The football team, Corvin, was for a very long time one of the highest-rated football teams in Romania, rivaling Steaua or Dinamo. A big stadium was built along with other sports facilities such as covered swimming pools and a skating ring.
The communist collapse meant that the old markets for steel vanished, and many enterprises had to be closed or abandoned. More than half of the population lost their jobs. However, investment from Romanian and foreign capital ventures has started offering new job opportunities to the people. Currently Arcelor-Mittal runs what is left of the Hunedoara Steel Mill. The steel mill now operates the No.2 Electric Steel Mill, Continuous Caster and the rolling mills. Production is scheduled to rise above 500.000t of steel in 2007 and above The rest of the production facilities have been demolished or have been sold to private investors.
The Castle is known both by the name Corvin's Castle and "Hunyadi Castle". "Hunyadi" is a more internationally recognized name for the same family, "Corvins" being used mostly by Romanians.
The impressive size and architectural beauty sets it among the most precious monuments of medieval art, subsequent developments mixing Gothic style with Renaissance and Baroque. The building lies on a rock around which flows the river Zlasti. It has an impressive draw bridge, countless towers, a number of interior courts, and two large halls, "Knight Hall" and "Diet Hall", as it housed the diet of Transylvania for a very short period.
The castle history is mostly related to the Hunyadi family, being the place where Iancu de Hunedoara spent his childhood. Today the castle is being cared for by the municipality, as there are no recorded descendants of the Hunyadi that could pledge for it. Vlad Dracul, the ruler of Wallachia, father of the notorious Vlad Dracula, was imprisoned here, as he had fallen into disgrace with Hunyadi, not providing the help promised in the battle against the Ottomans. (Dracula, who had once been traded as a hostage to the Ottomans by his own father, later became a protege of Hunyadi and took over Wallachia shortly before his mentor's death of a fever). The castle and surroundings are often used by international film companies for the production of movies about medieval times.
Unfortunately the Iron Museum no longer exists. It has been vandalized. The museum contained exhibits illustrating the evolution of metallurgy in the Hunedoara area from the Dacian period until present. It also used to house a large scale model of the Hunedoara steel works.