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Matthias Corvinus of Hungary

Matthias Corvinus "the Just" ("Igazságos"), (February 23 1443 - April 26 1495) was one of the greatest Hungarian kings, ruling between 1458 and 1495.

Mathias was born in Kolozsvár (in Transylvania, today Cluj-Napoca in Romania) in 1443 as the first son of János Hunyadi, a famous Hungarian warlord who led a number of successful military campaigns against the Ottoman Empire in his lifetime, leaving a secure, stabile kingdom to his son.

The later epithet Corvinus, adopted by Matthias was originated from the Coat of Arms of the family which showed a raven (corvus in Latin). (The Silesian Annals state that when a raven carried off the ring King Matthias had removed from his finger, Matthias chased the bird down and slew him, retrieving the ring, and in commemoration of this event he took the raven as a symbol for his signet sign. Others think that the Coat of Arms was derived from another property of the family, Raven’s Rock (Piatra Corbului in Romanian)). Another legend says that when young Matthias was in prison in Prague his mother was able to send him a letter with a raven (and that's why the Hungarian Postal Service had a raven as its symbol for more than a century).

Mathias was 15 when he was crowned king and he soon learned the finesses of power from his mentor, the Italian Bonfini, regent of Hungary until his adulthood. Mathias was educated in Italian and his fascination with the achievements of the Renaissance led to the promotion of Mediterranean cultural influences in Hungary. Buda, Esztergom, Székesfehérvár and Visegrád were amongst the townships in Hungary that benefited from the establishment of public health and education and a new legal system under Mathias' rule. He has proven a most generous patron and artists from Italy (e.g., Galeotto Marcio) and Western Europe flocked to his courts. His library, the Bibliotheca Corviniana, was Europe's greatest collection of historical chronicles and philosophic and scientific works in the 15th century.

His reign is considered one of the most glorious chapters of Hungarian history, also marked by victorious military campaigns of his feared Fekete Sereg ("Dark Troops"), means which Hungary reached its greatest ever territorial expansions (Southeast-Germany to Dalmatia in the west, Poland to today's Bulgaria in the East). Matthias annexed to Hungary Moravia, Silesia, Lusacia (all three 1468/1469/1479-1490) and Lower Austria (1477/1485-1491). He spoke Hungarian, Croatian, Latin and later also German, Czech, Slovak and other Slavic languages. King Matthias is still remembered today, his character as a ruler of justice and great wisdom plays a vital part in many stories and songs of Hungarian folklore.

Note: due to his birthplace being located in Transylvania, Romanian historians often claim that he was in fact of Romanian origin.

Names in other languages: Hungarian: Hunyadi Mátyás, Slovak: Matej Korvín, Czech: MatyᚠKorvín, Romanian: Matei Corvin, Croatian: Matija Korvin