Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Matthias Corvinus House

In the Mehffi House of Cluj (later known as "Matthias House"), Elisabeth Szilagyi, the wife of John Hunyadi, gave birth to the couple's second son, Matthias. According to a document written several generations later, Matthias was born on the ground floor of the building, in the first room on the left of the Gothic door which can be seen even today.

In the 16th century, when the Cluj cult of the great king was full revival, the room was marked with an inscription whose text survives in a 1758 transcription "Matthias, of fond memory, by the grace of God King of Hungary, Bohemia, Dalmatia, and Croatia, son of the late ruler John Hunyadi, was born here, in this room, in the third hour of the morning of March 27, in the year 1444, served his country faithfully and ruled happily until the end of his life".

In 1467 Matthias Corvinus showed his affection to the house in which he had been born by exempting its owners from ever paying taxes and other duties. This exemption, which turned "Matthias House" into a coveted piece of real-estate, was sanctioned and respected by later kings and princes.

Matthias Corvinus felt a strong connection to his native town. He made significant donations to Cluj, among them the royal borough of Cojocna. His decisions of 1467, 1478, 1485 encouraged the serfs who had paid by their obligations to their masters to take up residence in town. He also intervened in the conflict between the town and the abbey of Cluj-Manastur, forcing the latter to dismantle its walls in 1466.

One of the best-known and most popular historical legends of Cluj, found in Gaspar Heltai's chronicle, features Matthias as its main protagonist. Allegedly, Matthias came to Cluj incognito, disguised as a travelling student, seeking to find out how the town authorities were treating the citizens. Because he protested against the abuse perpetrated against free men, the town magistrate had him whipped and forced him to carry firewood to his household. Legend has it that Matthias took a lump of coal and wrote the following on three logs found in the magistrate's yard: "King Matthias was here! Where has justice gone?". Released at dusk, the king returned to his camp in Gilau. The following day he returned to town, this time at the head of his army, punished the town magistrate and ordered the strict observance of the laws which forbade the abusive exploitation of the labor of free men.

Nowadays, The University of Arts and Design promote the contemporary art in the cellars of the Matthias House. Students and graduates have the opportunity to exhibit their best creations here.

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