A Nobleman Executed for Sodomy, Zürich 1482.

Manuscript illustration of the execution in Zürich in 1482 of Richard Puller von Hohenburg and his servant Anton Mätzler for sodomy, from the Grosse Burgunderchronik of Diebold Schilling the Elder. The execution took place not outside the city walls as shown, but in Zürich‘s market square. I think it could reasonably be said that everyone in this picture looks, if not gay, then certainly extremely camp. Even Zürich itself (see full image below) looks decidedly yellow brick road.

Born in 1454, Richard Puller von Hohenburg was a gay Swiss nobleman with a colourful history of narrowly but skilfully evading prosecution for homosexual “offences”. His first brush with the law came when one of his servants, Ludwig Fischer, was arrested on suspicion of providing “improper sexual services” to his master in exchange for gifts of lavish clothing and other knickknacks. Luckily for Richard, the authorities took a dim view of Ludwig when they discovered his attempts to blackmail his master. There was no prosecution. Some years later, Richard was again in trouble for “improper” conduct, but thanks to his useful connections he again escaped prosecution – though this time there were conditions attached. One of them was that he should relinquish a significant portion of his estates, which he did; another was that he should enter a monastery, which he had no intention of doing. Instead he settled in Zurich, where his decidedly indiscreet lifestyle soon got him into trouble again, this time fatally. Again, as in the Ludwig affair, fancy clothes and expensive gifts figured in the indictment. The chief architect of RIchard’s downfall was Hans Waldmann, the Mayor of Zurich, who was himself executed for sodomy and other offences some years after Richard’s death. 

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