1434 March 23th – Talhoffer’s first letter to Erhard Haller

The following is a transcription of letter of Hans Talhoffer to the knight Erhard Haller in Nürnberg. It is part of the Case of Hans Villenbach. The file is to be found in the Staatsarchiv Nürnberg Reichsstadt Nürnberg, Losungamt, 7-farbiges Alphabet, Urkunden 874. It was written at 1434 March 23. The letter bears the sigil of Hans Talhoffer identical with the letter of receipt he gave to the archbishop of Salzburg and other letters.


1434 März 23 blogTo the honorable and steadfast Erhard Haller, knight to Nürnberg, my mericiful master

Honorable gracious Sir, my humble service, I let your wisdom and honorable know like I have written my merciful masters of Nürnberg beforehand in the matters of Hans von Villenbach, because he accused me of bringing his brother in the name of those of Nürnberg from life to death. Because of the same matters I led Hans von Villenbach to the high court of Westphalen, after that the evil guy Hans von Villenbach had caught me together with a judge at Salzburg. According to the cities law he held me into custody and brought in other people to judge me from life to death.

Dear gracipous Sir now I pray to you and in god`s will and your faithful advice and the judgment of your wisdom and the almighty God in heaven, that when it happened that I have saved my life, by telling about those of Nürenberg (who I said abut to have taken care – or done it themselves – to be guilty of his death) to all who I said that, I have lied. And I did this to save my life. If I would not spoken as he wanted about the Nürnberg ones, he would have had brought in another, and I would have been dead by than. As you will hear very well, I did not talk about the council, that they will have no guilt whatsoever.

Now that I am free I will do everything with letters., words and deeds, that whatever I have said about those of Nürnberg, had been an evil and false lie. What I have done, I have done to safe my life, otherwise I would have to die. That will I bring forward by letters and words to our merciful lord the emperor or to high nobles or to the city councils. I beg for mercy to my masters of Nürnberg, such that I will have safe conduct before them and their men for one year. If I will not come to them, I will guarantee to do bring forward that Hans von Villenbach is a murder an evildoer his whole life long. If you want me to hear more about it, send me a letter and I will write down who had been loyal to Nürnberg or not, who had been not with them day and night.

Gracious Sir, I commend myself to God’s will and will do whatever you will recommend me to do.

Hanns Dalhoffer


1434 März 23 blog 2The addresses Hans Talhoffer uses here to Erhard Haller are formal ones. On the outside you find “edlen und westen her” which is the formal address to a knight. In the letter he uses a more personal form, which is a strong hint that they have a business relationship and know each other. “Ersamer gnädiger her mein untertänig dienst“ is in use for someone holding a high office. “euer weishait un ersam“ is the address to someone who is a judge in court (Freischöffe). These addresses give us a lot of the information on the person Erhard Haller without looking up his famous name. He is a noble, helds a high office in Nürnberg, and is a judge at the high court. Hans Talhoffer was in his service or better in the service of Nürnberg under his command.

In fact we find the knight Erhard Haller in the office of the commander of the mercenaries working for Nürnberg in the account books of the city from 1431-1439. Hans Talhoffer is listed as one of the mercenaries with a horse but not accompanied by a footman in the same books. Thus Erhard Haller was indeed the commander of Hans Talhoffer in the service of the city.

The letter above refers to a case of murder done to the brother of Hans von Villenbach. Wilhelm von Villenbach was captured and then taken away. As a noble knight he could give up in a fight and hope that he will be held for ransom. He could even get away completely safe if it is proven that he was fighting rightfully e.g. in the name of the emperor. But somehow Wilhelm von Villenbach came to death, probably while in capture by Nürnberg mercenaries.

femegerichtHans Talhoffer led Hans von Villenbach to the Vhemic court in Westphalia (it is not known if the usage of the expression “ingicht zu vestfalen” is a court in Westphalia or a court using the law of Westphalia. The term was used in both ways). This court would have decided if there was a case of murder at all and who is guilty. To get there safely Hans von Villenbach would have needed a safe conduct. It seems that Hans Talhoffer had the job to see for the safe travel of this knight and perhaps to meet him in the Vhemic court if it would have come to a judicial fight. How the Vhemic court decided is unknown but it seems that it was not in favour of Hans von Villenbach.

After the journey back Hans von Villenbach uses some judicial tricks to turn the case against Talhoffer. He brought up an official “free judge” who seized Hans Talhoffer in Salzburg using the law of the city.

In Salzburg Hans von Villenbach organized more judges who would have sentenced Hans Talhoffer to death if he would not swear that he is innocent and that others would have done the evil deed. So Hans Talhoffer did as it is to read in the letter that was sent to Nürenberg with a copy of Hans Talhoffers accusation.

In this letter Hans Talhoffer swears that he was forced by the threat of death to lay down false testimony against his Nürnberg comrades. He will provide anything to make everyone belief him now. But because he had created a lot of trouble for the Nürnberg masters he himself would now need safe conduct to give testimony in Nürnberg.

It is no surprise that Erhard Haller did not answer this letter. He was in Rome together with the king and later emperor Sigismund (see below).

Article on the full Case of Wilhelm von Villenbach.


Sam edlen und westen her errhart haller Ritter zu nürenberg meinen gnadigen herns

Ersamer gnädiger her mein untertänig dienst bevor ich las euer weishait un ersam wissen als ich meiner gnädigen hern von Nüerenberg vor och geschrib von hansen von filenbach wegen der uf gehabt hat wie ich wilhalm von filenbach seinen bruder von der der vonn Nüerenberg von leben zu dem tott bracht soll haben darvon ich hansen von filenbach von der selben wegen die sach von Ingicht zu vestfalen nach verfüret hiett nach dem hat mich der bösbicht hans von filenbach mit ainem Rechtern gefangen zu salzburg nach der sälben stat recht und hät rüber mich verborgt und ander leud mit in bracht die müch vom leben zu dem tod richtern scholten gnädiger lieber her nun Rieff ich eur an und gotß will und ewer trewen Ratt und slag ewer weisshait und dem all mächtigen gott von himel daß als mir dar zu komen ist daß ich mein leben gerett han da mit dem Daß ich gerett han etlich von Nüerberg solen dar zu gebürcket und getan haben daß Sy schuldig an Seinen Dott Seinen und allen die ich daß gerett han die hab ich an gelogen und hab als dar umb getan daß ich aIein lebenn dar mit gefristet han van wär ich mit Im gesbroch von awe der von Nüerberg wegen so hiet er ainen ander nach schub daß ich danochtd tod müßt sein als ir wol hören werdent Ich och hab ich von dem Ratt nichz gerett Daß sy kainerly schüld dar an nie gehobt habn Nun bin ich gantz ledig und los nun wil ich dar zu tun mit brieffen mit borten mit wercken waß ich auf etlich ge von nüerenbergn gerett hab dar an han ich sy bößlich und falschß an gelogen und waß ich tan hab ich getan unb fristung meineß lebenß da waß mit anderrz den an dan sterben daß will ich mit brieffen und mit worten fürbringen von unser gnädigen hern dem kaisser oer von fürsten heren oder steten und wollen mich mein heren von nüerenberg genad an mich legen daß ich an gelayd hab von In und den iren ain Iar und wil nicht zu in dem komen zu In so will ich dar zu bürckenn und tun daß ich hansen vonn filenbach da zu bringen wil daß er ain mörder und ein böswicht all sein tag gewesen ist und wan die sach lauter hören wolt So schribt zu mir {unreadable} da wil ich eür wol schreibn wär den von nüerberg trew oder untrew ist die tag und nacht nach in hab getracht haben genegerdich her last mich eur opfelen sein durch gotß willen wan ich allß dar zu du wil was ir mir raten sind.

Hanns Dalhoffer

Table of persons:

Hans Talhoffer was hired like other mercenaries in the early 1430s to fight against the Hussites under the command of the captain Erhard Haller. There was a battle in 1431, a time Hans Talhoffer was enlisted in the payroll. Next to the duty in the war he was regularily ordered to execute judicial services, and escortes for merchant goods.[RHN-Sander]

Coat of arms of Erhard Haller (links to GMN website)

Erhard Haller, the noble knight, judge belongs to a old family (see German Wikipedia article on the Haller family – not a trustworthy source but good enough for an impression). This part of the family stems from Hersbruck 30km near Nürnberg. The family owned a castle in Eckental since the end of the 14th century. Erhard Haller was in the duty of Nürnberg and a member of the city council. Together with his brother Paul he travelled with the King Sigismund at the 13 May 1433 to Rome. He brought in 12 full harnessed horses and was knighted there in 1434 at bridge of the river Tiber soon after the king became the emperor Sigismund. The Nürnberg council payed a lot of money to get their council members there together with some papers. By this the new crowned emperor signed the letters of privilege before any other city could have the chance to send a higher bribe sum. According to the records of the city Erhard Haller did not return before end of July 1434. Later Erhart Haller travelled to Jerusalem and according to the chronicles he died in 1437.[Chroniken]


[RHN-Sander] Die reichsstädtische Haushaltung Nürnbergs, dargestellt auf Grund ihres Zustandes von 1431 bis 1440, Paul Sander, 1902, pp. 157

[Chroniken] Die Chroniken der fränkischen Städte: Nürnberg. Auf Veranlassung und mit Unterstützung Seiner Majestät des Könige von Bayern Maximilian II. herausgegeben durch die Historische Commission bei der Königl. Academie der Wissenschaften, Band 1
S. Hirzel, 1862


Salzburg, Austria

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