A medieval German legend about how a minstrel and knight of that name, who passed by the Hörselberg (Hill of Venus) and entered therein in answer to a call. He remained there with an enchantress and lived an unholy life. After a time he grew weary of sin, and longing to return to normal living, forswore the worship of Venus and left her.
He then made a pilgrimage to Rome to ask pardon of the Pope, but when he was told by Urban IV himself that the papal staff would as soon blossom as such a sinner as Tannhäuser be forgiven, he returned to Venus. Three days later, the Pope's staff did actually blossom, and the Pope sent messengers into every country to find the despairing minstrel, but to no purpose. Tannhäuser had disappeared.
The story has a mythological basis that has been overlaid by medieval Christian thought, and the original hero of which has been displaced by a more modern personage, just as the Venus of the existing legend is the mythological Venus only in name. She is really a German earth-goddess, Lady Holda.
Tannhäuser was a minnesinger (love-minstrel of the middle of the thirteenth century). He was very popular among the minnesingers of that time. The restless and intemperate life he led probably marked him out as the hero of such a legend as has been recounted.
He was the author of many ballads of considerable excellence, which were published in the second part of the Minne-singer of Friedrich H. von der Hagen (Leipzig, 1838) and in the sixth volume of Moriz Haupt's Zeitschrift für deutsches Althertum (1841). The most authentic version of this legend is given in J. L. Uhland's Alte hoch und niederdeutsche Volkslieder (Stuttgart, 1844-45).
Tannhäuser was the name of a wandering poet who lived in Germany during the a.d. 1200s. This historical figure became the subject of a famous legend.
pagan term used by early Christians to describe non-Christians and non-Christian beliefs
According to the story, Tannhäuser one day came across an underground cave that happened to be the home of Venus, the Roman goddess of love. He remained with Venus for a year but eventually came to yearn for the life he left behind. When Venus agreed to let him return to the world, he went to Rome to ask Pope Urban IV to forgive him for making love to the pagan goddess. However, Urban said that Tannhäuser could no more be forgiven than the pope's wooden staff could produce fresh flowers. Three days later, the staff began to blossom, and Urban, realizing his mistake, sent messengers to find Tannhäuser. However, denied forgiveness, Tannhäuser had already returned to Venus's cave to spend the rest of his days with her. Richard Wagner's opera Tannhäuser from 1845 is based on this story.