From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Tannhäuser, Middle High German Tanhûser (died after 1265) was a German Minnesänger and poet. He isn't attested historically outside of his poetry, which is dated to between 1245 and 1265. His biography is consequently obscure. There is a historical Tannhausen castle near Neumarkt in der Oberpfalz. He was active at the court of Frederick II of Austria, and the Codex Manesse depicts him in the habit of the Teutonic Order, which suggests he might have participated in the Fifth Crusade.
His poems are parodies of the traditional genre. His Bußlied (poem on atonement) is unusual with regard to the erotic theme of the remaining content of the Manesse Codex. Tannhäuser was a proponent of the Leich style of poetry.
The German story tells of Tannhäuser, a knight and poet who found Venusburg, a mountain with caverns containing the subterranean home of Venus, and spent a year there worshipping the goddess. After leaving Venusburg, Tannhäuser is filled with remorse, and travels to Rome to ask Pope Urban IV if it is possible to be absolved of his sins.
Urban replies that forgiveness is as impossible as it would be for his papal staff to blossom. Three days after Tannhäuser's departure, Urban's staff blooms with flowers; messengers are sent to retrieve the knight, but he has already returned to Venusburg, never to be seen again.
Several works of science fiction mention a fictional Tannhauser Gate, first mentioned briefly in the film Blade Runner by the character Roy Batty, played by Rutger Hauer. Hauer himself wrote the monologue in which the "Tannhauser Gate" is noted. Aleister Crowley wrote his own play called Tannhauser which follows the character Tannhauser and the infamous Venus. The anime The author Philip José Farmer references Tannhäuser and Venusberg in the 1967 science fiction novella Riders of the Purple Wage. "Tannhauser Gate" is a song on the album One Day Son This Will All Be Yours by the British band Fightstar. The Swedish hardcore band Refused included a song titled "Tannhauser/Derive" on their 1998 album The Shape Of Punk To Come. Also the German rock band In Extremo recorded a song called "Tannhuser" for their album Mein rasend Herz.