09 Jan Who was Tannhäuser ?
Who was Tannhauser?
During the era when Walther von der Vogelweide, Wolfram von Eschenbach and numerous other minstrels, were exalting Love, the month of May, the Grail and the Rose Garden, or even the Mountain of Venus in their poems — and the people preferred these songs far over those in Latin of the Church or of the legends of the saints —, Wartburg was the theatre of the most celebrated tournament of master-minstrels. This took place in 1207. The old poem of The War of the Wartburg Singers does not say whether or not Tannhäuser took part in the jousting; it also remains silent on the fact that Tannhäuser could have loved Saint Elizabeth, but tells us simply that he took himself to the kingdom of Lady Venus’ underground pleasures.
A Minnesänger named Tannhäuser (or Tanhuser) lived and composed in Vienna, between 1240 and 1270, at the court of Duke Friedrich II of Babenburg. After the death of his protector, he squandered all the latter had given him and embarked upon an adventurous existence, which led him to join the Crusades and set off for Palestine. His poems belong to the decadent period of Minnesäng: it is in his songs for dancing that Tannhäuser shows himself to be most at ease, as he leads the round dance and plays the violin until the strings break or the bow snaps. The second Tannhäuser, the unfortunate one, tortured by doubt as to his soul’s salvation, who entreated the goddess Venus to allow him to leave. With a heavy heart, she granted him permission. So the repentant set off on pilgrimage to Rome where he arrived with bloodied feet. He threw himself at the Pope’s feet — Urban IV, it is said — and pleaded for forgiveness of his sins. But the Pope, holding a dead branch in his hand, said, “When this dead branch bears roses, you shall obtain your pardon. Thus, be damned!” — As soon as was possible Tannhäuser returned to the side of the more indulgent Lady Venus. Before forever burying himself in the marvellous mountain, he would bless once more the sun, the moon and his cherished friends, who could only have been the stars. Then he enters the mountain. However, on the third day, splendid roses bloomed on the dead branch, that the Pope was holding in his hand. Messengers were immediately sent into every country, to make known the news of this Grace from Heaven to the unfortunate. Wasted effort! Tannhäuser had long been living by the side of Lady Saelde. He had become blessed without Rome. It has often been doubted that a link exists between the Tannhäuser of legend and the Minnesänger. The most common hypothesis is the following: “A poet of the thirteenth century might have had the idea to circulate his compositions under the allegorical name of Tannhäuser”. This is most likely, as names are even more alluring when they conceal a divinity. A third Tannhäuser must have been a god…! The Bavarian chronicler Johannes Turmayr von Abenberg, better known as Aventinus, has bequeathed us a curious account. It is half a millennium old. Here is what he recounts: “I discover that Germans and their cousins invaded Asia under the command of a king, whom the Goths and Germans called Danheuser, and the Greeks Thananses, and whom they worshipped as a god. […]
Wolfram von Eschenbach… and a few like him… have transformed the ancient Germanic lords and princes, changed their adventures and histories into love stories and they would have believe in their poems that so much blood flowed, so many trials endured, and that is was not on account of war, as women do not much like to hear of this, as of love… So this is equally was happens to Danheuser, he who was a great hero and warrior… He was worshipped by the Greeks, to whom had been conferred the keys of Heaven and who helped men in difficulty when called upon”. To this account, a second, third and fourth may be added. The second, dating from 1580, claims that Tannhäuser was less in the service of Venus than that of Mars, and that to the Pope, “he confessed his childish warlike follies”, and not his sojourn in the mountain of Venus. — The third, a little older than the previous one — sees in Tannhäuser a “direct successor of the twelve masters who established Minnesäng”. — The fourth is a fifteenth century song, entitled The twelve masters of the rose garden. The Tannhäuser of Aventinus, who reaches the ‘rose garden’ is a king, who later becomes a god. His divination is confirmed by the fact that he enters forever into the ‘rose garden’ and that the keys of Heaven are conferred to his charge. — The god of the garden cannot be that of the Bible and the keys of Heaven — read: of the ‘rose garden’ — can only be understood in the sense of this ‘master key’ which today in Lower Saxony is not known as the ‘Thieves’ key’ or ‘Dietrich’, but as Peterken, ‘little Peter’!
In the fifteenth century, Halberstadt’s Saxon chronicle tells of how Lohengrin came from the mountain where Lady Venus was to the Grail. In other words, according to a chronicle of the same epoch, to say that a king capable of making men blessed until the end of time had existed was a lie. The Grail was this Paradise, but it became a place of sin. The holy mountain of the Grail had been debased and had been made the infernal mountain of Venus. That what the Teutons of the pagan epoch worshipped, under the name of Asgard, as the domain of the gods, and under the name of Hel, as being the divine kingdom of death, was sung about, by the heretics and troubadours of the Middle Ages, under the names of ‘Grail Mountain’, ‘Rose Garden’, ‘Arthur’s Round Table’, ‘Mountain of Venus’ or this ‘Mount Bel’ in flames, into which Dietrich of Bern penetrated. And being deemed “the highest recompense of terrestrial aspirations”, they were in Wolfram von Eschenbach’s parlance, always the goals of quests. But that is not all: what the Greeks of pagan times perceived as the island of Æa, towards which the Argonauts and Heracles sailed, was none other than the Hellenic reflection of Nordic Asgard, and, as a result, a representation of mediaeval Grail Paradise, the Arthurian round table, the rose garden and the Mountain of Venus. And their common original basis was this “Mountain of Assembly in the most distant Midnight” as Isaiah calls it. At the end of the Middle Ages, when hanging someone, in Germany, it was always seen to that his face was turned towards the North. Towards Hell … a paradox. Nothing is ever what it seems …