Venusberg (German: "Venus mountain") or Hörselberg is the name of a mythical mountain in Germany situated between Gotha and Eisenach and celebrated in German poetry. Caverns in the mountain housed the court of Venus, goddess of love which was supposed to be perfectly hidden from mortal men: to enter the Venusberg was to court eternal perdition. However, the legendary knight Tannhäuser spent a year there worshiping Venus and returned there after believing that he had been denied forgiveness for his sins by Pope Urban IV; this is described in the sixteenth-century Lied von dem Danheüser, the principal source for Richard Wagner's large three-act opera Tannhäuser (1845), which changes a few story elements and is known for including a scandalous depiction of the revels of Venus's court in its first scene. In Heinrich Heine's laconic poem Tannhäuser: A Legend, the hero spent seven years there before departing for Rome. Algernon Charles Swinburne tells the story in the first person in his poem Laus Veneris. Ludwig Tieck wrote a story on the subject, and Anthony Powell called an early novel of his Venusberg. Another visitor was Thomas the Rhymer (Thomas Ercildoune, c 1220-97).
The Tannhauser Gate of film and fiction originated as an allusion to the pathway that the knight used to discover and travel to this supposed place of ultimate erotic adventure. Venusberg is also a locality in the city of Bonn and in Flensburg.
- A.C. Swinburne, "Laus Veneris" on the Victorian Web.
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