Hitler's successes as Nazi dictator have given way to a number of occult theories. One of the most common of these is the story of the Spear of Destiny. Also called the Holy Lance, this spear is the name given to the lance that supposedly pierced Jesus's side as he hung on the cross in John's account of his death. Legend has it that whoever possesses the lance will rule the world.
The lance is mentioned only in the Gospel of John (19:3137) and not in any of the Synoptic Gospels. The gospel states that the Romans planned to break Jesus' legs, a practice known as crurifragium, which was a method of hastening death during a crucifixion. Just before they did so, they realized that Jesus was already dead and that there was no reason to break his legs. To make sure that he was dead, a Roman centurion named in extra-Biblical tradition as Longinus stabbed him in the side.
The phenomenon of blood and water was considered a miracle by Origen (although the water may be explained biologically by the piercing of the pericardial sinus secondary to cardiac tamponade.) Catholics generally choose to employ a more allegorical interpretation: it represents the Church (and more specifically, the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist) issuing from the side of Christ, just as Eve was taken from the side of Adam.
One of the earliest mentions of a relic preserved as the Holy Lance is in the account of the pilgrim Antoninus of Piacenza, about 570, who described the holy places of Jerusalem, where he saw in the basilica of Mount Zion "the crown of thorns with which Our Lord was crowned and the lance with which he was struck in the side".
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the presence in Jerusalem of this relic is attested half a century earlier by Cassiodorus and was known to Gregory of Tours.
In 615 Jerusalem was captured for the Persian King Khosrau II; according to the Chronicon Paschale, the iron point of the lance, which had been broken off, was given in the same year to Nicetas, who took it to Constantinople and deposited it in the church of Hagia Sophia.
This lance-point, embedded in an icon, was obtained in 1244 from the Latin emperor at Constantinople, Baldwin II, by Louis IX of France, who enshrined it with his relic of the Crown of Thorns in the Sainte Chapelle, Paris. During the French Revolution these relics were removed to the Bibliotheque Nationale and then disappeared.
The name of the soldier who pierced Christ's side is not given in the Gospel of John, but in the oldest known references to the legend, the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus appended to late manuscripts of the 4th century Acts of Pilate. The soldier is identified as a Centurion and called Logginus or Longinus (making the spear's "correct" Latin name Lancea Longini).
A form of the name Longinus also occurs on a miniature in the Rabula Gospels (conserved in the Laurentian Library, Florence, which was illuminated by one Rabulas in the year 586. In the miniature, the name LOGINOS is written in Greek characters above the head of the soldier who is thrusting his lance into Christ's side. This is one of the earliest records of the name, if the inscription is not a later addition.
Another "Longinus" is credited with the authorship of the treatise On the Sublime. Roman names held little variety, especially among members of the same family.
Various Relics Claimed to be the Holy Lance
There have been many relics that are claimed to be the Holy Lance, or parts of it.
No actual lance is known until the pilgrim Antoninus of Piacenza (AD/Crystalinks/Conspiracies html/speardestiny.html 570), describing the holy places of Jerusalem, says that he saw in the Basilica of Mount Zion "the crown of thorns with which Our Lord was crowned and the lance with which He was struck in the side". A mention of the lance also occurs in the so-called Breviarius at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The presence in Jerusalem of this important relic is attested by Cassiodorus (c. 485 - c. 585) as well as by Gregory of Tours (c. 538 594), who had not actually been to Jerusalem.
In 615 Jerusalem and its relics were captured by the Persian forces of King Khosrau II (Chosroes II). According to the Chronicon Paschale, the point of the lance, which had been broken off, was given in the same year to Nicetas, who took it to Constantinople and deposited it in the church of Hagia Sophia, and later to the Church of the Virgin of the Pharos.
This point of the lance, which was now set in an icon, was sold in 1244 by Baldwin II of Constantinople to Louis IX of France, and it was enshrined with the Crown of Thorns in the Sainte Chapelle in Paris. During the French Revolution these relics were removed to the Bibliothèque Nationale but subsequently disappeared. (The present "Crown of Thorns" is a wreath of rushes.)
As for the larger portion of the lance, Arculpus claimed he saw it at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre around 670 in Jerusalem, but there is otherwise no mention of it after the sack in 615. Some claim that the larger relic had been conveyed to Constantinople sometime during the 8th century, possibly at the same time as the Crown of Thorns. At any rate, its presence at Constantinople seems to be clearly attested by various pilgrims, particularly Russians, and, though it was deposited in various churches in succession, it seems possible to trace it and distinguish it from the relic of the point. Sir John Mandeville declared in 1357 that he had seen the blade of the Holy Lance both at Paris and at Constantinople, and that the latter was a much larger relic than the former.
Whatever the Constantinople relic was, it fell into the hands of the Turks, and in 1492, under circumstances minutely described in Pastor's History of the Popes, the Sultan Bayazid II sent it to Innocent VIII to encourage the pope to continue to keep his brother and rival Zizim (Cem) prisoner. At this time great doubts as to its authenticity were felt at Rome, as Johann Burchard records, because of the presence of other rival lances in Paris (the point that had been separated from the lance), Nuremberg (see "Vienna lance" below), and Armenia.
In the mid 1700s Benedict XIV states that he obtained from Paris an exact drawing of the point of the lance, and that in comparing it with the larger relic in St. Peter's he was satisfied that the two had originally formed one blade. This relic has never since left Rome, where it is preserved under the dome of Saint Peter's Basilica, although the Roman Catholic Church makes no claim as to its authenticity.
The lance currently in Echmiadzin, Armenia, was discovered during the First Crusade. In 1098 the crusader Peter Bartholomew reported that he had a vision in which St. Andrew told him that the Holy Lance was buried in St. Peter's Cathedral in Antioch