Spear of Longinus

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Spear of Longinus

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

On March 12, 1938, Hitler annexed Austria, and upon his arrival in Vienna he made a stop at the Hofmuseum to take possession of an obscure artifact: an ancient spear. He had the spear sent to Germany, and it resided in the Church of Saint Catherine in Nuremberg throughout World War II.

This obscure artifact was known as the Spear of Longinus, or, more dramatically, the Spear of Destiny. Legend said that it was the very spear used to pierce Jesus’ side as he hung on the cross (John 19:31–37). The soldier with the spear is unnamed, but he later came to be known as Longinus. The use of that name is traced to a Syriac manuscript from the sixth century found in the Laurentian Library in Florence, Italy, which includes an illustration of the incident. On that illustration, above the head of the soldier who held the spear, the word Longinus is written in Greek. Legends had accumulated around this spear, suggesting that it has passed through the hands of a number of prominent world leaders—Constantine, Charlemagne, Otto the Great, the Habsburg Emperors, and finally, Adolf Hitler.

It must be noted that several spears claim to be the spear mentioned in the Bible. For example, one was said to have been buried in the cathedral church in Antioch. It was unearthed by a crusader in 1098. It eventually found its way to Etschmiadzin, Armenia, where it remains to the present day. Another claimant traces its history to 570,when it was supposed to have been displayed in Jerusalem. When Jerusalem fell to the Muslims in 615, the spear point was snapped off. The point was subsequently integrated into an icon and made its way to Constantinople, and then to Paris, France. It disappeared during the French Revolution. The lower part of the spear also went to Constantinople, but in 1492 it was sent to Rome as a gift to Pope Innocent VIII by Sultan Beyazid II. Innocent then had it placed inside a pillar at the then-new Saint Peter’s Cathedral, where it remains today.

The spear that Hitler claimed in 1938 seems to be the one that first appeared in 1273. Current observations suggest that it was actually made in the seventh century. It came into the possession of the Holy Roman emperors, belonging initially to Otto I (912–973). Eventually, it found its way to the museum in Vienna as part of a collection of the royal insignia of the Empire.

Hitler’s belief in the spear seems not to reside in its connections to the Holy Roman Empire, but rather from its having entered into the King Arthur legends. Part of the legend associated with the spear, which Hitler and some of his chief lieutenants literally believed, was that the possessor of the spear would have the power to conquer the world. However, if they lost it they would instantly die. This belief gave credence to a modern version of the story. It was rumored that the spear, which came into possession of a U.S. Army general (namely, General George Patton) at the end of World War II, had actually been captured on April 30, 1945 (the day of Hitler’s suicide). In fact, it was some months after the war that the spear was recovered from the church in Nuremburg. It was later returned to the Hofmuseum, where it currently resides. More recent research on Hitler’s involvement with the spear has also called into question many of the details of the story.

Sources:

Anderson, Ken. Hitler and the Occult. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1995.
Buechner, Howard A., and Wilhelm Bernhart. Adolf Hitler and the Holy Lance. Metairie, LA: Thunderbird Press, 1989.
MacLellan, Alec. The Secret of the Spear: The Mystery of the Spear of Longinus. London: Souvenir Press, 2005.
Ravenscroft, Trevor. The Spear of Destiny: The Occult Power behind the Spear which Pierced the Side of Christ. New York: Putnam, 1973.
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