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Spear of Destiny
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Spear of Destiny

This article is about the mythical artifact. Spear of Destiny is also the title of a videogame, a sequel to Wolfenstein 3D. See also Spear of Destiny (band)

The Spear of Destiny, sometimes known as the Spear of Longinus, is claimed to be the spear that pierced the side of Jesus Christ when he was on the cross. It is described in John 19:31-37 as being used by a Roman soldier. Later Christian tradition would give the soldier's name as Gaius Cassius, and he is later called Longinus. It should be noted that there is a historical figure named Gaius Cassius Longinus, one of the conspirators responsible for the death of Gaius Julius Caesar (died March 15, 44 BC).

It is believed by some to have passed through the hands of influential world leaders throughout the ages including Herod the Great, Constantine, Justinian, Charlemagne, Otto the Great, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, the Habsburg Emperors, and Adolf Hitler.

Table of contents
1 Authenticity
2 Location
3 The legend of the spear
4 The Spear of Destiny in popular fiction

Authenticity

The Spear is generally regarded by experts as a fake. The earliest verifiable account of this Spear was its use in a coronation ceremony in 1273. Recent metallurgy indicates the spear as having been made in the 7th century CE at the earliest, although it may contain an authentic Roman crucifixion nail; but that nail has also been altered.

There are several other competing relics in different locations. One such "Holy Lance" was allegedly unearthed by a Crusader named Peter Bartholomew in Antioch in 1098 while the Crusaders were under siege from the Seljuk Turks under Kerbogha. Peter Bartholomew reported that he had had a vision in which St. Andrew told him that the Holy Lance was buried in St. Peter's Cathedral in Antioch. At the time some were skeptical, but others were convinced. In any case, after much digging in the cathedral, Peter Bartholomew took a hand and, in a few moments, discovered the lance. For some of the Crusaders this was a marvelous discovery. At the same time, dissension had begun in the ranks of the Muslim army besieging the city. This combination of factors resulted in the Christian army being able to rout the Moslems a few days later when they joined battle, allowing the Crusaders to decisively capture Antioch.

That Lance is now at Etschmiadzin in Armenia. Scholars believe that it is not actually a Roman lance but the head of a Roman standard. Another purported Holy Lance has been in Krakow since the 1200s.

Location

The earliest reports of the Spear were circa A.D. 570, described as having been on display in the basilica of Mount Zion in Jerusalem adjacent to the Crown of Thorns. The point of the spearhead was alleged to have been snapped following the Persian conquest of Jerusalem in A.D. 615. The point was set into an icon, and found its way to the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. It was later transported to France, where it remained in the Sainte Chapelle until the 18th century. The icon was briefly moved to the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris during the French Revolution, but it subsequently disappeared. The lower section of the spearhead was allegedly conveyed from Jerusalem to Constantinople sometime in the 8th century. It was sent by Sultan Beyazid II as a gift to Pope Innocent VIII in 1492; Innocent had the relic placed in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. It still resides there. The Catholic Church makes no claim as to its authenticity.

The legend of the spear

It is superstitiously believed that whosoever might hold the spear would have the power to conquer the world but losing it would mean instant death. The legend states that since the Spear had pierced the body of God (Jesus) that it became imbued with some kind of magical power and therefore was a weapon capable of defeating any opponent.

Hitler's interest in the relic probably originated with his interest in the 1882 opera Parsifal — by Hitler’s favorite composer, Richard Wagner — which concerned a group of 9th century knights and their quest for the Holy Grail.

On March 12, 1938, the day Hitler annexed Austria, he arrived in Vienna a conquering hero. He made his way to the Hofmuseum where he took possession of the Spear which he immediately sent to St. Katherine’s Church in Nuremberg, the spiritual capital of Nazi Germany.

One legend maintains that the spear came into the possession of the United States of America on April 30, 1945; specifically, under the control of the 3rd Army led by General George Patton. Later that day, supposedly in fulfilment of the legend, Hitler committed suicide. Patton became fascinated by the ancient weapon and had its authenticity verified. Patton did not go on to use the spear, as orders came down from General Dwight Eisenhower that the complete Hapsburg regalia including the Spear of Longinus were to be returned to the Hofburg Treasure House, where it remains today. This legend has recently been shown to be quite false. The spear was not recovered until roughly six months after Hitler's suicide, and Patton never had possession of it.

The Spear of Destiny in popular fiction