This project identifies persons believed to have possessed one of the three or four major holy relics regarded to be the Spear of Destiny.
The Spear of Destiny
The Spear of Destiny, which is also known as the Holy Lance, Holy Spear, Lance of Longinus, or Spear of Longinus is said to have been used by Longinus, a Roman centurion, to pierce the side of Jesus Christ, when crucified on the cross, to ensure that He was dead. It is originally mentioned in the Gospel of John, chapter 19, verses 31-37.
Legend has it that the spear has great powers. It is not surprising that kings and dictators have sought out this legendary spear because it gives the one wielding it, powers to bend the destiny of the world. Legend and history also says that once the spear leaves the possession of a ruler, the individual dies within a matter of days. It is believed that both Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolph Hitler sought to possess the spear as it would make their armies invincible.
Throughout the ages there have been many supposed Spears of Destiny, with four major relics that are claimed to be the Holy Lance or parts of it today.
Holy Lance of The Vatican
The Holy Lance of the Vatican is located beneath the dome of Saint Peter's Basilica, the Vatican makes no claim as to its authenticity.
It is said that the Lance was unearthed by Helena at the same time and place as the Holy Nails and the True Cross. It was later buried at Antioch to prevent its capture by the Saracens. Of the lance nothing is known until St. Antoninus of Piancenza, A.D. 570, tells us that he saw in the basilica of Mount Sion in Jerusalem "the crown of thorns with which Our Lord was crowned and the lance with which He was struck in the side". The existence in Jerusalem of the relic is attested by Cassiodorus (c. 485–585) as well as by Gregory of Tours.
In 615 Jerusalem, the relic was captured by the Persian King Chosroes. In the same year the point of the lance, which had been broken off, was given to Nicetas, who took it to Constantinople and deposited it in the church of St. Sophia. This point of the lance, which was set in an icon in 1244, was presented by Baldwin II, Latin emperor at Constantinople to St. Louis, King of France, and it was enshrined with the Crown of Thorns in the Sainte Chapelle. During the French Revolution these relics were removed to the Bibliotheque Nationale, and, although the Crown has been preserved the relic of the lance has been lost.
About 670, the larger portion of the lance was viewed in Jerusalem by Arculpus where it had been restored by Heraclius, it was then venerated at the church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The lance then made it's way to Constantinople in the 8th century, as it's presence at Constantinople is attested by various pilgrims.
Inexplicably in 1357, the unreliable Sir John Mandeville claimed to have viewed the lance both at Paris and at Constantinople.
Eventually, the Constantinople relic fell into the hands of the Turks. In 1492, Bayezid II, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire sent it to Pope Innocent VIII to encourage the pope to continue to keep his brother and rival Zizim (Cem Sultan) prisoner.
Pope Benedict XIV stated 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 St. Peter's.
Pope Benedict XIV
Holy Lance of Vienna, Austria
The Holy Lance of Vienna, Austria is perhaps the one with the best claim, and oldest provenance. This spear can be traced back through history to Constantine the Great in the early 4th century.
The lance was possessed by a series of successful military leaders. Theodosius, the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire. Alaric, who was responsible for the sacking of Rome. Charles Martel who defeated the Moslems in 733 AD. Charlemagne carried the spear through 47 successful battles, but died when he accidentally dropped it. Frederick Barbarossa met the same fate only a few minutes after it slipped out of his hands while he was crossing a stream.
The spear finally wound up in the possession of the House of the Hapsburgs and by 1912 was part of the treasure collection stored in Hofburg Museum.
Napolean attempted to obtain the lance after the battle of Austerlitz, but it had been smuggled out of the city prior to the start of the fight.
March 14, 1938, Adolph Hitler annexed the state of Austria and ordered that the spear, along with the rest of the Habsburg collection, be sent to the city of Nuremberg. On October 13th the lance was loaded onto an armored train and sent to the city. There it was kept in the St. Catherines Church throughout the most successful portion of Hitler's military campaign. In October 1944, after success had shifted to the Allied side, the spear was moved to a specially constructed underground vault to protect it from heavy bombing. On April 30th, 1945, at 2:10 PM, advancing American forces took possession of the vault and the spear. Eighty minutes later Adolf Hitler committed suicide in his bunker in Berlin.
The lance has been returned to the Hofburg Museum.
House of the Hapsburgs
Holy Lance of Vagharshapat, Armenia
According to a thirteenth-century Armenian manuscript, "Holy Relics of Our Lord Jesus Christ", the Holy Lance was brought to Armenia by the Apostle Thaddeus.
This lance could not be the actual biblical weapon as it is instead the point of a Byzantine sigillum. The shaft has a diamond-shaped plate attached to its end; a Greek cross with flared ends is cut through the plate. A special case was made for it in 1687, it is now kept in the museum of thee Echmiadzin monastery.
Holy Lance of Antioch
During the Siege of Antioch in 1098 , a monk, Peter Bartholomew reported a vision in which St. Andrew told him that the Holy Lance could be found buried in the Church of St Peter in Antioch. After digging in the cathedral, Peter discovered a lance. Despite the doubts of many, the discovery inspired the starving and outnumbered Crusaders to break the siege and secure the city in victory.
This particular lance which was not a lance as such, but rather the head of a standard, may be the one now at Echmiadzin in Armenia.
Peter Bartholomew (Pierre Barthélemy)
Adhemar, Bishop of Puy
Count Raymond d'Aguilers