The Spear of Destiny, sometimes known as the Spear Longinus, is claimed to be the spear that pierced the side of Jesus Christ when he was on the cross. It is described in Gospel of John 19:31-37 as 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.
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. The earliest reports of the Spear were circa 570 A.D., described as 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 615 A.D. 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. In the 14th century it 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.
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. 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.
The spear came into the possession of the United States of America on April 30, 1945. Specifically under the control of the 7th Army led by General George Patton. Later that day, apparently 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 Longinus was to be returned to the Hofburg Treasure House where it remains today.
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.
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 claimant has been in existence in Krakow since the 1200s.
The Spear was also referenced in the popular anime Neon Genesis Evangelion.
See also Spear of Destiny (band)