The Holy Lance, also known as the Holy Spear, the Spear of Destiny, or the Lance of Longinus (named after Saint Longinus), according to the Gospel of John, is the lance that pierced the side of Jesus as he hung on the cross. The popular legend asserts that the lance has supernatural powers and that the one who owns the Holy Lance, has the destiny of the world in his hands.
The Gospel of John (arguably the most mystical of the gospels) 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 soldier (named in extra-Biblical tradition as Longinus) stabbed him in the side (John 19:34):
“One of the soldiers pierced his side with a lance, and immediately there came out blood and water”
There have been three or four major relics that are claimed to be the Holy Lance or parts of it (which does say something about the whole thing). Relics are located in Rome, Vienna, Antioch (now the city of Antakya in modern Turkey) and in Echmiadzin (now the Armenian city of Vagharshapat).
The Holy Lance in Rome is preserved beneath the dome of Saint Peter’s Basilica, although the Catholic Church makes no claim as to its authenticity (which was never scientifically tested).
The Armenian Holy Lance is conserved in Vagharshapat – the religious capital of Armenia (in the museum Manoogian, enshrined in a 17th-century reliquary). Again, the authenticity of the lance has never been scientifically tested.
The Antioch lance is generally considered to be a fake. However, in 1098 it did inspire the crusaders to break the Siege of Antioch, secure the city and win the battle. So most likely it was a creative propaganda campaign carried out by one clever monk named Peter Bartholomew.
But it was the Vienna lance that allegedly interested the Nazis (actually, Adolf Hitler himself). It is also the only one that has been scientifically tested (with rather unexpected results).
The spear itself (the spearhead, actually) was found to be made in 7th century A.D. – so it definitely was not the Holy Lance. However, an iron pin – long claimed to be a nail from the crucifixion, hammered into the blade and set off by tiny brass crosses – was found to be consistent in length and shape with a 1st-century A.D. Roman nail…
During the Anschluss, when Austria was annexed to Germany, the Vienna lance was returned to Nuremberg and afterwards hidden. It was found by invading U.S. troops and returned to Austria by American General George S. Patton after World War II.
It has been claimed that Hitler was obsessed with the Spear of Destiny and visited the Imperial Treasury in the Hofburg Palace in Vienna many times during five years he spent there only to look at the lance.
However, even if it is true, it most likely had nothing to do with occult (that Hitler never practiced and at least publicly despised). Hitler was obsessed with Wagner and his operas – and the Spear of Destiny figured prominently in Parsifal – Hitler’s favorite opera.
Still, there is one interesting fact associated with Hitler and the Spear of Destiny. According to the legend, loss of the spear by its owner results in almost immediate death. American Army documents indicate that the spear was found by American officer at approximately 13:30 on April 30th, 1945. Two hours later Adolf Hitler committed suicide in his Führerbunker in Berlin…