The Holy Lance: What Happened to the Spear of Longinus?

Last week, the Orthodox Christians commemorated St. Martyr Longinus, the Roman centurion, who hit the Savior’s side with a spear. As the Holy Gospel says, when Crist died on the Cross, the soldier exclaimed, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39) According to the Church tradition, that Roman officer believed in Messiah, became a Christian and suffered for the name of God, testified his loyalty to Christ with his own blood.

But there is a question left: what happened to the spear? Such an important sacred object could not vanish unnoticed from the history of Christianity and Church relics? It turns out that there is a whole series of such spears, which claim to be the very Spear, that pierced the ribs of the Savior, “and immediately blood and water came out” (John 19:34).

1. Armenian spear

Since 12th century, this relic is kept in the Armenian city of Vagarshapat in the treasury of the Etchmiadzin Monastery. Before that, the spear was kept in the Monastery of the Spear (Gegardavank), where it was brought by Apostle Jude Thaddaeus, according to the tradition. There are some facts that speak in the favor of this very spear: such spears were used by the Roman forces that served not in fighting units but at military posts on the occupied territory. The width of the Armenian spear also coincides with the mark of the spear on the Shroud of Turin.

2. Vatican spear

This relic is considered to be the spear that was kept at first in Jerusalem, where it was described be a pilgrim, who came there from Piacenza, Italy. When in 614 Jerusalem was conquered by the Persians, the tip of the spear was broken off and brought to Constantinople, and there it was kept until 1492. Then, the Turkish sultan granted the tip to Pope Innocentius VIII.

3. Vienna spear

This spear is known since the times of emperor Otto I (10th century) and since the end of the 18th century it is kept in the treasure chamber of the Vienna palace. When Austria was annexed to the Nazi Germany, the spear fell into the hands of Nazis who were going to use it in their occult practices.

4. Krakow spear

As a result of numerous researches, it was finally found out that this spear is a copy of the Vienna spear.

So, there are several spears that survived to this very day and that claim to be the Spear of Destiny. However, there were other spears known in the past. John Calvin mentioned all the known to him spears, among which there were the Vatican spear, the spear from Sent-Chapel in Paris, the spear in Tenal abbey in Saintonge, as well as one in Selva, not far from Bordo.

What conclusion can we make? There are many sacred relics that are connected with the Passion of Christ and are venerated by Christians all over the world. The Spear of Longinus can rightly be called one of such relics. We cannot say for sure what spear exactly belonged to the Roman centurion, but let us leave this uncertainty aside and think about one more usefull for us commitment. Every parish has its own spear – a liturgical one, with which the priest performs proskomedia, prepares the Holy Lamb and then divides the Holy Body for the communion of all the faithful. The Holy Eucharist served at any parish gives us an opportunity and calls us to partake of the Body that has been crucified on the Cross and pierced by the very spear and the Holy Blood that spilled from the wounded rib of Christ. What can be higher than this?

By John Nichiporuk, 

a Bachelor of Theology, 
specialized in Biblical Studies.
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