...the Nazis have had teams of archaeologists running around the world looking for all kinds of religious artifacts. Hitler is a nut on the subject... -from the film Raiders of the Lost Ark

The motion picture Raiders of the Lost Ark was an exciting fictional saga with evil Nazis, a heroic archaeologist and a missing supernatural treasure. The tale that inspired the movie, though, was almost as gripping as the film. It comes from a 1973 book by historian Trevor Ravenscroft entitled The Spear of Destiny. Ravenscroft says this true story starts close to 2000 years ago:

On the day Christ was crucified (a Friday) the Bible tells us that the Jews asked the Roman Governor, Pilate, to remove his body, along with the thieves crucified with him, so that they would not remain on the crosses during the sabbath (Saturday).

It could take several days for a man to die from the cruel execution of crucifixion, but the process could be shortened by breaking the victim's legs. The thieves were killed this way, but when the Roman soldiers reached Jesus, one of them, reportedly a centurion named Longinus, saw he was already dead and proved it to his fellows by using his spear to pierce the Christ's side. Blood and water poured out. There was no need to break his bones.

This act has been seen by Christians as fulfillment of prophecy spoken earlier in the Bible: The Messiah shall be pierced and his bones shall not be broken. The spear itself became a religious relic. The piercing was seen as proof of his death and his subsequent resurrection.

Today there exist several historic spears claimed to be the "holy lance" of the biblical story. The one with perhaps the best claim, or at least the oldest provenance is in the Hofburg Museum in Vienna, Austria. This spear can be traced back through history to Constantine the Great, the Roman Emperor who first adopted Christianity in the early 4th century.

According to Ravencroft the lance was possessed by a series of successful military leaders including Theodosius, Alaric (who was responsible for the sacking of Rome), Charles Martel (who defeated the Moslems in 733 AD), Charlemagne and Frederick Barbarossa.

A legend grew around the lance that whoever possessed it would be able to conquer the world. 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 and he never got a hold of it. According to the legend, Charlemagne carried the spear through 47 successful battles, but died when he accidentally dropped it. Barbarossa met the same fate only a few minutes after it slipped out of his hands while he was crossing a stream.

Adolf Hitler in Paris.

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. According to Ravenscroft it was in September of that year, while living in Vienna and working as a watercolor painter, that a young Adolf Hitler visited the Museum and learned of the lance and its reputation. Dr. Walter Stein, who accompanied Hitler on that visit, remembered, "when we first stood side by side in front of the Spear of Destiny it appeared to me that Hitler was in so deep a condition of trance that he was suffering almost complete sense-denudation and a total lack of self-consciousness."

Hitler later said, "I stood there quietly gazing upon it for several minutes quite oblivious to the scene around me. It seemed to carry some hidden inner meaning which evaded me, a meaning which I felt I inwardly knew yet could not bring to consciousness...I felt as though I myself had held it before in some earlier century of history. That I myself had once claimed it as my talisman of power and held the destiny of the world in my hands..."

Hitler saw the lance as his mystical connection with generations of conquering Germanic leaders that had come before him. On March 14, 1938, after he had risen to power as the chancellor of Germany, 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, heart of the Nazi movement.

A painting of the crucifixion. Note the guard at the bottom holding the spear.

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, along with the rest of the collection, was moved to a specially constructed underground vault that would protect it from heavy bombing.

Six months later, on April 30th, 1945, at 2:10 PM, advancing American forces took possession of the vault and the spear. Eighty minutes later Adolf Hitler died, by his own hand, in a bunker in Berlin.

Today the Holy Lance has been returned to the Hofburg Museum. Is it authentic? General George S. Patton thought so. He became fascinated by the spear after the war and had its history traced.

Did Hitler really think possesing the spear would help him win the war? Other historians have found Ravenscroft's research suspicious and his book remains controversial. Alan Baker, author of Invisible Eagle, The History of Nazi Occultism, thinks Hitler was more interested in getting a hold of the Hofburg treasures for financial reasons, not occult reasons.

Does the spear have some sort of mystical power? The Bible never credits the spear to be anything but what it seemed to be: a Roman guard's weapon. Perhaps most importantly, skeptics can rightly point to the failure of the third Reich, even before Hitler lost the spear, as evidence that any power the spear had was strictly in the owner's mind.


Copyright Lee Krystek 1997. All Rights Reserved.