Skip to main content
Angel statue holding the Holy Lance

The Holy Lance: 8 facts about the spear that killed Jesus

For some, the lance is a medieval relic only half as old as it is claimed to be. For others, the spear is an object of vast occult power.


For lovers of history and the occult alike, there are certain ancient objects which continue to fascinate and bewilder. Among these are the Holy Grail, the Turin Shroud – and the Holy Lance. Otherwise known as the ‘Spear of Destiny’, this is the very weapon that was supposed to have pierced the side of Jesus Christ as he hung on the cross.

For some, the lance is a medieval relic only half as old as it is claimed to be. For others, the spear is an object of vast occult power.

Here we look at eight facts about one of the world’s most famous single weapons.

1. The spear was the weapon that killed Jesus

In the Bible, in the Gospel of John, it says:

‘But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs. But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.’

This soldier was the blind Roman centurion Longinus. In one version of the story, Longinus stabbed Jesus and the blood and water sprayed the centurion in the eyes and restored his sight. Longinus, amazed and humbled by this miracle, later converted to Christianity and was eventually crucified for his beliefs in 45 AD.

Longinus’s spear, known subsequently as the Holy Lance, is said to have been imbued with great power, a talisman handed down through the centuries to power-hungry dukes, kings, and emperors.

Statue of Saint Longinus by Gianlorenzo Bernini
Statue of Saint Longinus by Bernini | Image: CC BY 2.0

2. Joseph of Arimathea supposedly brought the lance to Britain

According to one legend, Saint Joseph of Arimathea, the man who buried Jesus, brought the lance to Britain in the first century AD. Joseph is often spoken of in various legends as having visited Britain and brought Christianity with him. One story even says he came to Cornwall and brought an infant Jesus along with him for the ride.

3. The spear is said to make its owners invincible

The Spear of Destiny has often been described as a key to world power, a magic wand of war that gives its possessor the ability to command and conquer unopposed.

In the 8th and 9th centuries, Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor, was supposed to have personally wielded the spear on 47 successful military campaigns. He supposedly dropped the lance one day, and then died right there and then.

Early German king, Henry the Fowler, also carried the lance, according to legend. Henry was a leading Saxon king, and it passed down through other Saxon royal hands before finding its way to the famous warrior king Frederick Barbarossa, Holy Roman Emperor in the second half of the 12th century.

Frederick conquered half of Italy and went on the Third Crusade. In Turkey, in 1190, while travelling to fight in the Holy Land, he is said to have dropped the lance in a creek and then drowned in the water minutes later.

4. Napoleon tried to capture it

Recorded history states that the lance was in the possession of the Holy Roman Emperors from at least the time of Otto I in the 10th century.

Apparently, the weapon was recovered from the river in Turkey, and in 1424, Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund of Luxembourg ordered that the lance be taken to Nuremberg and kept forever.

Fast forward a few hundred years to the time of Napoleon. In 1796, invading French forces encroached on Nuremberg. The local authorities evacuated the ancient relics of the city, including the lance, to Vienna for safekeeping. Napoleon was determined to capture the Holy Lance after the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805, but it had been smuggled out of Vienna before the battle.

He failed to capture it and with the end of the war in 1815 and Napoleon’s demise, the spear remained in the Austrian capital.

5. Hitler was obsessed with it

In the years before the First World War, a young Adolf Hitler struggled to make his way in the grand imperial city of Vienna. He lived in a lice-infested lodging house and, to escape the cold, would often skulk around the Hofburg Museum or sit for hours in the Hof Library, poring over its ancient volumes.

One day, Hitler set eyes on an exhibit in the museum which was, he wrote later, to change his life forever. This artefact was the Holy Lance, a prized part of Habsburg’s imperial treasure trove.

When Hitler was in his twenties he met Walter Johannes Stein, a philosopher and expert on the Holy Grail. Stein later claimed that he believed Hitler was a black magician, obsessed with his personal destiny to one day wield great power. Hitler told Stein that it was the Holy Lance itself that he saw as the key to his future power.

Hitler also claimed that one day, when looking at the lance in its case, he had a powerful vision of his future power. Stein wrote that even at that very young age Hitler seemed to emanate an evil charisma.

A quarter of a century after Stein met the impoverished young artist in Vienna, Hitler addressed a vast crowd of his fellow Austrians in the centre of Vienna. This was 1938 and the Nazis had just annexed Austria.

On 13th October 1938, under Hitler’s orders, the lance and the other Habsburg regalia were placed on a special train and taken to Nuremberg under SS guard. There, it was housed in St Catherine’s Church.

Seven years later, the game was up for the Nazis and the war was nearing an end. American forces located and took possession of the lance just two hours before Hitler committed suicide, on 30th April 1945.

6. It supposedly includes a nail from Christ’s cross

The spear includes an iron nail which is held to be an actual nail that was hammered into Christ on the cross. This is known as the ‘Nail of Our Lord’, and the golden cuff which is still attached to the outside of the lance bears a Latin inscription that translates as ‘The Lance and the Nail of the Lord’.

7. The lance has been scientifically tested

In 2003, authorities in Austria granted a British metallurgist, Robert Feather, permission to conduct scientific tests on the 50cm weapon. No traces of blood or other DNA were found on the object. 

X-ray and fluorescence tests unravelled the material composition of the item, and all things considered, it was determined that the spear in Vienna was made in the 7th century AD, many centuries after the death of Christ.

Interestingly, Dr. Feather did establish that the ‘Nail of Our Lord’ – the piece of pointy ironmongery attached to the spear – is consistent with a nail from the 1st century AD.


8. You can view the Holy Lance today

There are four lances that claim to be the Holy Lance – these are in Armenia, Krakow, Rome, and Vienna. The Vienna spear is the most famous and is still on display today at the Imperial Treasury in the Hofburg Palace. Today it is, among other things, a museum and the official residence of the Austrian president.

The spear is an impressive piece of ornate weaponry, clearly medieval to most eyes and not the two-thousand-year-old sidearm of a Roman centurion. But the legend lives on.