The Holy Lance. The Lance of Longinus. The Spear of Destiny. The Holy Spear. Regardless of which name you know it by, the legend behind it is known to many.
This event is described in the Gospel of John. One of the soldiers that was overseeing and participating in the crucifixion was about to break Jesus's legs, which was standard practice in The Roman Empire (known as crurifragium) to hasten the criminals' death. However, when he saw that Jesus was already dead, he instead used the spear to stab him so he could be sure. According to the Gospel, blood and water started pouring from the wound.
The name "Longinus" is not referenced at all in the Bible. The name is first mentioned in apocryphal (a.k.a. not Bible canon) Gospel of Nicodemus. Longinus is said to be the name of the soldier which stabbed Jesus, which is derived from the Greek word λόγχη which means lance. He is said to have converted to Christianity in later years, and is now celebrated as a Saint in Orthodox and Catholic tradition, as well as several other sects of Christianity. The Holy Lance was thus named "The Lance of Longinus" after him.
While unconfirmed, there are several artifacts which are thought to either be the Holy Lance or fragments of it. The most well known ones are currently located in Rome, Vienna, Vagharshapat and Antioch. Several other spears have been found over the centuries. However, in many cases - such as the one in Vienna - it has been confirmed that they cannot possibly be the actual spear due to being too new. In the case of the lance in Rome, the Catholic Church refuses to give a statement.
As it happened with literally everything Jesus-related, the Holy Lance has left a significant impact on media in all ages. While in the Bible itself it is technically just an ordinary spear (albeit one used for a notable task), it is now reputed to have all sorts of abilities; from a Healing Shiv to a Weapon of Mass Destruction, and everything in between. One particular variant is that every wound that this spear causes is a Wound That Will Not Heal (quite possibly a reference to the original verse in the Bible).
The biggest influence on the above beliefs comes from occultist Trevor Ravenscroft's book The Spear of Destiny in 1972. This book introduced the very name "Spear of Destiny", as well as its supposedly ancient age (older than Christ), its potential mystical powers, how Hitler sought to obtain it because he believed in its mystical powers, and in general put the Holy Lance on the map. Notably, Ravenscroft was either unaware or chose to ignore the existence of the other potential Holy Lances, which means that nearly all depictions on the Holy Lance look identical to the lance in Vienna.
In Real Life, Adolf Hitler did indeed possess the Vienna lance but that was a means of propaganda to present himself as the heir of the Holy Roman Empire, and Hitler himself was a sceptic regarding subjects of occult and religion.
References to the Holy Lance appear in:
- The Spear appears as a plot coupon in Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conqueror of Shamballa, which allows the Big Bad to open a portal between the worlds. The movie in general possess strong traits of Ghostapo, as most of it takes place in Nazi Germany shortly before WWII.
- The Spear is an important part of Neon Genesis Evangelion, although there it had no relation to the mythological lance, and is a powerful artifact of extraterrestrial origin instead.
- Senki Zesshou Symphogear: In season 4 it's revealed that the heroes retrieved Gungnir (shards of which form Hibiki's primary weapon) from a Nazi research facility, and that it was also the weapon used in Jesus's execution - something which imbued it with god-slaying properties. Attacks from the spear cannot be blocked or regenerated by divine power; also, when wielded by Hibiki (who has "the power to connect") a synergistic effect causes its damage to extend to parallel versions of the target, meaning that gods can't escape death even by rewriting reality so that the attack never happened. The villain of the season, who seeks to become a god, is aware of this and goes out of his way to destroy all documents recovered from the same facility as Gungnir, attempting to prevent the heroes from discovering the spear's other name and using it against him.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS, Yusaku once used a card called "Forbidden Lance".
- According to a Real Life Urban Legend, the Holy Lance that was held by Adolf Hitler was stolen by American commandos and stored in the Pentagon. The British comic 2000AD once featured a short story based on this myth, in which the Spear is removed from the Pentagon and taken to Cape Canaveral. The story ends with a splash panel of the Spear used as the flagpole of the American flag on the moon.
- In the French comic Commando Torquemada, the holy lance (at least the seller is convinced it's THE holy lance) is sold to an African warlord, who melts it down and puts a fragment of the metal in bullets which he gives out to his followers to make them invincible. Naturally, it doesn't work.
- Used in DC Comics set during World War II. Hitler had it, as the justification why Superman or others didn't just fly over and beat the snot out of him and his army. This is a decades-later Retcon, the actual Golden Age comics didn't bother to explain.
- In Last Days of the Justice Society, Adolf Hitler used the Spear to bring about the end of the world by linking the fate of the Norse gods' Ragnarok to that of the universe.
- The Spear has been shown to be one of the few things effective against the otherwise near-omnipotent hero, The Spectre. For the longest time, the Spear was also tainted by the psyche of Hitler, who would try to tempt their users with dreams of conquest.
- In the four-part Elseworlds story The Golden Age, it is revealed that the real reason none of the American superheroes attacked Germany directly was that Hitler had a superhero of his own whose power was to negate the power of other superheroes. But The Golden Age isn't canon with mainstream DC.
- Green Manor: The spearhead (or at least a spearhead said to be the spear of Longinus with experts unable to agree on its authenticity) makes an appearance, all its previous owners having died violent deaths and suicides (including several great conquerors, who then failed as soon as they were separated from the spear). It's covered in engraved symbols after it passed through the hands of a 16th century alchemist named Alcedias, who wrote coded instructions for an elixir of invincibility (the symbols on the spearhead serving as a key to decode his works), explaining that he himself was too old for conquering the world, and he left it for someone more worthy to take. The elixir is actually a mixture of drugs that give the user a high that makes them feel invincible, and if they have the personality of a conqueror, they immediately try to prove their invincibility, hence the deaths and suicides. Alcedias wanted to rid the world of would-be tyrants long after his own death.
- The Top Cow comics heroine The Magdalena wields the Spear of Destiny as a weapon. The current Magdalena is the latest in a long line of woman warriors sworn to protect the Catholic Church.
- In a crossover issue between The Magdalena and Daredevil, DD temporarily wielded the Spear to kill a demon wearing an armor woven by souls - Magdalena was incapable of finding a weak spot in that armor, so she gave it to Daredevil who had enhanced senses.
- Appeared in Indiana Jones and the Spear of Destiny, and yes, Hitler was searching for it. Later revealed to be the Spear of Lugh as well.Explanation
- The Spear is present in Marvel Comics at the hands of the supervillain Thanatos, who is an Alternate Self of Rick Jones. In its first appearance in Spider-Man 2099, the lance possesses the Wound That Will Not Heal property. When he stabs the Net Prophet with it, and despite it being a shallow wound, he just won't stop bleeding. This forced Spider-Man to close it with a heat sealer (technically, that's not healing).
- In Crossed Wires, Dean Winchester (Supernatural) and Sydney Bristow (Alias) meet and fall in love while searching for the Spear of Destiny, and learn that they are the subject of a prophecy that allows them to use the Spear, mixed with their blood, to rescue Sam from Lucifer's Cage.
- In Hellsister Trilogy, the Legion of Super-Heroes uses the Spear of Destiny to destroy Mordru for good.
- In the Disney movie Atlantis: Milo's Return, the Spear of Destiny and Odin's spear Gungnir are the same thing, an Atlantean artifact.
- In Constantine, while the spear is talked about, only the metal spearhead (specifically, the German version) appears. It gives its bearer superpowers and serves as a MacGuffin for the plot.
- A replica of the German spear (which is actually just the spearhead) made a brief appearance in Hellboy (2004), prominently displayed in a glass case at the BPRD headquarters.
- The Librarian movie series has it was inexplicably in three parts, and the components are a set of Plot Coupons necessitating a whole lot of traveling and avoiding of Mayan Death Traps.
- American Desert by Percival Everett actually has a reason for including this specific spear; the blood on it is used to clone Christ. Not that it works very well...
- The Spear appears in Barry Sadler's Casca series, since the main character is the soldier who stabbed Christ with it. The Spear is in the possession of a cult who persecute Casca throughout history and reappears periodically throughout the series.
- A Certain Magical Index: Its myth is the basis of God Killing Spear magic.
- The Dresden Files:
- In the book Skin Game, Harry finds the spearhead in a vault belonging to Hades, along with the Holy Grail, the placard from the True Cross, the Crown of Thorns, and the Shroud of Turin. He surmises it's what his foe Nicodemus is after, but keeps it from use for the rest of the book.
- In Battle Ground (2020), Harry wields it fitted to the top of his wizard's staff as part of a binding spell against the Titan Ethniu to imprison her within Demonreach.
- In Fate/Requiem, Lucius Longinus himself appears as the Lancer-class Servant of Chitose Manazuru. His spear's light is held in the same regard as Rhongomyniad, a lynchpin of reality, and can penetrate any kind of armor. Kundry also creates a projection of it to fight to launch as a projectile against Erice. However, for all its might, it has one weakness: other holy Christian relics, such as Galahad's Sword of Strange Hangings, are able to deflect its blows. Nzambi also refers to Voyager as the Holy Lance, and he has the End of the World (Cosmos) skill usually reserved for those wielding Rhongomyniad.
- Fever Series: The Spear of Longinus (aka Spear of Luin, Holy Lance, Spear of Destiny, the Flaming Spear) is actually of Fae origin and is a Light Hallow of Tuatha De Danaan. It is one of very few objects capable of killing the Fae and plays an important part in the plot.
- In Harry Harrison's The Hammer and the Cross, the Lance is pursued by Bruno, who wants to make himself emperor of a new Roman Empire in the West, heir of Charlemagne.
- In Highschool Dx D, "Longinus" has been adopted as a term for unique Sacred Gears which developed a mutation that makes them powerful enough to kill gods. The actual Lance of Longinus, also known as the "True Longinus", is the first and most powerful Sacred Gear of this type, and both the Holy Grail and the True Cross are also counted as members.
- Appears in Peter David's Knight Life trilogy along with the Grail - the Spear was used to kill the Unicorn King, the Grail to catch his blood. It's also Merlin's origin, and links to Excalibur as well. It's a complicated thing.
- One of supporting characters in mighty postmodernist Russian Urban Fantasy novel Look Into the Monsters' Eyes, a Soviet paratrooper turned Belarussian partisan, turned American marine, turned Mossad operative, turned Argentinian gaucho was at one point of his turbulent life one of the aforementioned marines tasked with finding the Lance. It's also alleged that he was the very same marine who is Wolfenstein's protagonist. Yes, the book is that weird, but otherwise excellent.
- The Dragon of the Grand Canal in The Magician King boasts of a vast collection of magical artifacts, including both the Lance of Longinus and the noose that hanged Judas.
- The Spear plays an important part in the plot of Richard Wagner's Parsifal, which also features the Holy Grail.
- Appears in the Wyrd Museum trilogy as the only weapon that can kill the Three Fates.
- Pops up briefly in Da Vinci's Demons, where Leonardo da Vinci himself finds it in the Vatican's archives and uses it to escape his pursuers.
- In season two of Legends of Tomorrow, the Reverse Flash assembles a Legion of Doom to find and unite the pieces of the spear, which will give them the power to warp reality and undo their previous defeats. It's explained that changes to the timeline through time travel can be undone, but changes to reality are permanent. They eventually succeed and create Doomworld, forcing the Legends to double back on their own timeline (violating the fundamental law of Time Travel) to before the Legion got the Spear. Sara eventually uses the power of the spear to depower the spear, rendering it useless. The alternate name Holy Lance appears a few times, which Sara Lance naturally prefers.
- The short-lived Roar was entirely based around this - the Big Bad of the show was Longinus himself, who was granted immortality as a curse after killing Jesus. The super power of the Lance was supposedly the ability kill anyone - that's how it killed Jesus, an immortal god. It somehow made its way to Britain, and Longinus was trying to get it back in order to kill himself with it.
- The spear shows up in an episode of, of all things, The Unit. Normally a show about the All-State guy and a bunch of badasses fighting terrorists. This particular episode has him find an injured man stranded behind enemy lines. When they report their location and it turns out to be near a monastery suspected of guarding the spear, an affluent group of men who throw around a lot of money to influence the government call in some favors to have their rescue conveniently delayed until Jonas takes the spear from the monastery. Some Lampshade Hanging is done at the expense of the "committee"; the character who relays their wishes notes that they may very well be raving mad to think owning the spear will magically expand their influence. Jonas and his injured team member each have a Mind Screw during the ordeal, though, so it may be a Paranormal Episode.
- Season two of Witchblade presents the Lance of Longinus as the literal Spear Counterpart to the Witchblade, an explicitly feminine weapon. Both weapons were acquired by the Nazis in the past, and Kenneth Irons acquires the Lance for an episode and kills two of his own executives with it before being defeated and killed by Sara with the Witchblade.
- Featured in Anima: Beyond Fantasy as the weapon used to kill Abel, the Crystal Dragon Jesus of the setting. Actually it was one of the Pillar of Souls (an Expy of the Soul Series) made by Imperium with the final purpose of killing gods. You can guess that it was not expected a weapon of that type would be used to kill what basically was an artificial god, and the end result was not pretty too for the soldier who lanced him.
- Talisman has a Holy Lance card.
- In the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game, the "Forbidden Lance" is a spell that temporarily weakens the user for a turn, but makes it immune to all other spells and traps. It was also featured in the anime once.
- The Spear plays an important part in the plot of Richard Wagner's opera Parsifal, which also features the Holy Grail.
- Can be found in the Monks and Mystics DLC of Crusader Kings 2. Or looted from whomever found it if someone beats you to the punch.
- In Dies Irae, the Longinuslanze Testament is the personal weapon and Yetzirah of Reinhard Heydrich for being the most charismatic person in existence. Due to possessing the powers of all of the souls within his legion, the spear can never miss once thrown, will always be faster than the target, and will inevitably kill the target in one hit to add to his collection of souls. It should be notes that this is his weakest weapon. It's also used as the game's cursor.
- Oddly shows up as a combination NPC / weapon, in Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. It stands in Laharl's castle and can be asked about the strengths and weaknesses of various weapon types.
- Fate/Grand Order: Lancer Percival's Noble Phantasm is called "Longinus Count Zero". It is an Area of Effect-type Noble Phantasm that pierces Invincibility, boosts its own damage, and heals the party member with the lowest health. He believes that a single person like him should not possess it, and sees the fact that he was summoned with it as a Godzilla Threshold.
- Final Fantasy: It's commonly believed that the Holy Lance that appears as the most powerful spear in each of the games (or each of the games where a spear is a usable weapon) is actually suppose to be called Longinus. As for the games where its appearance is confirmed...
- It showed up as Kain's ultimate lance in Final Fantasy IV, before its Updated Re-release knocked it back to second place with Abel's Lance.
- Somewhat ironically, in the Japanese version of Final Fantasy X, Kimahri's ultimate weapon was named after this... however it got changed to the "spirit lance" for the Western releases because it was thought to be too controversial.
- Final Fantasy XIV involves Longinus as the second to last form of the at the time Infinity +1 Sword for dragoons, and by the final patch in A Realm Reborn before Heavensward came around, it gets one more upgrade in Longinus Zeta, making it the strongest spear for the era.
- In Freedom Wars, the Holy Lance is a Polearm manufactured by Dead Channel, although it has very low base damage and no Critical Hit damage. However, the polearm makes up for the poor damage with Life Drain and piercing damage.
- A notable appearance as a weapon in God of War II, notable in that this would predate its more famous use. Which begs the question of what the hell Longinus was doing with it... (Given that the game's spear looks nothing like a Roman spear (or a Greek one, for that matter), can extend and retract, fires crystal-like projectiles, and was carried around by a griffin-riding undead knight....it's probably just a spear of destiny, and not the Spear of Destiny.)
- It shows up as one of the items to be retrieved in Golden Logres.
- Shin Megami Tensei: Longinus - as in, the soldier - is a frequent enemy in the franchise, or at least the older games.
- "Longinus" is obtainable as a weapon in Shin Megami Tensei I, Shin Megami Tensei II, Shin Megami Tensei IMAGINE, Majin Tensei II: Spiral Nemesis, Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon, Persona, and Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth.
- Persona 2 has the lance in a far more important role than just a equipment.
- Two thirds in Innocent Sin, the Order of the Holy lance, also called Longinus 13, is introduced. Those are Mini Mechas which come with a move called "Longinus Spear" which seals away Personas. They are stated to be Hitler's elite Batallion which hid with him post WWII in Antarctica. The game in general reeks of Ghostapo.
- The battle track for the mechas is called "Knights of the Holy Lance". It is appropriately awesome.
- At the very end of the game, the actual spear makes its appearance, at the hands of Adolf Hitler himself. Or rather, Nyarlathotep disguised as Hitler. He then uses it to kill Maya Amano, and even evokes the Wound That Will Not Heal part of its legend, which works wonders as Persona 2 runs on Clap Your Hands If You Believe.
- The spear reappears in Tatsuya's Scenario of Eternal Punishment's Updated Re-release as part of Nyarlathotep's second attempt at killing Maya. This time, Tatsuya foils it.
- The plot of Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis is based around the race to find this, as it is the artifact that can resurrect the fallen angel... or kill him. In terms of base weapon power, its surpassed only by the Snapdragon swords. Other games in the Ogre Battle series also feature the lance in a non plot-relevant role.
- The prequel for Wolfenstein 3-D centers around the Spear, which the Nazis stole in one of their looting sprees. After you get it, you have to fight a demon who demands that you prove you can wield the Spear.
- In Justice League Unlimited, Lex Luthor's first mission for Gorilla Grodd's Legion of Doom is to retrieve the spear from a museum of Silver-Age-style war machines. After Luthor succeeds, Grodd reveals the entire mission was a test: the spear has no special powers and Grodd just thought it would look good mounted on his wall.