While on Red Ice Radio a couple years ago, Jerry E. Smith presented an interesting idea for the power behind the Lance of Longinus, the storied weapon that pierced the side of Jesus while he was crucified. Rather than having exceptional properties bestowed by God or another non-human agency — though Jerry also related some of the lore that claimed the lance had a pretty interesting past before it entered the hands of Longinus — Jerry suggested that the spear became a receptacle for humanity’s thoughts and dreams. As the stories around the lance grew, so did its powers.
In particular, the story of St. Maurice and the Theban Legion stood out for me. As Smith related it, Maurice’s all-Christian legion refused to obey the Roman emperor Maximian’s orders, as they would contravene the legionares’ Christian values. They suffered multiple rounds of decimation — killing one man in ten — before the surviving members of the legion were all executed. By Smith’s theory, this act of martyrdom further empowered the Lance of Longinus, which already had an affinity for Christianity by serving a role in the crucifixion.
After the martyrdom of St. Maurice and the Theban Legion, the lance’s became a boulder of sacrifice and duty-sympathetic mystic might rolling downhill. When Constantine later acquired the Spear of Destiny, he took a pro-Christian position, later converting himself. This seeming property of the spear puts a slight spin on Hitler’s acquisition of the Hofburg spear during World War II. Maybe it was part of an overall delusion that his cause was just and right, or maybe he was playing keepaway, denying a resource from enemies who could make better use of it by securing it in a facility designed to dampen and negate its mind-changing abilities.
You can read more about Jerry Smith’s book on the subject, Secrets of the Holy Lance: The Spear of Destiny in History & Legend, and then order it from Adventures Unlimited Press.