Woke with the cock crow. Cleaned sword, shield and helmet until I could see my face in them. Marched to some place and then marched back. Officiated at the Golgotha crucifixions. Had to spear the prisoners as we didn’t want them hanging there over the Sabbath. The one in the middle didn’t bleed like the others – strange. The crowd seemed interested in my spear though. Went home for dinner as usual. Early to bed but for the life of me, I can’t seem to remember where I left that spear.
Blog entry for Gaius Cassius Longinus, AD 31-ish
Ok, probably not the blog of Centurion Longinus but from his point of view, a fairly typical day. What is harder to understand is why his spear became so special.
Before we go there, we have to step back a moment as discuss why we are even thinking about this. Our story left off with the guys at id Software raking in the cash for their Wolfenstein 3D game and they are looking for an encore. John Carmack had moved on from this engine and was working on expanding its features to make the even more successful Doom game engine. John Romero and company thought there was at least another game in this engine and thought what they would develop next.
While they could have created just about any new game, they were encouraged by the World War II theme and looked for what else might fit in. What they came up with is a game about Hitler’s alleged desire to control the Spear of Destiny and a mission for BJ Blazkowicz to take it back.
The Spear of What?
Crucifixion was a Roman practice of hanging someone by their hands or arms on an upright cross or ‘T’ shaped post and left until dead. While it was obviously a punishment, it was also designed to be both a slow death but also a humiliating one. It was usually reserved for the lowest class of criminal.
The reason why most of us know about crucifixion is because Jesus Christ of the Christian religion was crucified but something unusual happened. Quoting from The King James Bible, John 19:
31The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
32Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him.
33But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs:
34But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.
35And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.
36For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.
37And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.
OK, lots of stuff here. A person being crucified might take several days to die but because this was a high festival day and the officials didn’t want these dying people hanging around (literally!), they were authorized to speed it up. The speeding up process was to break the victim’s legs with an iron club and this brought death faster as the victim couldn’t keep their feet on the plinth and so couldn’t breathe. (I know that isn’t a great description of why they die, but trust me, it works) The soldiers saw that Christ seemed already dead so they didn’t break his legs. When one of the soldiers pushed a spear into his side (possibly a ‘is he dead yet’ test) and saw that both water and blood flowed out of the wound. The two liquids is supposed to symbolize both the human and divine and it is assumed that both flowed over the spear. The rest shows that ancient prophecy had been fulfilled.
This part of the story wasn’t corroborated by any of the other Gospels so we don’t have any other versions of what happened. We can also see that it was only a soldier, not a centurion, and an unnamed one at that. We also don’t see anything special in the spear used or that it was held in any higher regard. Details of the soldier’s name come from a possible 4th Century text called the Gospel of Nicodemus. Where this detail in the gospel came from isn’t clear.
That should be the end of the story but this spear, called The Spear of Destiny or The Holy Lance, took on a life of its own. As the blood of Christ had flowed over it, the Spear became a holy relic much like the Holy Grail but unlike the Holy Grail, people have claimed to own it through history. There are actually several spears or lances that claim to be the one (The Vatican one, the Armenian one etc) but what interests us here is the Vienna one.
What does this have to do with WWII?
The Vienna lance was held in possession of the Holy Roman Emperors but there were claims that Charlemagne held it in battle (or at least used it in his coronation) too. It gained the reputation that the holder would have the power to shape the destiny of the world. In the fifteenth century, the lance was moved to Nuremberg but when the French Revolutionary army approached in the late eighteenth century, it was moved to Vienna and it remained there. Incidentally, it was claimed that Napoleon was heading that way to claim the Spear of Destiny.
In 1973, Trevor Ravenscroft wrote a book named Spear of Destiny and in it he made a controversial claim. He said that Hitler had visited the Hofburg Museum in Vienna with Dr. Walter Stein and on seeing the Spear of Destiny, Dr. Stein said of the incident, to quote:
“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.”
It is not clear if this event actually happened but when Germany invaded Austria in 1938, the Spear, along with the rest of the goodies in the Hofburg Museum were taken back to Nuremberg. Whether Hitler specifically wanted the Spear or just the entire collection of museum isn’t clear but technically, he had possession between 1938 and 1945.
The final part of the story is that on April 30th, 1945, at 2:10 PM, advancing American forces took possession of the vault that had the Spear. Eighty minutes later Adolf Hitler died, by his own hand, in a bunker in Berlin. This fulfilled the other part of the prophecy that whenever the current holder loses possession, they soon die.
So whether true or not, that is the story and id Software used it to build their game. The plot was simple: Hitler had the Spear at the top of Nuremberg Castle and it was our mission (Blazkowicz’s really) to access the Castle from its lowest tunnels and fight up to the highest rampart (the Luginsland Tower or Sinwell Tower, we presume) where the Spear was held.
According to the Spear of Destiny hint book, the original idea came from an edition of the Geraldo Rivera TV program, “Now it can be told”. Further technical information was gathered from D.C. Comic’s Justice Society, issue #29 which included Hitler, the Spear of Destiny, a doomsday rocket and a secret Nazi invasion of England. All good stuff (!)
As the game used the same engine as Wolfenstein 3D, the game basically played the same, there secret areas, secret levels and a boss at the end of each phase. The game was split up into the tunnel levels, the dungeon levels, the main castle levels, the rampart levels and the final level which was something quite different. The five bosses are shown in the graphic below.
The fifth and last one looks a bit different from the others and deserves some additional explanation. According to the Spear of Destiny hint book, the game was originally supposed to end when the Death Knight was defeated and the player could go over to the Spear and touch it. But with a month before release, the ending was considered too anticlimactic so id created an additional level so the player could meet the real force behind the power of the spear. In the last level, the player has to meet and defeat a demon named the Angel of Death in the Death Dimension.
This last level is a departure from all of Wolfenstein 3D and the previous levels of Spear of Destiny as here we have an occult element. Even the zombies of Wolfenstein were a result of science but the Angel of Death is clearly something much bigger and badder. It is also bringing in a theme that gets used in RtCW. While science is a legitimate resource to use in waging war, using occult methods to do the same seems almost cheating and somehow goes against some sort of unwritten convention of warfare.
Sequels? Of course!
Just as Wolfenstein 3D had expansion packs, so did Spear of Destiny. The first of these was named “Mission 2: Return to Danger”, the second was named “Mission 3: The Ultimate Challenge”. Not too descriptive, so I’ll have to elaborate further.
After the retrieval of the Spear of Destiny, the Spear was taken to the US (not defined where in the US). Hitler sends Major Hans “The Axe” von Schlieffen and a team of Storm Troopers to the US and after a bloody battle, Hans escapes with the Spear and takes it to the Nazi Secret Scandinavian Base. This base, which apparently isn’t so secret, is the new atomic weapons research lab built into a fjord and accessible only by submarine. US intelligence say that the Spear is held on the uppermost level of the research lab. The mission is again split up into five sections, the submarine pen, secret weapons research, atomic research, the command bunker and the final retreat. Each section again has a boss to defeat and they are pictured below.
The third mission isn’t so clear. It uses the same bosses as the first expansion pack so it makes it a sort of alternative timeline. It also isn’t clear how Hitler has got the Spear back but he clearly has it. Hitler wants to learn about the most devastating weapons of war so he has a séance and contacts Abigor, demon of darkness and asks said demon to show him the future. The demon says that the spear is the key to his success and we assume he then talks of future technology. Hitler has the spear in the Fuehrerbunker (sic) and has made it super secure. The mission again has five sections: the computer technology labs, laser guidance systems, satellite systems, the Fuehrerbunker and future threat. We can see from these areas, that Abigor has given information from the late 20th and 21st centuries. Here we have to believe that the Nazis have computer, laser and satellite technology at some functional level. Fortunately, it is only at the near functional level at the moment.
It seems that id took some short cuts in using the same bosses but had to change their role to fit the story. For example Professor Quarkblitz is a professor of cybernetics and maybe nuclear bomb making in the first mission and a professor of robotics and space satellites in the second. Similarly, Submarine Willy fits into the submarine pen of the first mission but seems an odd choice to be guarding the computer technology labs in the second mission!
Both missions have an occult entity that is the real power behind the Spear maned the Devil Incarnate again implying that the Spear of Destiny is a game of occult power rather than technological might.
We are about done with the history lessons so we’ll be moving onto RtCW at last. But first, I’ll do a quick summary of what we have been through.