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St. Longinus

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St. Longinus

This article is about the Roman soldier. For other uses, see Longinus.
Saint Longinus
Fra Angelico (1395–1455), San Marco, Florence
Born 1st century
Lanciano, Italia
Died 1st century
prob. Cappadocia
Honored in Catholic Church
Eastern Orthdox churches
Armenian Apostolic Church
Major shrine Inside the Basilica di San Pietro, in the Vatican.
Feast October 16: Eastern Orthodox churches, Roman Catholic Church (Latin and Eastern Rites); October 22: Armenian Apostolic Church.
Attributes Military attire

Longinus is the name given in medieval and some modern Christian traditions to the Roman soldier who pierced Jesus in his side with a lance, the "Holy Lance" (lancea, as related in the Latin Vulgate Bible) while he was on the Cross.[1] This act created the last of the Five Holy Wounds of Christ. The figure is unnamed in the gospels. The Longinus legend further identifies this soldier as the centurion present at the Crucifixion, who testified, "In truth this man was son of God."[2] Longinus' legend grew over the years to the point that he was said to have converted to Christianity after the Crucifixion, and he is traditionally venerated as a saint in the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, and several other Christian communions.

Origins of the legend

No name for this soldier is given in the Gospels; the name Longinus is found in the pseudepigraphal Gospel of Nicodemus that was appended to the apocryphal Acts of Pilate. Longinus did not start out as a saint. An early tradition, found in the 4th-century pseudepigraphal "Letter of Herod to Pilate," claims that Longinus suffered for having pierced Jesus, and that he was condemned to a cave where every night a lion came and mauled him until dawn, after which his body healed back to normal, in a pattern that would repeat till the end of time.[3] Later traditions turned him into a Christian convert, but as Sabine Baring-Gould observed, "The name of Longinus was not known to the Greeks previous to the patriarch Germanus, in 715. It was introduced amongst the Westerns from the Apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus. There is no reliable authority for the Acts and martyrdom of this saint."[4] However, there is an old tradition linking the birthplace of Longinus with the small village of Lanciano, Samnite territory, in today's Abruzzo region of Central Italy.[5][6]

The name is probably Latinized from Greek lonche (λόγχη), the word used for the lance mentioned in John 19:34.[7] It first appears lettered on an illumination of the Crucifixion beside the figure of the soldier holding a spear, written, perhaps contemporaneously, in horizontal Greek letters, LOGINOS (ΛΟΓΙΝΟC), in the Syriac gospel manuscript illuminated by a certain Rabulas in the year 586, in the Laurentian Library, Florence. The spear used is known as the Holy Lance, more recently, especially in occult circles as the "Spear of Destiny", which was revered at Jerusalem by the sixth century, though neither the centurion nor the name "Longinus" were invoked in any surviving report. As the "Lance of Longinus", the spear figures in the legends of the Holy Grail.

In some medieval folklore, e.g., the Golden Legend,[8] the touch of Jesus's blood cures his blindness:

Christian legend has it that Longinus was a blind Roman centurion who thrust the spear into Christ’s side at the crucifixion. Some of Jesus’s blood fell upon his eyes and he was healed. Upon this miracle Longinus believed in Jesus.[9]

Often claimed that the body of Longinus, twice recovered and lost, was asserted to have been found once more at Mantua in 1304, together with the Holy Sponge stained with Christ's blood, wherewith it was told—extending Longinus' role—that Longinus had assisted in cleansing Christ's body when it was taken down from the cross. However, literatures deny any recovery of body. What is venerated in Mantua is corpules of alleged blood taken from the Holy Lance. There are no documents that support that the relics were divided and have been distributed to Prague and elsewhere, the body taken to the Church of San Agostino in the Vatican at Rome. Official guides of Saint Agustine Church in Rome do not mention the presence of any tomb associated with Saint Longinus.

Present-day veneration

Longinus is venerated, generally as a martyr, in the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Armenian Apostolic Church. In the Roman Martyrology he is mentioned, without any indication of martyrdom, in the following terms: "At Jerusalem, commemoration of Saint Longinus, who is venerated as the soldier opening the side of the crucified Lord with a lance".[10] His Feast Day is 15 March. In the Armenian Apostolic Church, his feast is commemorated on October 22.[11]

The statue of Saint Longinus (illustration), one of four in the niches of the crossing in the Basilica di San Pietro, Rome, was sculpted by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The spearpoint fragment from the Holy Lance is conserved in the Basilica of St. Peter.

In popular culture

The legend of Saint Longinus has been told via contemporary media. In Irving Pichel's 1939 film The Great Commandment Albert Dekker portrays him as the commanding officer of a Roman army company escorting a tax collector about Judea. Subsequently, he is converted to Christianity through the kindness of Joel bar Lamech and by his own experiences at Golgotha. In the George Stevens's 1965 film The Greatest Story Ever Told Longinus is identified with the centurion who professed, "Truly this man was the Son of God" on Golgotha (portrayed by John Wayne in a cameo role).[12][13] The character Casca Rufio Longinus of the "Casca" adventure novel series originated by Barry Sadler is loosely based on the Longinus legend. St. Longinus is also portrayed prominently in two novels by Louis de Wohl, The Spear and The Glorious Folly. In the film, The Seventh Sign, Longinus is a priest who is sent by the Vatican around the world to verify whether the End Times prophecies are coming true. He is responsible for the death of the last martyr in an attempt to bring about the end of the world to end his own life which was cursed with immortality for beating Jesus.


See also


External links

  • The Reliquary of Saint Longinus
  • St. Longinus
  • The Holy Lance of Longinus
  • Longinus
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