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Inatnn Mntu^raitg 

Qlnlbg^ nf Sth^ral Arts 



The Legend of Longinus in Ecclesi- 
astical Tradition and in English 
Literature, and its connec- 
tion with the Grail 

H Bissertation 




OCTOBER. 1910 


Colier^e of L 





"5 7 6^7 

-J 1 ' 



The present study was presented to the Faculty of Bryn 
Mawr College in October, 1910, in fulfilment of a require- 
ment made of candidates for tJie degree of Doctor of Phi- 
losophy. The object of the dissertation is, in the main, to 
investigate anew the origin of the legend of Longinus in 
ecclesiastical and popular tradition, and to trace its use 
in mediaeval English literature, as has already been done 
in the field of French literature by Carl Kroner. 

In following the course of the Longinus legend I have 
thought best not to confine attention solely to literary docu- 
ments, but to include also some account of the part which 
it played in art and in the liturgy, for the reason that its 
importance in both these connections undoubtedly contrib- 
uted to its development in literature, and perhaps even 
determined to some extent its literary form. 

Moreover, though the present study has been under- 
taken primarily from the standpoint of English literature, 
I have ventured to discuss, in the last two chapters, special 
problems relating to the literary influence of Longinus 
which lie wholly outside of that field. The first of these 
is the resemblance, first pointed out by Bugge, between 
the Longinus story and the slaying of Baldr. The sec- 
ond is the relationship which exists between the lance 
of the Crucifixion and the bleeding lance of the Grail 
romances. These two chapters, though distinctly in the 
nature of excursus, deal, after all, with phases of the 
Longinus legend which are of general literary importance. 
They appear, therefore, to have legitimate place in a study 



wliicli treats of llic significance of the Longinus theme in 
the literature of the Middle Ages. 

I wish to exjwess my hearty thanks to Miss Dorothy 
Kempe for helpful suggestions; to Mr. Stephen Gaselee, 
Pepysian Librarian of Magdalene College, Cambridge, for 
repeated kindnesses, and to Prof. W. H. Hulme, of West- 
ern Reserve University, for most generously allowing me 
to make use of his unpublished notes on the Longinus 
legend. I have attempted to make aclaiov/ledginent in my 
notes for these special indebtednesses. To Prof. Carleton 
Brown, of Bryn Ma^vr College, in particular, I am under 
many obligations. He first suggested to me the subject of 
this investigation, and he has aided me in the various 
stages of my work b}^ supplying numerous references, by 
criticising the manuscript of the dissertation, and finally 
by carefully going over the proof sheets. 

I am also indebted for courteous treatment and assist- 
ance, especially in the manuscript departments, to the 
librarians of the British Museum, the Bodleian Library 
and the Cambridge University Library, and for many 
kindnesses to the libraries of Columbia LTniversity, Bryn 
Mawr College and Vassar College. 

R. J. P. 

- Vassae College, 

April, 1911. 





Bible and Ecclesiastical Tradition . 



Longinus in the Apocrypha 
The Testimony of the Fathers . 
Marty rologies, Earlier and Later 


Ocher Writers 




Legend of Longinus a Fictitious 





The Acts of Longinus 


The Blindness of Longinus 


LoNGiNus IN Art .... 




Chapter IV. The Lance of Longinus as Sacred Relic and 
IN THE Liturgy 
L The Lance as Sacred Relic 
2. Longinus and the Liturgy 

Chapter V. Longinus in Charms 

Chapter VI. Longinus in English Literature 

1. Homilies and Homiletic Treatises 

2. The Gospel of Nicodemus . 

3. The Cursor Mundi 

4. The South English Legendary . 

5. The ' ' Northern Passion ' ' 

6. Other Poems on the Passion 

7. The Hours of the Cross 

8. Saint Edmund's Speculum 

9. English Meditations Derived from Bonaventura, 
10. Marian Laments 
IL Religious Lyrics 

12. The Fifteen Signs before the Day of 

13. Piers Plowman .... 

14. Chaucer ..... 

15. Lydgate ..... 

16. A Lollard Creed 

17. Romances Exclusive of the Grail 

18. The Drama .... 




Chapter VII. Longinus and the Baldr Legend 

1. The Difficulty of Chronology 

2. The Gosforth Cross 

The Odin Story 

Frazer's Explanation of the Baldr Myth . 
Kau£fmann's Theory .... 

The Blind Spearman .... 

Chapter VIII. The Lance of Longinus and the Grail . 

1. Survey of Testimony .... 

2. Pagan Color in the Grail Story 

I. The Theory of Professor A. C. L. Broun 

1. Celtic Marvellous Weapons and the Bleedinj 

Lance ....... 

2. The Shining Lance and the Spear of Longinus 

3. The Bleeding Lance and the Spear of Longinus 

4. The Poisonous and Destructive Lance and the 

Spear of Longinus .... 

5. The Christian Spear a Symbol of Destruction 

and of Peace ...... 

6. The Christian Bleeding Lance in Art and in the 

Drama ...... 



The Theories of Professor Nitze and 3fiss Weston 

1. Professor Nitze and the Celtic Theory 

2. Agrarian Rites as an Explanation of the Grail 

Ceremony ...... 

3. Connection between Early Liturgy and Rite: 

of the Mysteries ..... 

4. Elements Common to Grail Rites, Mysteries 

and Liturgy 

The Grail Rite 

1. The Grail Procession .... 

2. Other Ritualistic Points .... 

3. The Fisher King 














The literature and art of the Middle Ages found no 
more popular subject for treatment than the Christian 
legend of Longinus, the blind soldier who pierced the side 
of the Crucified and regained his sight through the blood 
that touched his eyes, who thereupon believed in Christ, 
and finally, after many adventures, suffered martyrdom. 
Being an ecclesiastical legend, it found a place, of course, 
in the martyrologies and festials of the church. But it is 
not on the side of hagiography that the story assumed its 
chief importance. Through the interest which it awak- 
ened in the popular imagination, the legend extended its 
influence outside this special province and found its way 
into literature. These two phases of its appeal are well 
illustrated by the two dissertations which the legend has 
called forth. The first of these, written more than two 
centuries ago by G. TI. Goetze (Dissertatio inauguralis de 
Centurione sub cruce Cliristi, Lipsiae, 1698), deals with 
the Longinus legend exclusively from the standpoint of 
religious history, and attempts to establish the authenticity 
of the miracle connected with the Crucifixion. Since it 
contributes nothing to our knowledge of the origin of the 
legend and does not discuss its use in literature, it is here 
negligible. The second, by Carl Kroner, Die Longinus- 
legende. Hire Entstehung und Aushreitung in der franzo- 



sischen Litteratur,'^ is a serious examination of the early 
history of the legend and of its occurrence in French 

If Kroner's discussion of the early forms of the Lon- 
ginus legend had been more comprehensive, it would not 
be necessary to take up again the question of its origin. 
But the growth of a legend in the Middle Ages is a much 
more complex matter than is recognized in the method 
followed by Kroner. Though the legend, in rather widely 
differing formis, appears in several apocryphal documents, 
he examines only one, the Gospel of Nicodemus. He 
gives no intimation that the name of the spearman was 
not always Longinus. He contents himself with the con- 
sideration of two- Longinuses; though, in the first six 
centuries, the records show no fe^ver than a dozen mar- 
tyrs bearing this name, whose lives perhaps contributed 
something to the development of the story. He fails to 
note the history of the lance as a relic and its place in the 
early liturgy. 'Not does he suggest by more than a single 
sentence the prominence of Longinus in mediaeval icono- 
graphy, and the influence this popularity must have ex- 
erted on the spread and growth of the legend. 

Though Kroner's treatment of the second part of his 
subject — ^the use of the Longinus legend in French litera- 
ture — concerns less closely those who approach the exami- 
nation of the story from the special point of view of Eng- 
lish literature, it should perhaps be stated that even here 
he has not been exhaustive. He confines his attention 
mainly to the presence of the legend in the romances. He 
cites twenty in which mention of Longinus occurs ; but he 
might have included in his list as many more.^ Moreover, 

1 Miinster dissertation, 1899. ) 

2 Cf. E. Langlois, Table des Noms Propres compris dans les 
Chansons de Geste, 1904. 


he does not point out the importance of the lance of Longi- 
nns to the crusading romances, nor does he hint at its 
presence in the Grail cycle^ — a connection which perhaps 
more than any other one thing makes the examination of 
the legend worth while to modem students. Furthermore, 
Kroner gives only one example, and that without com- 
ment, of the appearance of Longinus in that queer mani- 
festation of mediaeval scientific ignorance — ^the charm. 
He considers the use of the legend in the drama, but not 
at all its presence in the liturgical literature that preceded 
the drama, nor in contemporary religious non-dramatic 
productions. ITor does he comment on what has been con- 
sidered a possible J^orse parallel to the Longinus legend. 

Besides these dissertations, there have appeared nu- 
merous notes on the Longinus legend. Of these the most 
inclusive is that by Dr. Hulme, who, in his introduc- 
tion to the Harrowing of Hell, discusses the legends that 
seem to trace their origin to the Gospel of Nicodemus. 
He refers to the story of the blind Longinus as one of the 
most interesting of these, and comments on the strong 
influence it exerted on both the literature and the art of 
the Middle Ages. He calls attention to its relationship to 
the early literature of Scandinavia, and to its importance 
in the Grail romances.* • 

Longinus has been more or less fully considered also 
by the various writers on the Grail cycle. The most recent 
of these, indeed, Professor A. C. J^. Brown, takes as his 

3 E. Freymond, Kritischer Jahresbericht iiber die Fortschritte 
der rom. Phil., VIII, p. 269. "C. Kroner hat in seiner Disserta- 
tion, . . . aus Nationalepen u. anderen Dichtungen verschie- 
dener Art oft bedeutungslose Stellen iiber Longin gesammelt; er 
bringt auch Dinge (so S. 52 f.) die zu seinem Thema gar nicht 
gehoren, gedenkt aber nicht mit einem Worte der Rolle, die die 
Lanze des Longinus in der Gralsage spielt." 

4 EETS., e. s. 100, pp. Ixviii-lxix. 


point of departure^ the bleeding lance, often spoken of in 
the Grail romances as the lance of Longinus, though that 
there was any original connection between the two he abso- 
lutely denies. 

It seems worth while, then, notwithstanding the work 
already done on the subject, to consider again the origin 
and development of the legend. In addition, the present 
study undertakes to trace the course of the Longinus stor\>' 
in English literature. This apocryphal martyr is inter- 
esting to the student of the Middle Ages, on the one hand, 
as showing how slight a foundation in fact was necessary 
to the growth of a much-handled tale; and on the other, 
and chiefly, as indicating how writers of all classes unhesi- 
tatingly availed themselves of a popular legend, in many 
cases with no attempt at embellishment or enlargement. 

5 PMLA., March, 1910. 



In seeking the origin of a saint's legend, which pur- 
ports to date back to the time of Christ, one begins nat- 
urally by scrutinizing all available Christian records, 
both those sanctioned by the Church, and those not so 
recognized. Such an investigation, however, in the case 
of St. Longinus discloses little to authenticate his existence 
as a contemporary of Jesus. The beginnings of his story 
abound in confusion and contradiction. His legend was 
slow in forming and bears every mark of having been 

The dictionary-makers and compilers of popular mod- 
em martyrologies^ give a stereotyped form of the legend 
without accounting for its origin. They tell us that there 
is no trustworthy authority for the acts and martyrdom of 
St Longinus, that he was introduced to the West by the 
apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, and that his name 
probably derives from a Latinized form of the Greek 
^'^yXV, a spear. They add that the centurion who ex- 
claimed at the earthquake and believed in Jesus, as re- 
corded by Matthew and Mark,^ has been confused with 
the soldier who, according to John,^ pierced his side. 
The Roman Church celebrates the soldier Longinus on 
the fifteenth of March, and the Greek, the centurion 
Longinus on the sixteenth of October. These writers state, 
moreover, that Longinus was blind ; that when he pierced 

1 Baring-Gould, Brewer, Larousse, Mrs. Jameson, etc. 

2 Matthew XXVII, 54; Mark XV, 39. 

3 John XIX, 34. 



the side of Christ, the blood ran down the spear to his 
hands; that he touched his eyes and regained his sight. 
He then went into Csesarea in Cappadocia, and preached 
for a number of years, making many converts. He suf- 
fered martyrdom under Octavius. 


In the canonical Gospels, though both the soldier and 
the centurion appear in the accounts of the Crucifixion, 
the incidents related of them are wholly unlike, and there 
is not the slightest indication that they are to be identified 
as the same person. The conversion of the centurion is 
related, in fairly similar form^ by Matthew and Mark. 
The text of Matthew reads : "Centurio autem, et qui cum 
eo erant, custodientes Jesum, viso terrae motu et his quae 
fiebant, timuerant valde, dicentes: Vere Filius Dei erat 
iste.'^ John, on the other hand, though he says nothing 
of the centurion, gives the only account of the soldier who 
pierced the side of Christ: "Sed unus militum lancea 
latus Domini perforavit et continuo exivit sang-uis et 

iN'or is there in the earliest of the apocryphal Gospels 
an identification of the centurion with the soldier who 
pierced the side of Jesus. The Gospel of PeterJ^ of espe- 
cial interest because of its probable early date, omits all 
mention of the piercing of Christ's side, and consequent- 
ly of the soldier, merely stating that the Jews, in order 
to prolong the torments of Christ, commanded that his 
legs should not be broken. The only thing that suggests 
the piercing of the side, is the statement in the account 
of the mocking of Jesus: "Others pierced him with a 

4 The Akhmim Fragment of the Apocryphal Gospel of St. Peter, 
ed. by H. B. Swete, 1893. According to Swete (p. xiii), the date 
is not later than 170, nor earlier than 150; Harnack assigns the 
fragment to the years 110 — 130; Dobschutz to the second century. 


reed."^ But this is probably drawn directly from Mat- 
thew's reference to the Jews' smiting Jesus with a reed. 
With the centurion, howtever, the case is otherwise. 
He is given a name, though it is not Longinus; and he 
is converted, though not by an earthquake, as in Mat- 
thew : 

"But the Scribes and Pharisees and Elders, being assembled 
together and hearing that the whole people murmured . . . 
were afraid and came to Pilate, beseeching him and saying, 'De- 
liver to us soldiers that we may guard His sepulchre for three 
days, lest His disciples come and steal Him away, and the people 
suppose that He is risen from the dead, and do Him mischief.' 
So Pilate delivered unto them Petronius the centurion with 
soldiers to guard the tomb. . . . Now in the night, when 
the Lord's Day was drawing on, as the soldiers kept guard by two 
and two in a watch, there was a great voice in heaven, and they 
saw the heavens opened, and two men descend from thence with 
much light, and draw nigh unto the tomb. And the stone which 
had been cast at the door rolled away of itself and made way in 
part, and the tomb was opened, and both the young men entered 
in. The soldiers, therefore, when they saw it, awakened the cen- 
turion and the Elders (for they were also there keeping watch); 
and as they had told the things that they had seen, again they 
saw three men coming forth from the tomb, two of them sup- 
porting the other, and a cross following them; and the head of 
the two reached to heaven, but that of Him who was led by them 
overpassed the heavens. And they heard a voice from the 
heavens, saying. Thou didst preach to them that sleep; and a 
response was heard from the cross, Yea. . . . When they 
saw this, they of the centurion's company hastened by night to 
Pilate . . . and told all that they had seen, greatly distressed, 
and saying, 'Truly he was the Son of God.' "6 

The next apocryphal account that is connected with 
our story is of great importance, in that it is usually 
given as its source. Here for the first time appears the 
name Longinus, and here we find it applied to both soldier 

5 Gosp. of Peter, p. 25. 

6 Ibid., pp. 26, 27. 


and centurion. In the Acta Pilati/ Chapter XV'I (Cod. 
A of Tischendorf), the name Longinus — with slightly 
varied spelling, it is to be noted — is applied to the 
soldier {AoyyliJi.o<i 6 arparLo)Tr]<i),^ whereas in Chapter XI 
(a later text, Cod. B) it is applied to the centurion 
(Ao77t/i09 6 eKarovrapxa).^ In the Latin text. Chapter 
X, the name is given the soldier : "Accipiens autem Lon- 
ginus miles lanceam aperuit latus eius.'"° Though the 
same name is employed for both,^^ the two stories are not 
otherwise confused. Except the addition of the name, 
the soldier's story has acquired nothing not already found 
in John. The centurion is converted to belief in Christ 
by the marvels that accompanied the crucifixion. 

A third apocryphal account, the Letter of Pilate to 
Herod,^^ likewise calls the centurion Longinus, but adds 
little more to his story: 

"And my wife Procla, having believed on account of the visions 
which appeared to her while I was hesitating to deliver Jesus up 
through thy counsel, when thou sentest that I should deliver him 
to the people of Israel, because of the ill-will they had, she hav- 
ing heard that Jesus was risen, and had appeared in Galilee, left 
me; and took with her Longinus the faithful centurion, and 
twelve soldiers, the same that had watched at the sepulchre. 

7 More frequently referred to as the Gospel of Nicodemus. Ac- 
cording to Dobschutz (Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible, 1900), 
it belongs to the fourth (fifth) century. 

8 Tischendorf, Evangelia Apocrypha, XVI, 283. 
sibid., XI, 309. 

10 Ibid., X, 362. 

11 Lipsius, Die Pilatus Acten, p. 38, calls attention to this con- 

12 M. R. James, Apocrypha Anecdota II {Texts and Studies ed. 
J. A. Robinson, V) 1897, p. xlviii: "The date which we may 
assign to the Letters can not be an early one. ... On the other 
hand, they are found in a MS of the sixth or seventh century in 
Syriac; and they may quite well be a couple of centuries older 
than that." Cf. B. H. Cowper, Apocryphal Gospels, p. 389. The 
Letters of Pilate to Herod "are forgeries; produced perhaps about 
A. D. 400." 


. . . And whilst they were standing and wondering and gazing 
at him, he, conscious of it, looked at them and talked to them 
and said, 'What is it? Do you still not believe me, Procla and 
Longinus?' . . . And my wife, Procla, having heard him say 
these things, and the centurion Longinus who was trusted to 
watch over the sufferings of Jesus, and the soldiers who jour- 
neyed with her, weeping and groaning, came and announced to 
me these things."i3 

Herod's Epistle to Pilate, preserving jet another apoc- 
ryphal tradition, gives a description of the death of Lon- 
ginus which is wholly different from that found later in 
the martyrologies : 

"Now in the same hour, the angel of the Lord, having laid 
hold of the head of Longinus, who pierced the side of Jesus with 
a spear, took him beyond the Jordan to a desert place; and 
bringing him further to a cave, stretched him on the ground on 
his face. And a lion was so stationed as to come forth at even- 
ing and to consume the body until morning. And in the morning 
the lion goeth away, and again his body groweth again. And he 
suffereth this punishment until the coming of the Lord, Jesus 

In this account Longinus, it will be observed, figures 
simply as the hated executioner who is punished for his 
wicked deed. We appear, therefore, to be dealing with 
an early stage of the legend before the story of his con- 
version and martyrdom had been added. 

These apocryphal accounts would indicate that there 
were two distinct characters, the soldier and the centu- 
rion; the one merely a wicked participator in the cruci- 

13 J. de Q. Donehoo, Apocryphal and Legendary Life of Christ, 
p. 491; cf. James, op. cit., p. 71, and Cowper, op. cit., p. 393. 

14 Donehoo, op. cit., p. 496. As to this Epistle, James (op. cit., 
p. xlvii, xlviii) remarks: "The amusing story about Longinus, 
which is appended to Herod's letter, comes from another hand. 
Longinus is seen in it, not as the converted centurion, who is a 
saint and martyr of the church, but as the hard-hearted Roman 
soldier who carried out the sentence of crucifixion. It may rep- 
resent a local legend of Palestine. The punishment is modelled 
on that of Tityus or Prometheus." 


fixion, and the other a convert to belief in Jesus, who at 
once became a prominent supporter of his faith. The 
use of the same name for both is difficult to explain, and 
probably means that the two stories were already to some 
extent confused. 

§2. Testimony of the Fathers 

The testimony of the early church Fathers confirms, 
in a measure, the indications of two different persons 
of distinct characteristics. Chrysostom shows clearly 
that a story of the martyrdom of the centurion was cur- 
rent in his time, though not fully accepted. However, 
he gives him no name: 

"Et centurio quoque Deum tunc glorificavit dicens: 'Vere hie 
homo Justus erat'. Et turbae quae venerant ad spectandum, per- 
cutientes pectora sua revertebantur (Luc, 23, 47-48). Tanta est 
virtus Crucifixi, ut post tot irrisiones et dicteria, et Centurio et 
populus compungerentur. Quidam vero narrant hunc centu- 
rionem postea in fide roboratum martyrium fortiter subiisse."i5 

On the other hand, according to Chrysostom, the 
soldier who pierced the body of Christ is still the wicked 
executioner : 

"Alia quoque praedicto finem accipit. Venientes enim milites 
aliorum fregerunt crura, Christi non item. Attamen hi in gra- 
tiam Judaeorum ejus latus lancea perforarunt, et mortuo corporl 
contumeliam inferunt. scelestum et execrandum f acinus! Sed 
ne turberis, ne dejiciaris, dilecte. Nam quae mala illi voluntate 
faciebant, veritatem propugnabant. Prophetia namque erat, vi- 
debunt in quem transfixerunt. Neque hoc tantum; sed etiam iis 
qui infideles ut Thomae et ipsi similibus. Ad haec etiam myste- 
rium ineffabile consummabatur. Exivit enim, sanguis et aqua."i6 

The centurion's story grows by slight accretions; he 
is next assigned to a definite locality. Gregory of !Ryssa 

15 Chrysostom, In Matthaeum Homil. LXXXVIII, LXXXIX, 
Patrol. Graec. LVIII, col. 177. 

16 Homil. LXXXIV. Op. cit., LIX, col. 463. 


is quoted bj Zacagni as authority for the statement that 
the centurion Longinus became the first bishop of 
Cjesarea.^'*' In the Manuale (a pseudo-Augustinian pro- 
duction), there is reference to Longinus. It adds noth- 
ing, however, of information: "Longinus aperuit mihi 
latus Christi, lancea et ego intravi, et ibi requiesco se- 

Though the fathers of the early church afford us little 
information so far as the development of the incidents of 
the legend is concerned, they supply important testimony 
to the significance which theologians already attached to 
the deed of Longinus. One may trace an ever growing 
tendency to give a mystical meaning to the wounding of 
Christ on the Cross. This inclination is to be observed as 
early as Ambrose, who declares: "quando de latere ejus 
aqua fluxit et sanguis, quo laetificavit animas universorum, 
quia illo flumine lavit peccatum totius mundi."^^ Like- 
wise Augustine says: "Dormienti Adse fit Eva de latere 
(Gen. II, 21) : mortuo Christo lancea percutitur latus 
(Joan XIX, 34) ut profluant sacramenta quibus formetur 
Ecclesia.""*' The same parallel is drawn again in the 
Passio Petri et Pauli: "Ut sicut ex costa Adse fabricata 
est Eva, sic ex latere Christi in cruee positi fabricaretur 
ecclesia quge non haberet maculam neque rugam."^^ It is 
evident that from this tendency toward a symbolistic inter- 

iT Zacagni, Collectanea monumentoruTn veterum, 1698, p. 391. 
Ex hoc Nysseni loco discimus Longinum Centurionem, qui lancea 
Christi latus in cruce perfodit, primum Caesareae episcopum 
fuisse. Zacagni gives no reference to Gregory. I have not been 
able to find the passage referred to. Cf. Douhet, Diet, des 
Legendes de Christianisme. (Migne, Encyc. Theol. ser. Ill) 
supp. vol. 14. Cf. Kroner, op. cit. p. 17. 

IS Migne, Patrol. Lat., XL, col. 961. 

19 Migne, Patrol. Lat. XIV, col. 1194. 

20 Migne, XXXV, col. 1463. 

21 Lipsius and Bonnet, Passio Sane. Apost. Petri et Pauli, p. 127. 



pretatiou of the piercing of Christ with the spear, Longi- 
nus himself must benefit. His act must be explained in 
some new way. May this idea have suggested the motive 
for the conversion of the soldier ? 

§3. JVIartykologies, Eaelieb and Later 

After searching for information about a legend con- 
nected with the crucifixion, in the apocrypha and in the 
writings of the church Fathers, one obviously turns to 
the martyrologies. The early martyrologies, their con- 
tents and histories, have been carefully examined by 
modern scholars. Those given by Hamack and Achelis 
for the first centuries are: (1) Die Depositio Martyrum 
des Chronographen vom Jahre 354, which, Achelis says, 
"1st der alteste erhaltene Heiligenkalender, und die 
Quelle aller abendlandischen Kalender, soweit dieselben 
Eomische Martyrer aufnehmen;" (2) Das Martyrolo- 
gium Karthaginiense Mahillons; (3) Das Martyrologium 
Syriacum. In none of these does Longinus appear. It is 
true that these, as they now exist, are incomplete. The 
first, the Depositio, is fragmentary, containing only 
twenty-two days in all. Moreover, it is chiefly local in 
character, the saints celebrated being for the most part 
of Rome or its vicinity. The martyrology of Carthage, 
which Mabillon found in 1682,-- does not include the 
whole year: beginning mth the nineteenth of April, it 
extends to the sixteenth of February, thus omitting part 
of February, all of March,^^ and part of April. Tlie 

22 Found on the cover of a MS in the library of the Abbey of 
Cluny. Mabillon dated it seventh cent.; cf. Achelis, Die Mart, ihre 
Geschichte u. ihr Wert (Abhandlungen d. konigl. Gesellschaft d. 
Wissen. z. Gottingen, Phil. Hist. Kl. N. F., Band III, Nro. 3, pp. 
18, 19). 

23 It is to be noted that the feast of S. Longinus is usually the 
15 March. 


Sjriac Martyrology^* does not contain Longinns in its 
list of saints, but there is a Longinus of Mashkena in 
the list of presbyters. ^^ 

The next martjrology is that which goes under the 
name of Jerome. Achelis says: "Die Passionen des 
M\_artyrologiutn\ H [ieronymianumi bilden namlich das 
Bindeglied zwischen den Kalendem der alten Kirche 
und der nachsten Generation dieser Litteraturgattung/"" 
Here the reference to Longinus is brief enough: Idus 
Martins: In Cappadocia S. Longini Marty ris.'^ Achelis. 
in his Calendar of Jerome, gives two dates: "In Cappa- 
docien Longinus am id. mart, und 10. kal. dec."^® In 
discussing this and other cases of similar confusion, he 
says: "Ich kann nicht untersuchen, ob in einzelnen 
Fallen wirklich zwei Martyrer desselben IS^amens in der- 
selben Stadt existiert haben, wenn icli mich nicht ins 
Endlose verlieren will."^® Achelis speaks of the mar- 
tyrology as a compilation made in the fifth and sixth 

Jerome's entry does not indicate whether the centurion 
or the soldier is meant. From the fact that later the 
soldier's Feast is on the fifteenth of March, and the cen- 
turion's, on the sixteenth of October, it seems probable 
that the Longinus here referred to is the soldier. The 
two entries for Cappadocia may be merely a mistake, 
but taken in connection with the confusion of name in 
the Acta Pilati, it may indicate that the two stories were 
already confused, and that the soldier had acquired con- 
nection with Cappadocia from the centurion. 

24 w. Wright, An Ancient Syrian Martyrology {Journal of Sa- 
cred Literature, III (New Series) 1866.) Wright does not fix 
the date; he says the MS was transcribed A. D. 412 and it is not 
much older than the MS. (p. 53.) 

25 Op. cit., p. 432. 26 Achelis, op. cit., p. 110. 
27 Oper. S. Hieronymus, Edit. Veron. (1742) t. XI, 486; Migne, 

Patrol. Lat. XXX, col. 462. 28 Achelis, op. cit., p. 79. 

29 Op. cit., p. 79. 30 Op. cit., p. 211. 



Instead of considering separately the various mar- 
tyrologies of the Middle Ages,^^ in all of which Longi- 

31 Henri Quentin, Les Martyrologes Historigues du Moyen Age, 
Paris, 1908, p. 683, shows clearly their relationship by the fol- 
lowing diagram: 

^ (?) 

Bede QIss. le CI.) 
Bede/(]\I^. He CI.) 
Siartylyonndis (Ms. 3879) 

Florus (Ms. de Sf. Croix) 
Mart^ de Fulda 

Florus M. 

Rhabam Maur 

etit Rdmain 


Herman Contract 

Mar£. Romain 


nus appears, I shall call attention only to typical forms 
indicating the development of the legend. In the first 
group, which belongs to the eighth and ninth centuries, 
there is definite evidence of the confusion of the story 
of the soldier with that of the centurion. The soldier 
Longinus has here borrowed from the centurion's story 
the incident of the conversion by the miracles which ac- 
companied the Crucifixion and also that of the martyrdom 
in Cappadocia. The blinding of the cruel judge, a stock 
episode in the legends of saints, has also been added. 

The life of St. Longinus is the same in Bede,'^ 
Rhabanus Maunis, and IsTotker,^' and differs only slight- 
ly in Ado^* and Usuardus.^^ The text of Rhabanus 
Maurus, as printed in Migne, "ex codice MS. monasteni 
S. Galli" is as follows: 

Id. Martii: In Cappadocia passio sancti Longini martyris: de 
quo in libello martyrii ejus narratur quod aliquando militans 
sub centurione Romano, in passione Domini latus ejus cum 
lancea in cruce aperiret, et viso terraemotu et signis quae fiebant, 
crediderit in Christum, poenitentiam agens de operibus suis 
pristinis: postea monachus f actus per triginta et quatuor annos 
Christo militavit, multos convertens ad fidem Dei; ad extremum 
vero- martyrizavit in Cappadocia sub Octavio praeside, quern, 
propter infidelitatem suam divino judicio percussum corporea 
caecitate, post martyrium suum illuminavit.36 

32 Migne, Pfitrol. Lat., XCIV, col. 859, Editio Coloniensis. Idus 
Martii Cappadocia, S. Long. Mart.; also Edit. Bolland. 15 Idibus 

33 Migne, Patrol. Lat. CXXXI, col. 1055, Id. Mart, in Cappa. S. 
Longini martyris: qui cum in passione, etc. 

34 Migne, Patrol. Lat. CXXIII, col. 167, and col. 343, Sept. 1. 
apud Caesaream Cappadociae, Longini militis et martyris, qui 
latus Dom., etc. 

35 Migne, Patrol. Lat. CXXIV, col. 843, Mar. 15. In Caesarea 
Cappa.; passio sancti Longini qui latus Dom., etc. 

36 Migne, Patrol. Lat. CX, col. 1135. 


Bede and Notker differ from Rhabanus Maurus only 
in making the years of service thirty-eigkt instead of 

The tenth-century versions are found in the Acta Sanc- 
torum of the Bollandists. They give both the acts of 
the soldier and those of the centurion. The two stories 
have developed along different lines. The legend of the 
soldier retains the conversion by miracles, which is found 
also in the centurion's story. Both also serve in Cappa- 
docia. The legend of Longinus adds, however, still other 
incidents more or less common to saints' lives. The Bol- 
landists print their life of Longinus ex pluribus perve- 
tustis MSS. However, so far as I can discover, none of 
these MSS is older than the tenth century.^^ 

The life of the soldier printed by the Bollandists is 
too long to quote in full. In substance it runs as fol- 

37 Here should be added the Irish Martyrologies, which are 
not included in the table. The Martyrology of Oengus the Culdee 
(about 800 A. D.), Whitley Stokes, 1905, makes brief mention of 


X cal. Novem'bris (p. 218). 

Escomlud Longini dond rig- "The departure of Longinus 

flaith as dixu: geguin, gnfm as to the Kingdom that is high- 
tiaisliu, toeb Sn aiaind Issu. est; he wounded — deed that is 

noblest! — Jesus' splendid de- 
lightful side." 

Cf. Oengus, p. 226. Notice also Martyrology of Gorman, W. 
Stokes, 1895. (By an Irish abbot, latter part of the twelfth cent.) 
15 Mar. 

Longinus or gonad "Longinus by whose cruel 

Crist i croich do chrfladgha spear Christ was wounded on 
Ba col cen a choemna. the cross: 'twas a sin without 

(any) defence thereof." 

38 In the Analecta Bollandia, where MSS containing the Longi- 
nus story are cited, several are mentioned as edited in the Acta 
Sanctorum, March II, pp. 384-386 (which includes the Acta 8. 
Longinii Milites.) These are: (1) Civit. Carnotensis, cod. 144, 
saec. X, 777 Passio Sancti Longini Martyris die XXII mensis 


lows: Longinus, a soldier sent by Pilate, pierced the 
side of Christ, and when he saw the sun obscured and 
the earth quake, believed in Jesus Christ and exclaimed 
with a loud voice: Vere filius Dei est hie. He was in- 
structed by the apostles, and went into Caesarea in Cap- 
padocia, where he led a quiet life twenty-eight years, con- 
verting many. When word of his success came to Octa- 
vius, the emperor sent for Longinus, and asked him who 
he was. Longinus responded, "Christiamis sum." Asked 
his province, he answered "Isauria." When asked if he 
was free, he replied that he had been a slave to sin, but had 
been released by the mercy of Christ. Octavius urged 
him to worship the Roman gods, but Longinus responded 
that his God was one of sobriety and righteousness, but 
those of Octavius were gods of iniquity, and that he could 
not serve two masters. Though Ociavius had Longinus's 
tongue cut out, and his teeth knocked out, Longinus con- 
tinued to speak. Longinus cast devils out of idols and 
broke their altars. Recognizing Longinus, the devils con- 
fessed that they knew his Grod to be the true one. When 
asked why they had chosen such resting-places, they 
gave as a reason that those idols had never been blessed, 
nor had they had the sign of the cross made on them. 
Many of the people believed ; but Octavius, Avhose heart 
the devil had corrupted, accused Longinus of having used 
magic arts. Aplirodisius told Octavius that Longinus 

novembris, hoc est X Kalendarum decembris (fol. 260r-261v), 
t. VIII, p. 134. (2) Civit. Carnotensis, cod. 204, 29°; here the day 
is given as idus Martii, t. VIII, p. 184. (3) Bibl. Publ. et Acad. 
Gandavensis, cod. 245 (writing XII and XIII cent.), pp. 198-203, t. 
Ill, p. 179. (4) De Magno Legendario Austriaco, S. Longini Mart., 
var. MSS. Exemplar Sancrucense, XIII saec; Exempl. Campilili- 
ense, XV saec; Exempl. Admuntense, XIII saec, t. XVII, p. 50. 
(5) Bibl. Publ. Clvit. et Acad. Leodiensis, cod. 58, XIV saec. (?) 
(fol. 152v-154r), t. V, p. 339. (6) Bibl. privatae Caes£:via Austri- 
aci, cod. 9394, XV saec (fol. 148-9), t. XIV, p. 259. 


■was right and his God the true one, and in consequence 
Aphrodisius's tongue was cut out. Thereupon, at the 
prayer of Longinus, the Lord punished Octavius bj strik- 
ing him blind. After Longinus had suffered martyrdom, 
Octavius repented and received his sight.^^ 

The life of the centurion Longinus, printed by the 
Bollandists, is professedly taken from Hesychius/" Til- 
lemont comments with irony on the statement made by 
the Bollandists that all the Greek lives of Longinus are 
drawn from Hesychius, and especially that that of Meta- 
phrastes has Hesychius as its source; he expresses ab- 
solute doubt, saying it is a history that contains few 
facts and many words in the style of Metaphrastes.*^ 

The Greek story as found in Hesychius and Meta- 
phrastes is as follows : Longinus, the centurion, is sent 
to serve at the sepulchre of Christ, He believes in Jesus 
through wonders, renounces his military service, and 
with two companions retires to his father's home at Tyania 
in Cappadocia, There he is beheaded by messengers of 
Pilate, and his head is taken by them to Jerusalem, 
where it is thrown outside into a refuse heap, A blind 
woman comes to Jerusalem from Cappadocia with her 
only son. Her son dies, and she mourns her misfortune. 
Longinus appears to her, and tells her that if she will 
find and bury his head, he will bring her son to glory. 
She does soj and is rewarded with sight, and a vision of 

39 Acta 88. 15 Mart. t. II, 384-86. Cf. Bibl. Hagiog. Latina, 
Brussels, 1900-1901. 

40 Acta 88. Mart. II, 736-39, (MS Vatic. 1190). Patrol. Gr. 
XCIII, 1545-60; cf. Metaphrastes, Patrol. Gr. CXV, 31, (MS Paris 
774). Cf. Bibl. Hagiog. Graeca, Brussels, 1895. 

41 Tillemont, M^moires pour servir a UHistoire Ecclesiastique, 
Paris, 1693, I, note XXXVIII, p. 477 ff. 


lier son with Longinus in Leaven. She buries her son 
and Longinus's head together/^ 

A curious variant of the last part of this story is 
found in MS. Paris 797, from which it is printed by the 
EoUandists. This a,ccount runs as follows: A widow, 
Christina by name, was possessed by a wicked spirit, 
which tore her cruelly. Longinus appeared to her with- 
out his head, and told her to go to Jerusalem, to the 
house of the Prefect Lucian, to seek the head of Longi- 
nus the centurion, and to replace it with his body; say- 
ing that if she did so, she should be made well and her 
son should be taken into his military service. Christina 
started on her way. When she came to the tomb of the 
saint, she cried out, and a voice told her that Christ 
would be her helper. She obtained the head from Lu- 
cian, the Prefect, for which she paid him two hundred 
denarii. She and her son took the head to the tomb, 
which opened with a great light. After the youth had 
replaced the head, it was as if it had never been cut off. 

Longinus appeared to Christina that night, told her 
she should have her health restored, and asked her to 
choose which she preferred for her son — earthly or heav- 
enly service.^^ She chose heavenly service. The next 

42 Cf. Le Synaxaire Arabe Jacobite, 5tli Hatour (1st Nov.) (Pa- 
trol. Orientalis, pub. and trans, by Rene Basset, III, Fasc. 3, 
252). The story differs slightly: the soldier, who had borne the 
order, brought the head to Jerusalem, and gave it to Pilate, who 
showed it to the Jews, thus rejoicing them, and had it interred in 
a "monticule" outside Jerusalem. After some time a woman ol 
Cappadocia who had become a Christian through the preaching of 
Longinus, and who had wept when he was decapitated, became 
blind by design of God. She went to Jerusalem to pray at the 
sacred monument in the hope of regaining her sight, etc. 

43 Cf. G. H. Gerould, on the Eustace Legend, PMLA., XIX, 
351. He traces to Armenian legend the choice given man be- 
tween good fortune in youth and good fortune in age. Eustace 
chooses between trial in this life and sorrow in the next; Sir 


day, accordingly, Longiniis appeared to the son in the 
vineyard, and told him to follow his name, Christian, 
and be a soldier of Christ, ^Notwithstanding her choice, 
when the mother found her son dead, she was overcome 
with grief. She was comforted, however, by an angel. 
She then went to Paphnutius, the bishop of Tyania, and 
told him her story. They buried the son with Longinus. 
In a vision Christina was shown her son in heaven with 
Longinus. After a life of service, she died and was 
buried in the tomb of Longinus. 

That this story of the head was important in the East, 
is shown by the fact that in the Oriental church the find- 
ing of the head of Longinus is celebrated on a separate 
day. Two days are given in the calendar: 23 Abib 
(July) Certamen sancti Longini Cappadocis Centurionis 
qui lafus Christi lancea trans fodit Caesareae suh Tiberio 
imperatore,** and the 5 Hatur (iN'ovember) Inventio, 
Capitis Sancti Longini militis, qui Christi latus apeimit^^ 
The two feast days were later probably joined, just as 
were the two festivals of the Exaltation and of the In- 
vention of the Cross, also originally two distinct feasts. 

From the martyrologies, too, one would conclude that 
the story of the centurion developed first. The legend of 
the soldier was enlarged by additions from the story of 
the centurion. It is to be noted that even so late as the 
tenth century, the martyrologies give no suggestion of 
the blindness of Longinus himself, though he is con- 
cerned in the healing of others who are blind — the judge 
certainly, and perhaps also the widow. Of the two types 

Ysumbras between poverty and woe in youth and in old age; 
Der Graf von Savoien between eternal sorrow and earthly woe 
for ten years. 

44 Mai, Coptic Martyrologlum, Codex Arab. Bibl. Vat. LXIII, 18. 

i^Ibid., Codex 62. Cf. Assemani, Bibl. Med. Cat. Flor., Flor. 
1742, p. 164. Arabic Martyrology, 185, XXIII Abibo, S. Longini. 


of the story of the "invention" of the head, it seems likely 
that the earlier was the Christina story, and that at first 
the woman was possessed by a demon, but that after- 
ward, through the influence of the story of the soldier, 
her trouble took the form of blindness, a disease that 
would be peculiarly suitable for Longinus to heal. 

Even as late as the thirteenth century the Legenda 
Aurea speaks with some doubt of the blindness of Lon- 
ginus. ^^ Since this is the version usually referred to as 
the source of the Longinus story in the Middle Ages, I 
quote the text in full : 

Longinus fuit quidam centurio, qui cum aliis militibus cruel 
domini adstans jussu Pylati latus domini lancea perforavit et 
videns signa, quae fiebant, solem scilicet obscuratum et terrae 
motum in Christum credidit. Maxime ex eo, ut quidam dicunt, 
quod cum ex infirmitate vel senectute oculi ejus caligassent, de 
sanguine Christi per lanceam decurrente fortuito oculos sues 
tetigit et protinus clare vidit. Unde renuntians militiae et ab 
apostolis instructus in Caesaria Capadociae viginti octo annis 
monasticam vitam duxit et verbo et exemplo ad fidem multos 
convertit. Cum autem a praeside tentus fuisset et sacriticare 
nollet, jussit praeses omnes dentes ejus excuti et linguam abscidi, 
Longinus tamen ex hoc loquelam non perdidit, sed accepta securi 
omnia ydola comminuit et f regit dicens: si dii sunt, vide- 
bimus. Daemones autem de ydolis exeuntes in praesidem et 
in omnes socios ejus intraverunt et insanientes et latrantes se 
Longini pedibus prostraverunt et ait Longinus daemonibus: cur 
habitatis in ydolis? Qui responderunt: ubi Christus non nomi- 
natur et ejus signum non est positum, ibi est habitatio nostra. 
Cum ergo praeses insaniret et oculos amisisset, dixit ei Longinus; 
scito quia sanari non poteris, nisi quando ne occideris; quam cito 
enim a te mortuus fuero, pro te orabo et sanitatem tibi corporis 
et animae impetrabo. Et statim eum decollari jussit; post hoc 
abiit ad corpus ejus et prostratus cum lacrimis poenitentiam 
egit; et continue visum recepit et sanitatem et in bonis operibus 
vitam finivit.47 

46 The blindness was shown in art by the eighth or ninth cen- 
tury. Cf. p. 48. 

47Voragine, ed. Graesse, 3d, 1890, cap. XLVII, 202. 

22 the legea^d of longinus 

§4. Otpier Writers 

Other means for distributing the story of Longinus 
that were probably no less influential than the martyr- 
ologies are to be noted. Such writers as Petrus Comes- 
tor in the twelfth centuiy, Vincent de Beauvais in the 
thirteenth, and Cardinal Bonaventura and Ludolphus de 
Saxonia in the fourteenth, all include Longinus, giving 
the story of his miraculous healing in connection with 
the history of the passion of Christ ; and sometimes, as 
in the case of Vincent, adding also the sufferings and 
martyrdom of St. Longinus.^* 

The first of these accounts, that in the Historia ScJio- 
lastica of Petrus Comestor, is very brief; indeed, the 
name of Longinus is not mentioned. There are, supple- 
menting the gospel account of the piercing of the side 

48 Numerous unpublished martyrologies also exist, which con- 
tain the story of Longinus. As far as I have examined them, I 
have found no new type of the legend. A few of these are: Bibl. 
Bodl. Catol. Codd. Graeci. Codicis Miscell. No. 137 (XI ssec.) 
which includes Longinus in the Martyrology for October. The 
story follows the Metaphrastes version. Cf. also Trin. Coll. 
Cambr. MS 210 (ssec. XI?), no. 13, fol. 92; Trin. Coll. Cambr. MS 
198 (XII-XIII ssec.) no. 11, fol. 77; and British Mus. Addit. MS 
36654, A. D. 1103, no. 13. Besides these Greek texts, there are: 
Rawl. MS C. 440 (sasc. XII exeuntis), no. 15, fol. 176b, Passio S. 
Longini martyris, which follows the Bollandist centurion type; 
MS Vespasian B. 10, fol. 21b; Harl. 2802, Passionale, (1464), 
Longini no. 285; Harl. 3545, Legendarium Sanctorum (XV cent.) 
fol. 272; Addit. 6524, French (XIV cent.) fol. 51b. A few others 
make Longinus the soldier; in Arundell MS 330 (XIV ssec), he is 
a soldier, though not blind, and his ministry follows the usual 
form; in Sloan MS (XIV ssec.) no. 2478, fol. 10b, his blindness is 
healed, but the account is condensed; in Trin. Coll. Cambr. 316 
(B. 14, 31) (XV cent.) no. 24, his blindness is healed, his ministry 
and martyrdom follow the usual types. Cf. also Cambr. Univ. 
K. K. 1.22 MS (early XIV cent), Martyrologium, and MS Liturg. 
Bodl. 333 (1468), Longinus 15 Mar. the usual soldier type. 


of Jesus, a few words referring to the enre of the 
soldier's blindness: "et qui lanceavit eum, ut tradunt 
quidam, cum fere caligassent oculi ejus, et casu teti- 
gisset oculos sanguine ejus, clare videt."*^ 

In his Speculum Historiale, Vincent, under De TJul- 
nere domini lateris, in his gloss cites Comestor, and in 
his text quotes from Comestor the passage given above. 
To the extract he adds the following: "Ex gestis eius 
Protinus illuminatus in Christus credidit. Unde mili- 
tie cedens instructus ab apostolis : in Cesarea Capadocie 
XXXVIII annis monachicam vitam duxit & in omni 
sanctitate permanens verbo & exemplo plurimos ad Chris- 
tum conuertit."^*' In his next chapter Vincent gives the 
life of Longinus, De Martyrio eiusdem longini militis. 
It is unnecessary to quote this, since it follows closely 
the form of the story found in the BoUandist acts of the 

In the Meditationes vitae Christi, found in the earlier 
editions of St. Bonaventura's -works," but no longer thought 
toi be of his composition,^^ reference to the legend of Lon- 
ginus appears in the form of a lament of the Virgin. 
With John, the Magdalen, and her sisters, Mary stands 
under the Cross lamenting. With a great noise wicked 

49 Migne, Pair. CXCVIII cols., 1633, 1634. 

50 Lib. VII, cap. xlvi. 

51 Sancti Bonaventurae . . . Opera, London, 1668. 

52 Dr. H. Traver considers Cardinal Bonaventura of Padua to 
be the author. For discussion of her authorities, see The Four 
Daughters of God, Bryn Mawr, 1907, p. 41, note 2. The question 
of authorship appears to be unsettled. Peltier (Bonaventurae 
Opera, Parisiis, Besangon, 1864-71, XII, p. xlii) holds that the 
work is not that of the "seraphic doctor," nor that of Bonaven- 
tura of Padua, but of a Franciscan of San Gimignano in Tuscany 
or the neighborhood, perhaps Joannes de Caulibus. Cf. also L. F. 
Powell, introductory note to Nicliolas Love's Mirrour of the 
Blessed Life of Jesus Christ, Oxford, 1908. 


men came and break the bones of the thieves. When 
they turn to Jesus, Mary implores them to have mercy, 
telling them that Jesus is already dead, but "unus autem 
Longinus nomine, tunc impius, & superbus, sed post 
conuersus, & martyr, & sanctus, porrigens lanceam de 
longe, eorum preces, & rogamina contenuiens, latus 
Domine Jesu dextrum vulnere grandi aperuit & exiuit 
sanguis & aqua." Mary then faints in the arms of the 
Magdalen and her companions. 

This treatise was enormously popular in the Middle 
Ages. Thien comments on the fact that it was trans- 
lated into Swedish, Danish, Italian, Catalan and Middle 
English. ^^ It was of great importance in English lit- 
erature, being translated more than once. There is also 
a metrical English version.^* 

The passage quoted above from the Meditationes as- 
cribed to Bonaventura reappears almost word for word 
in the Vita Jesu Christi by Ludolphus of Saxonia. Odd- 
ly enough, the addition made by Ludolphus to this pas- 
sage reproduces precisely the second extract already 
quoted from Vincent de Beauvais. Though he gives 
marginal references to his authorities, Ludolphus makes 
no acknowledgment of indebtedness to Bonaventura^"^ or 
to Vincent. This treatise by Ludolphus also forms the 
basis of a Middle English life of Christ, and consequently 
is of special interest. 

53 Tiber die Englischen Marienklagen, p. 11. 

54 Cf. pp. 107, 108. 

55 Miss Traver, op. cit., 45, who takes Bonaventura of Padua to 
be the author of the Meditationes, thinks Ludolphus depended on 
Bonaventura. If Joannes de Caulibus is the author of the Medi- 
tationes, the question of dependence becomes more difficult — 
since the only date given for Joannes is 1376, (see Chevalier, Rep. 
des Sources Hist, du Moyen Age, who follows Wadding), and 
Ludolphus died in 1378. 


The writers last mentioned add nothing to the de- 
velopment of the legend. Looking back over the accounts 
which precede them, we see that the record furnished by 
pseudo-ecclesiastical history is unsatisfactory. We learn 
from it that apocryphal details were attaching themselves 
to the story of the centurion as early as the second cen- 
tury; that the name Longinus was applied to both soldier 
and centurion in the fourth century; that accounts of the 
ministry and martyrdom of the centurion also came into 
the tradition in the fourth century, and were recorded in 
the martyrologies in the fifth, or sixth, century (Je- 
rome) ; that between the sixth and ninth centuries there 
was little growth — the cruel judge struck with blind- 
ness being the only addition; that by the tenth century 
there were two stories, one concerning the centurion, and 
one, the soldier, and that the two were evidently already 
confused, containing, as they both do, the incidents of 
conversion by earthquake, and service and martyrdom in 
Cappadocia; and finally that even as late as the thir- 
teenth century, the church accounts express doubt on the 
subject of the blindness — the episode in the story that 
appealed most strongly to the people of the time. 

The first question that suggests itself after going 
through this mass of narration is, how did the centurion 
and soldier become confused ? It is probable that the 
soldier who pierced the side of Jesus was first one of the 
soldiers who served under the centurion at the crucifixion, 
and who guarded the tomb. In the incident of the vere 
■filius Dei, originally ascribed to the centurion, gradually 
the soldiers under the centurion came to share, and finally, 
as the one soldier assumed greater prominence, it was 
transferred to him alone. The stories were more and more 
confused. Sometimes the soldier, sometimes the centurion 


is called Longinus ; sometimes it was the centurion and 
again it was the soldier, who pierced the side of Christ. 

But there are other difficulties. How did the name 
Longinus originate? Why did the legend of the soldier 
become the more popular, absorbing as it did incidents 
from the life of the centurion ? It is to be noticed that 
the incidents not so appropriated — such as the widow 
healed of her blindness, and the Christina story — never 
got into literature at all. 



Ecclesiastical history, by its inconsistencies and by its 
reluctance to accept certain popular features of tlie story 
of Longinus, such as that of his blindness, shows that 
other legend-forming forces were at work, and that the 
accounts found in the martyrologies record only the re- 
sults — vague but more or less final — of this myth-working 
process. That the legend of Longinus is fictitious is 
shown by the examination (1) of his name and (2) of his 
acts, or his life as saint and martyr. 

§1. Kame 

Before considering the possible source of the name Lon- 
ginus — the name which was finally attached definitely to 
the saint and which appears in all literary applications of 
the legend — we may note the fact that other names for- 
merly existed for the centurion and for the soldier. Ref- 
erence has already been made to the name Petronius^ used 

1 A. Stiilcken, in an article on the Gospel of Peter in Handhuch 
zu den Neutest. Apocryphen, Edgar Hennecke, 1904, p. 84, remarks: 
"Der Hauptmann der Grabeswache hat einen Namen bekommen: 
Petronius; die spatere Legende nennt ihn Longinus. Diese — in 
einem Fragment, das die Namen Jesus, Golgotha, usw. nicht 
nennt — auffallige Genauigkeit im Detail weist nicht auf Tradi- 
tion, sondern auf das Bestreben, den Mangel an Tradition durch 
scheinbar intime Kenntnis zu verdecken: der Hauptmann, der 
nachher selber Zeuge der Auferstehung wird, muss auch schon im 
apologetischen Interesse moglichst genau bezeichnet werden. Der 
Name ist wohl in Anklang an 'Petrus' gewahlt." 

3 27 


for the centurion in the Gospel of Peter. There is also a 
more or less indefinite tradition that confuses the soldier 
who pierced the side of Clii'ist and the centurion who was 
converted at the crucifixion, with that other centurion who 
appeared as witness in the examination of Jesus before 
Pilate. "Post haec quidam centurio dixit, Ego in Caphar- 
naum vidi Jesum et rogavi cum dicens Domine, puer meus, 
iacet paralyticus in domo. Et dixit mihi Jesus, Vade, et 
sicut credidisti fiat tibi. Et sanatus est puer ex ilia hora."- 
The name of this centurion, according to Fabricius,^ was 
C. Oppius ; he was a Spaniard, the son of Caius Cornelius 
and the father of C. Oppius, both of whom were also cen- 
turions. He was the first of all the Gentiles who, after 
the death of Christ, was baptized bj the Apostle Barna- 
bas. He afterwards became the third bishop of Milan. 
It is to be noted in this connection that some authori- 
ties state that Longinus, who pierced the side of Christ, 
was knoAvn before his conversion as Cassius.* Profillet 
calls the centurion Saint Ctesiphon (or, without explana- 
tion, "Abenadar, le centurion du Calvaire"). He had 
been ordained bishop at Rome, according to Profillet, and 
was sent to preach the word in Spain.^ Bede calls the 
soldier Legorrius.*' Xavier says the name should be Ina- 
tius or Ignatius.^ Again, ]N'eale, recently and without 

2 Tischendorf. Latin Gesta Pilati, chap. VIII. 
SFabricius, II (1832), note, p. 982. 

4 J. E. Stadler, Heiligen Lexicon, states that the name of the 
soldier Longinus before his conversion was Cassius. Profillet, 
Les Saints Militaires (15 Mar.), says that Cassius, afterwards 
called Longinus, was second in command among the guards at the 

5 Profillet, Les Saints Militaires, under 15 May. He says Ctesi- 
phon can not be identified by history. 

G Collectaneis Append. Ill; cf. Douhet, Diet, des legendes du 
Christianisme, Migne, Encyc. Theol. ser. Ill, supp. vol. LIV. 
7 P. Xavier, Historica Christi Persice, 1639, pars. Ill, 489. 


mentioning his source, says: "Not many illustrious prel- 
ates have adorned this see (Caesarea of Cappadocia) : , . . 
its first bishop is said to have been Saint Primianus, bet- 
ter known by the name of Longinus, the soldier who 
pierced the Saviour's side with his spear.* Still a differ- 
ent form of the name — though in this case only a corrup- 
tion of Longinus — appears in a late vernacular version of 
Nicodemus's Gospel cited by Thilo: "And then the Jews 
commanded that a knight should be brought forth, whose 
name was Logenious ; and this Logenious was blind, etc."® 
Of the same sort is probably the "Longimus" in some of 
the Greek texts of Nicodemus.^^ 

It is hardly worth while to pause over these names; 
except as furnishing further evidence, if more were 
needed, as to the contradictions that abound in regard to 
the life of our saint, they are not of interest. The name 
by which he is always known in literature is Longinus. 
The explanation generally offered is that the spearman de- 
rives his name from the Greek '>^o'yxv, lance, used in John 
(XIX, 34) : "Sed unus militum lancea latus ejus 

This account of the name seems entirely probable ; such 
origins are not uncommon. Eeiffenberg mentions others: 

8 J. M. Neale, Hist. Holy Eastern Church, 1850, pp. 31, 32. 

9 Thilo. Codex Apoc. Novi Testam. 1832, p. cxlv. 

10 Cf. p. 8. 

11 J. Spiegelius, Prudentius Cathemerinon (note on vulnus, p. 
85): "Auditi aliud magis ridiculum, in Joannis Evangelic legi- 
tur — Nostri Theologi, sive sono vocabuli Graeci decepti, ubi apud 
GraecosX67X'^. id est lancea scriptum est, crediderunt percussorem 
ilium Longinum esse appellatum; & ita in ilium hoc nomine excla- 
mantes invehunter, sive divini verbi semiantores Longinum pro- 
prio nomine milite ilium appellant. Non miror si nos ridemus: 
quoniam & diabolum ipsum & ilium que isti dicunt Longinum, 
puto, si talia audiunt, maximos risus excitare." 


"N^oiis Savons qu'un jeu de mots a sou vent produit des 
effets siirprenants, que Saint Longin, Sainte Veronique, 
Saint Architriclin, doivent leur existence a des equivoques, 
a une espece de calemhourg produits par I'ignorance, que 
des equivoques ont determine les offices de beaucoup 

Though the name Longinus may easily have arisen thus 
through the mere blunder of a translator, another possible 
explanation must also be considered. In the Pseudo-Linus 
Passio Sancti Pauli Apostoli, the three soldiers who con- 
duct Paul to the place of his martyrdom, are converted by 
him on the way. He directs them to go the next morning 
to the place where his body lies and tells them they will 
find there two men, Titus and Luke, who will baptize 
them. These soldiers are known as Longinus, Megistus, 
and Acestus.^^ It has been suggested more than once that 
the name Longinus was first connected with the soldier 
converted at the execution of Paul, and that it was after- 
wards transferred to the centurion f soldier) converted at 
the crucifixion of Christ.^* 

The date of the Paul story, as told in the Pseudo-Linus 
Passio, would not be against such a theory. The Passio 
is a fragment and belongs, according to Lipsius and 
Batiffol,^^ to the fifth or sixth century. But accord- 

12 Chevalier au Cygne, p. xciv. Cf. H. Etienne, Apologie pour 
H^rodote, Lyons, 1592, p. 573 ff. 

13 Lipsius and Bonnet, Acta Apostolorum Apocrypha, Lipsiae, 
1891. Pars Prior, pp. 30, 32, 37, 39, 42, 113. Also Grk. pp. 114, 
115, 116. 

14 Cf. Bugge, Studien iider die Entstehung die nordischen Got- 
ter und Heldcnsagen. German trans., 0. Brenner, p. 39. Dr. 
Hulme, in unpublished notes which he has kindly allowed me to 
use, likewise makes this suggestion. 

15 P. Batiffol, Vigoroux Dictionnaire de la Bible, 1895. Acts 
of Peter and Paul. R. A. Lipsius, Die Apocryphen Apostelge- 
schichten u. Apostellegenden, II (1887), 113. 


ing to Lipsius, the Pseudo-Linus has as source Greek 
Acta, fragments of which, independent of the Pseudo- 
Linus, occur elsewhere. Lipsius sees in these acts a 
Gnostic work of the second half of the second century. 
He thinks it possible to recognize traces of tliis primitive 
source in the Pseudo-Linus as it now exists. Tliat he con- 
siders the Paul-Longinus episode a part of the early acts, 
he shows in his discussion of the use made by Chrysostora 
of these earlier acts. In speaking of the version used by 
Chrysostom, he says: "Der von Paulus bekehrte Kerken- 
meister, ist wol eine Keminiscenz an die Geschichte des 
Pseudo-Linus von der Bekehrung der Prafecten Longinus 
und Megistus und des Centurio Cestus oder Acestus . • . 
denen E^ero die Bewachung des Gef angenen und die Volls- 
treckung des Todesurtheils iibertragt."^® 

It is certainly possible that the writer of the Acta 
Pilati story of the centurion (in this case it could not be 
the soldier who pierced the side of Christ, for, in the Acta 
Pilati, the soldier is not converted) may simply have 
transferred the name Longinus from some such story as 
this of Paul, which offers the parallel of the conversion of 
an attendant by the death of a martyr. The question, how- 
ever, can hardly be settled conclusively without more evi- 
dence. A fact that must also be taken into account is 
that, according to the Greek text, the name of the soldier 
who guarded St. Paul, was not Longinus, but A07709. 

§2. The Acts oe Life of Longinus 

If this multiplicity of names does not speak well for 
the historical origin of Saint Longinus, the number of Lon- 
ginuses who have suffered martyrdom does not lessen the 

i6/6id., II, 246. 


confusion. It has already been shown that the soldier and 
the centurion^^ have been confused. It seems not impos- 
sible that incidents from the lives of other martyrs also 
contributed to the growing story. In Migne's Dictionnaire 
Hagiograpliique, eight martyrs bearing the name appear, 
the last in the sixth century. In the Petits Bollandistes, 
there are also eight, two of whom differ from those in the 
Migne list. Baronius mentions eleven Longinuses ; Cheva- 
lier, eight; and John of Ephesus, one not included by 
either Baronius or Chevalier. Some of these derive from 
our Longinus story; others perhaps had independent ori- 
gin and were absorbed by it. 

I enumerate only the most interesting of these martyrs : 

(1) The Longinus associated with Paul, to whom 
reference has already been made. 

(2) Saint Longinus, soldier and martyr at Marseilles, 
who, with two others, guarded Saint Victor in prison. All 
three guards were converted by the miraculous light that 
illuminated the prison in the night. Victor took them to 
the sea and baptized them. After they had refused to 
sacrifice to the gods, Maximian, who was at Marseilles, 
ordered them to be punished with death. They were de- 
capitated the 21 July, A. D. 290.'^ Maury tells us that 
the facts of the life of Saint Victor of Marseilles are 
drawn from those of Christ. Victor, in his opinion, repre- 
sents Christ triumphant, victorious ; he adds : "Ces garde>5 
sont au nombre de trois, nombre mystique qu'on sup- 
posait au moyen age avoir ete celui des gardes de Jesus. 

iTAnd possibly a second centurion; cf. p. 28. 

18 Migne, Diet. Hagiog.; Petits Bollandistes; Chevalier; Rui- 
nart, Acta primorum Martyrum sincera et selecta, XI, p. 297; 
Tillemont, M6moires pour servir a Vhistoire Ecclcsiastique, 1701, 
IV, p. 551. 


L'un d'eux se nomme Longin, conune un de ceux du 

(3) St. Longinus, who suffered martyrdom at Caes- 
area in Cappadocia with S. Aphrodisius, honored by the 
Greeks 1 September.^" The BoUandists take this to be 
the Longinus who pierced the side of Christ. As various 
days are given by different churches for the celebration of 
St. Longinus, this identification is entirely probable.^'" 

(4) St. Longinus, a soldier, who suffered martyrdom 
at Satales in Armenia, with ten brothers, soldiers like him- 
self. Emperor Maximian, because they refused to sacri- 
fice to the gods, deprived them of military rank, and ex- 
iled them to various places, where they died in misery. 
They are honored 24 June. Here the name of the place, 
Satales, is similar to that often given as the home of Lon- 
ginus who pierced the side of Christ. ^^ 

(5) Saint Longinus, who suffered martyrdom with 
Saint Eusebius and many others. They were beheaded 
after suffering cruel torments, during the persecution of 
Diocletian, and are celebrated 24 April. The names and 
also the place and date of martyrdom of this group vary 
greatly. Acta Sanctorum, 24 April, gives as martyred 
in ISTicodemia in 303 : Eusebius, ISTeonis, Leontius, 
Longinus and four others. Baronius gives a very 
similar list as martyred in Perga in Pamphilia in 

19 A. Maury, Croyances et Legendes du Moyen Age, 1896, p. 112. 

20 Die*. Hagiog.; BoUandists, Acta. 8S. 1 Sept. 

21 Acta. S8. 1 Sept. 

22 This place-name varies greatly. Tillemont gives Adrales or 
Sandrales, near Tyania in Cappadocia; a Greek MS of the XI 
cent. (MS Bodl. Misc. 137) gives Sandiale; Hesychius, Sand- 
rales. On the other hand, in the BoUandist Latin Acts, Longinus 
when questioned says his home is in Isauria in Asia Minor. 
In Christus Patiens, he is from the Ansonians. 


305 : Leontius, Actius, Alexander and six others, and 
also Leontius with Eusebius, ISTeone, and Longinus; 
also in Lycia: Tlieodorus, Oceanus, Ammonianns, Jnli- 
anus.^^ Bmt in 308, under Constantine, Baronius has this 
list of Martyrs: Theodorus, Oceanus, Ammianus, 
Julianus, Caritine, Eusebius, ISTeon, Leontius, Longinus.^* 
That a whole group of martyrs should thus be assigtier) 
to varying years and places, indicates how easily such 
stories grew. That this Longinus was confused with the 
soldier of the crucifixion, the Bollandists show in their 
discussion: "Michael monachus, canonicus Capuanus, 
parte 4 Sanctuarii Capuani, edidit quatuor Kalendaria 
Sanctorum, qui Capuae fuerunt in veneratione; & in 
horum Kal. tertio. Thesauri dicto, atque in quarto ejus 
Codicis, qui est ordinarium totius anni, proponitur mem- 
oria S. Longini Martyris: proponitur memoria S. Longini 
Martyris: in tertio etiam dicitur celebrari festum cum 
tribus lectionibus. An occasione S. Longini Socii SS. 
Eusebii, ISTeonis & Leontii Martynim sit introducta dicta 
memoria, nescimus. At lectiones esse de Longino, qui 
latus Christi aperuit, & exclamavit, Vere filius Dei est 
iste, annotat Michael. Ista vero sunt duo rum, quorum 
alter Longinus miles, alter Longinus Centurio fuit."^^ 

(6) John of Ephesus gives an account of Longinus 
(A. D. 568), chaplain to Pope Theodosius, and mission- 
ary to Nubia, in which the following suggestive incident 
appears. When Longinus went from the Nubians to the 
Alodaei, he had to pass through the unfriendly land of 

23 A?maZes EccUsiast. Ill, 398. 

24 Op. cit., p. 455. 

25 Cf. J. E. Stadler, Heiligen Lexikon, S. Longinus (24 Apr.) 
ein Martyrer in Nikomedia, dessen Haupt in Capua verehrt wird, 
und den Einige irrig fiir den hi. Seiteneioffner Longinus h^lten, 
was wohl auch anderswo geschah." 


the Maparitae, "and when their King heard that Longinns 
had started on his journey, Satan in his envy stirred him 
up to set watchers in all the passes of his kingdom on 
the roads, both in the mountains and in the plains, as far 
as the Sea of Weeds, in hopes of arresting Longinus, and 
so hindering the salvation of the powerful people of the 
Alodaei. But God preserved him, and blinded the eyes 
of those who wanted to seize him; and he passed through 
them, and went on his way and they saw him not."^® The 
parallel here seen, though slight, is perhaps worth noting ; 
the enemies of Longinus are blinded by God, just as the 
cruel judge who is persecuting Longinus is blinded. 

Several facts in the complete Longinus legend may have 
been derived from these varying accounts. First and most 
important, the name Longinus itself was possibly used 
for the guard of Paul before it was so employed for the 
centurion, sometimes the guard at the tomb, in the cruci- 
fixion story. If Bede's statement that the soldier's name 
was Legorrius be accepted as preserving ancient tradition, 
it may be that confusion arose because of the resemblance 
of the two names, or that some one, knowing the stories of 
the two soldiers — both miraculously converted by the 
spectacle of a martyr's death — attached unintentionally 
the name of one to the other. It is much more likely that 
Bede's name is a corruption, due to the lack of definite 
information about St. Longinus. However this may be, 
whether the name was first obtained by adoption or con- 
fusion, the supposed derivation of the word — its sig- 
nificance as spearman or lance-bearer — ^vould be enough 
to make the attachment permanent. In addition to the 
name, the commanding of the saint to worship images may 

2QHist. of the Church, trans, by R. Payne Smith, 1860, pp. 
319, 320. 


easily be obtained from these stories, as may also tbe 
blinding of the judge. Too much, however, must not be 
made of these resemblances, as many saints were com- 
manded to worship idols, and it was not uncommon for 
God to intei'pose and punish those who were tormenting 

Other evidence that the story of Longinus is manufac- 
tured, is found in related saints' legends, and in the con- 
ventional character of some of the incidents that enter 
into its making. Le Blant has called attention to some of 
these: "II est evident que la piece est supposee. On re- 
marquera toutefois que I'auteur en a caique le debut sur 
des actes antiques dont elle reproduit en cet endroit la 
forme. J'y retrouve les expressions courantes exhibere, 
vocare, les interrogations relatives a la condition, a la 
patrie, et la reponse typique Christianus sum. C'est a 
raison de cette circonstance que je crois pouvoir relever 
ici plusieurs termes d'un recit manifestement apocryphe."-^ 
This response occurs in the earliest martyrology records. 
In Eusebius's History of Martyrs in Palestine/^ Epiph- 
anius replied in the same way to the governor. In the 
Coptic life of St. George, the same answer is found. ^^ 
Eusebius records, too, that Romanus was condemned by 
the judge to be burned, but the sentence was altered by 
the Emperor Diocletian, and his tongue was cut out in- 
stead. Like Longinus, he preached without his tongue.^" 
Romanus was also bidden to worship idols, paralleling in 
this another detail of the Longinus story. The cruel judge 

27 E. Le Blant, Les Actes des Martyrs, 1882, p. 147. 

28 Ed. Wm. Cureton, 1861, from Syriac MS Brit. Mus. 12150, 
A. D. 411. 

29 E. Amelineau, Les Actes des Martyrs de UEglise Copte, p. 
241. The Coptic St. George was condemned by Gelasius in 494. 

30 Cureton, op. cit., p. 8. 


is found in all the accounts by Eusebius. J. A. Kobinson, 
commenting on the Passion of S. Perpetua, says: "The 
old story was lacking in the one feature which charac- 
terizes so many of the fictitious narratives of martyrdoms, 
and to which the appellation 'Acta' more especially re- 
fers. There was no account of the prolonged controversy 
between the martyrs and the cruel or the kind-hearted 
judge. '"^ The cruel judge appears in the Longinus story 
in the eighth and ninth century accounts. 

§3. The Blindness 

These related stories, though they throw light upon the 
sources of many of the details in the Longinus legend, 
do not account for the incident that became of utmost im- 
portance in the literary use of the story in the Middle 
Ages: viz., the blindness of Longinus and his miraculous 
healing by the blood of the crucified Christ. 

Tillemont suggests as a possible explanation that the 
blindness grew out of the account given of Longinus in 
Christus Patiens "mal explique.'"^ Though the man who 
pierced the side of Jesus is not called the centurion, the in- 
cident is much the same. When the stream of blood gushes 
from the side of Christ, the spearman, amazed, cries out, 
"Verily, this dead man is the son of God." He then falls 
before the cross, and anoints his head in the flowing 
stream, in order, as it seems, to have purification.^^ This 
explanation is no longer possible for the reason that 

31 J. A. Robinson, The Passion of 8. Perpetua, 1891, p. 15. Rob- 
inson says the name of S. Perpetua is given in the Rom. Calendar 
of the fourth century. The MSS at present known are not earlier 
than the tenth century. 

32 Mem. pour Servir a UHist. EccUs., 1693, I, note xxxix. 

33 Ed. J. G. Brambes, 1885, 11. 1071-1115. 


the old passion poem is not now thought to have been 
written in the fourth century by Gregory Nazienzen. 
Krumbacher says of it: "Das einzige uns erhaltene 
Drama der byzantinischen Zeit ist der gewohnlich 
Xpio-rb^i 7rd(7')((ov (Christus patiens) betitelte Cento. ISTach- 
dem die Meinung, das Werk gehore dem Gregor von 
]^azianz, allgemein aufgegeben ist, bleibt der Verfasser 
vorerst unermittelt ; sicher ist nur, dass er in einer ganz 
spaten zeit, warscheinlieh im 11 oder 12 Jahrhundert 

C. Chabeneaiu, after quoting John XIX, 34-35 — "Sed 
unus militum lancea latus eius aperuit et continuo exivit 
sanguis et aqua, Et qui videt, testimonium perhibuit, 
et verum est testimonium eius — comments: "L'Evan- 
gile ajoute: Et qui videt . . . Seraient-ce par has- 
ard ces mots lus dans un texte corrompu et mal compris qui 
seraient la source premiere de la fable de I'aveugle Lon- 
gis recouvrant miraculeusement la vue ?'"^ Kroner ac- 
cepts the conjecture of Chabeneau as a satisfactory so- 
lution of the difficulty, and attempts elaborately to show 
how the mistake probably occurred.^^ This explanation is 
ingenious, but hardly necessary. Moreover, there is no 
indication of such corruption in any available text.^^ 

Kroner remarks further: "Eine dritte Ansicht ist die 
folgende: Longinus sei nicht blind gewesen, und wenn 
bei ihm von Blindheit die Rede sei, so sei diese doch nur 

34 Geschiehte der byzantinischen Litteratur, 1891, p. 356. Kro- 
ner (op. cit., p. 28), who is evidently unacquainted with criticism 
on the subject, cites Christus Patiens as the earliest literary treat- 
ment of the Longinus legend. 

35 Revue des langues romanes, 1888, IV, 405. 

36 Kroner, op. cit., p. 26. 

37 Cf. Wordsworth, Novum Testamentum Nostri Jesu Christi 
Latine, Oxonii, 1895, pp. 635, 636. 


als eine geistige Blindheit aufzufassen. Longinus war 
ja in der That vor seiner Bekehrung blind, aber diese 
Blindheit ist dann identisch mit der Blindheit, der Fins- 
ternis des Heidentums. Nun, das kling-t ja ganz schon, 
aber est ist doch sehr fragwlirdig, ob man dem nngelehr- 
ten Volke soviel Verstand und tJberlegung zutrauen 
darf, dass es in solcher Weise von einer 'geistigen Blind- 
heit' ^sprechen konnte.' "^^ ^Notwithstanding Kroner's 
objection, it was common in the Middle Ages to speak of 
spiritual blindness in physical terms, and in more than 
one case confusion has resulted. Maury, though he does 
not mention Longinus in this connection, illustrates the 
point by numerous examples. "Un paien," he says, "un 
pecheur endurci a-t-il ete illumine des lumieres de 
I'fivangile par la doctrine de Jesus, suivant le language 
figure de la foi nouvelle, il a ete gueri de son aveugle- 
ment. Cette confusion de I'expression metaphorique et 
du sens litteral a laisse, j usque dans un des premiers 
monuments de I'antiquite chretienne, une trace irrecusa- 
ble. Dans le recit de la conversion de Saint Paul, rap- 
porte dans les Actes des Apotres (Acts IX, 10, 18) aprcs 
avoir dit que le saint apotre, allant combattre la religion 
naissante, fut tout a coup eclaire par Dieu, illumine par 
un trait de la divine clarte, on ajoute qu'a son arrivee a 
Damas, des eoailles tomberent de ses yeux qu'elles ob- 
scurcissaient et qu'il recouvra la vue. Or ici, dans cette 
ciroonstanee, rien n'indique que Paul ait ete aveugle, au 
contraire tout temoigne de sa parfaite vision, fividem- 
ment, il y a la un fait ajoute apres coup, par un legen- 
daire ignorant qui aura pris au sens propre la clarte qui 
a illumine I'apotre, et qui, pour rendre le miracle plus 

38 Op. cit., p. 25. 


frappant, aura suppose cette circonstance ou se montrent 
tout a la fois son ignorance et sa fraude."^^ 

Saint Odile was cured of blindness by baptism. The 
legend adds that the saint was blinded by "la folle super- 
stition des Gentils."^" Again: "Saint Vincent Ferrier 
rapporte en outre un miracle bien ridicule dont on gros- 
sissait encore de son temps toute cette fable des larrons. 
D'apres ce theologien, le bon larron Dismas fut gueri 
de son aveuglement par la lumiere, que I'ombre du Sei- 
gneur porta sur lui. Pierre Damien attribue simplement 
la conversion de ce meme Dismas a une priere de la 
Vierge, qui reconnut en lui un de ceux entre les mains 
desquels elle etait tombee en allant en figypte. II est 
aise de voir que le fait rapporte par Saint Vincent Fer- 
rier, doit sa naissance a la double acception du mot lu- 
miere, mot qui a ete pris du sens figure au sens physique."*^ 

A similar confusion is seen in the Bohairic accounts 
of The Falling Asleep of Mary. When the Apostles were 
taking the body of IMary to burial, they were attacked by 
the Jews, who wished to burn the body : 

"And the lawless Jews, when they approached the bier, a mist 
and a darkness came upon them; they became blind, and there 
was no one to lead them by the hand . . . even as the Holy 
Ghost said by the mouth of David the prophet in the eighty-first 
Psalm, 'They knew not, neither did they understand; they go in 
darkness' . . . Then they cried out, saying, woe to us, O 
our Master Christ, for we have sinned against heaven, and 
before thee. Forgive us, for we are children of Abraham. It 
Thou givest us the light of our eyes, we will know the glory ot 
Thy Godhead, and we will believe on Thee and on Thy virgin 
mother; for she is our sister. Now when they said these things, 

39 Essai sur les Lcgendes Pieuses du Moyen Age, pp. 154, 155. 

40 Ibid., p. 156. 

41 Ibid., p. 290. 


Christ was moved unto compassion for them, and set them free 
from their blindness and their error."42 

The tendency in the Middle Ages was to make all sym- 
bolical representation real and literal. This was espe- 
cially true of the Passion. The theological idea that no 
drop of the sacred blood was lost is shown in the pictures 
of the time by angels holding cups under the wounds. 
The idea that Christ overcame death may likewise be indi- 
cated by the representation of a skull at the foot of the 

This same effort to make the symbolical tangible is 
shown in the change of qualities to people. "Le double 
sens d'un nom a souvent suffi. Ne penetrant jamais au 
fond de la signification d'un mot, le peuple s'est souvent 
arrete a sa signification apparente et les legendes nees 
de ces malentendus sont sans nombre. II suffit de citer 
sainte Sophie, sainte Foy, sainte Esperance et sainte 
Charite qui, de vertues abstraites, sont devenues des 
saintes reelles. . . . L'eglise de S. Sophie fut con- 
sacree par Constantin a la sagesse divine . . . Mais le 
peuple en fit une sainte et Constantinople pretendait en 
posseder le tombeau : 

A la tombe saincte Souphye 

Ki fu virgene de bonne vie. {Roman de Mahomet) 

Le nom de S. Luce est forme du mot lux, lumiere, et oeil 

42 Forbes Robinson, Coptic Apocryphal Gospels, Texts and Stud- 
ies, vol. IV (1896), 119. From MS Vat. LXI. Robinson does 
not date the MS. He says the colophon following this piece gives 
the year 678 of the martyrs, but this date may belong to what 
follows instead of to what precedes. The other versions are 
printed from MSS that he does not date earlier than the tenth 

43 Cf. Maury, op. cit., p. 289. 


dans le style poetique. Cette etymologie explique pour- 
quoi la croyance populaire disait qu'on avoit dans son 
martjre brule les yeux a cette sainte et pourquoi on 
I'invoquait pour les maux d'yeux."** 

From tkese examples, it is easy to see how frequently 
in the case of a saint, physical blindness was established 
on no better evidence than that he had passed from dark- 
ness to light upon his conversion to belief in Christ. 
When one considers these specific illustrations of change 
from spiritual to physical blindness, in the light of the 
general tendency of the Middle Ages to make everything 
objective, to leave nothing without literal presentation, 
it is no longer difficult to account for the blindness of 

The healing of Longinus by blood is likewise not "with- 
out parallel. Blindness was often healed by blood. In 
one of the stories in the Seven Sages of Rome (the tale of 
Sapientes) the king was blinded by heaven, in punishment 
for the bad government of the seven sages. By the advice 
of a child, the king decapitated the seven sages and re- 
gained his sight.*^ Saint Perpetua was healed of blind- 
ness by the blood of Paul. Saint Christopher blinded the 
judge who was causing his suffering by miraculously turn- 
ing the arrow. The judge, follomng the advice of Chris- 
topher, anointed his eye with the blood shed by the martyr 
at the time of his death,*® was cured and became a Chris- 
tian.*^ In Lovelich's History of the Holy Grail/^ N^a- 

44 Ibid., p. 300. 

45 In the Mid. Engl, metrical version, vv. 2579-2774, Ed. K. 
Campbell, Seven Sages of Rome, 1907, pp. 88 ff. Cf. Campbell's 
remarks on this tale, p. c-ci. 

46 Lipsius and Bonnet, op. cit., p. 213 ff. 

4TFurnivall, Lives of the Saints, Trans. Phil. Soc. 1858, p. 65. 
iSEETS, 1874, bk. II, ch. XVII, 218. 


sciens looked on the Grail and was struck blind. He had 
his sight restored to him bj anointing his eyes with the 
blood of the lance which had been in the side of Joseph of 

The idea of the efficacy of blood is a very old one. 
Cnniont says: "The barbarous custom of allowing the 
blood of a victim slaughtered on a latticed platform to 
fall down upon the mystic lying in a pit below, was prob- 
ably practiced in Asia from time immemorial. Accord- 
ing to a widespread notion among primitive peoples, the 
blood is the vehicle of the vital energy, and the person 
who poured it upon his body and moistened his tongue 
with it, believed that he was thereby endowed with the 
courage and strength of the slaughtered animal.^" 

The legend of Longinus is then, beyond question, fic- 
titious. Whether the name Longinus ultimately attached 
to the soldier connected with the crucifixion was bor- 
rowed from the soldier converted by Paul or not, it was 
evidently affected by its supposed derivation and so be- 
came permanent. The other facts of his story, includ- 
ing his blindness and his miraculous healing, are to be 
explained by the ordinary mediseval processes of narra- 
tive accretion. 

49 other ailments besides blindness were healed by blood. 
Compare the well-known healing of the leprosy of Amiloun by the 
blood of the children of Amis (.Altengl. Bibl. II, vv. 2221 ff.), 
which goes back ultimately to a story told of the Emperor Con- 
stantine, in the Acta 8. Sylvestri (cf. Bollinger, Die Papst Fabeln 
des Mittelalters, p. 53 ff.) Constantine, stricken with leprosy, in 
order to be cured, must bathe in a pool filled with the blood 
of children. He gives up this proposed cure and is baptized un- 
der Bishop Silvester instead. The Acta Sylvestri is first men- 
tioned in the Gelasian Decretal De libris recipiendis et non re- 
cipiendis (492-496 A. D.) 

50 The Mysteries of Mithra, trans, by T. J. McCormack, 1903, 
p. 180. 



The history of Longinus in art,^ more definitely in some 
respects than the literature of the period, shows the hold 
which his story had on the mediasval imagination. Be- 
fore the fourth century there is no mention in litera- 
ture, it will be recalled, of the name of the spearman 
who pierced the side of Christ. In the group of martyr- 
ologies belonging to the eighth and ninth centuries the 
incident of the blindness is not included in the story ; nor 
even in the later Bollandist version is it mentioned. Still 
more surprising is it to find the Legenda Aurea, as late as 
the thirteenth century, referring to the blindness with 
some reservation. Judged by its literature, clearly the 
Church was slow to add this element to the story. In 
early Christian art, on the other hand, the blindness of 
Longinus and his miraculous healing is used to show the 
great mercy of the Saviour, certainly not later than the 
eighth or ninth century, and perhaps earlier. 

Of the great influence of the Passion on the mediaeval 
imagination, fimile Male says, "II faut arriver a la 
Passion pour rencontrer la legende. Comment etit-il pu 
en etre autrement? Les siecles mystiques, le XIP et le 
XIII®, reverent sans cesse au drame inoui. Cette mort 

1 Kroner, op. cit., p. 34, has the following to say of Longinus's 
connection with art: "Auch giebt es noch eine Menge allerdings 
schon alterer Gemalde, die Christus am Kreuze darstellen, aur 
denen man einen Soldaten sieht, der eine Lanze im Arme halt, 
auf den Knieen liegt und betet; an der Lanze klebt Blut, — offen- 
bar soil diese Person den hi. Longinus vorstellen, der dem Herrn 
fiir seine Bekehrung dankt." 



d'un Dieu, ce mystere des mysteres, c'est le fond, c'est 
I'aijae meme de I'art du mojeai age. La croix, alors, est 
partout et jusque dans le plan symbolique de la cathedrale, 
*La vie,' dit magnifiquement Albert le Grand^ n'est que 
I'onibre que projette la croix de Jesus-Christ : hors de cette 
ombre, il n'y a que mort."^ Long before the twelfth cen- 
tury the Crucifixion was a fruitful subject for art. First 
treated in the East, the Passion was depicted in every de- 
tail by the art of the time. The Eastern Christians dwelt 
on the physical suffering of Jesus. He was to them a liv- 
ing sacrifice; while yet alive he shed his blood for the 
redemption of sinners. The belief that Christ was still 
living when his side was pierced is shown, in all the 
early representations of the crucifixion, by his open eyes. 
This belief made the piercing and the instrument used 
in this last act of the sacrifice of supreme importance. 
So Longinus with his spear was never omitted in the pre- 
sentation of the subject. 

The first example of what ReiP makes the second East- 
em type of the crucifixion in art is found on a Syrian 
silver platter of the fifth or sixth century. In this, 
Christ, with wide open eyes, is in the center of the group. 
The two thieves appear on either side of the cross under 
the outstretched arms of the crucified. The spear-bearer 
is piercing the left side of Jesus ; the sponge^bearer stands 

2 fi. Male, UArt religieux du XIII Sidcle en France, Paris, 1902, 
p. 259 ff. 

3 J. Reil, Die Frilhchristlichen Darstellungen der Kreuzigung 
Christi. (Stud, iiber Christ Denkmdler. J. Ficker) Leipzig, 1904. 
Reil, op. cit., p. 36, quotes from the Byzantine Manual PMles 
(1280-1350) : "Der Maler hat Jesus an das Kreuz gehangt. Warum 
malst du ihn nicht geradezu als Gott? Die Gestalten der Leiber 
habe ich gelernt und kenne ich, aber Gott zu malen, sagt er, das 
1st nicht moglich." 


on the right. Two "mora" players are at the base of 
the cross.* 

The same type is illustrated by the famous crucifixion 
in the Syriac Gospels of Rabula, found in the Lauren- 
tian Library in Florence, and usually dated 586.^ There 
is some question as to this date. Kraus says "das Datum 
ist indes jiingst angefochten worden;'"' but Reil thinks 
it a not impossible composition for the sixth century.^ 
In this too the spearman and the sponge-bearer stand 
at either side of the cross. The spear this time is thrust 
into the right side of the Saviour. Over the soldier is 
the name AOriNOS. 

Exactly the same grouping is seen for the first time 
in the West in a painting of the second half of the eighth 
century^ in a chapel of the Roman Saint Maria An- 
tiqua — a church created out of the library connected with 
the temple of Augustus, which was excavated and care- 
fully restored in 1900-1901.^ "In the niche over the 
altar," says Hiilsen, "is a remarkably well preserved pic- 
ture of the crucifixion (fig. 98, p. 175) : the Sav- 
iour, clothed in a long greyish-blue colobium, has his 
eyes open and appears to be alive, although the soldier 
(Longinus) has already pierced his side. To the right 

^ Ibid., pp. 64 ff.; cf. fig. 3 Syrischer Silberteller aus dem gou- 
vernement Perm. 

s Smith and Cheatham, Diet. Christ Antiq; cf. also E. L. Cutts, 
Hist. Early Christ. Art, p. 201; cf. Assemani, Cat. Bibl. Medic. 
Florence, p. 1742, tav. XXII. 

6 F. X. Kraus, Oeschichte d. christl. Kunst, I, 174. 

T Reil, op. cit., p. 70 "(Speertrager und Schwammhalter, Mora 
spielende Soldaten) sind zweifellos syrischer Herkunft, und ihr 
Auftreten im 6. Jahrhundert ist wahi'scheinlich." 

8 Reil, op. cit., p. 75. 

9 Chr. Hiilsen, The Roman Forum, trans. J. B. Carter, 1906, 
p. 164. 


and the left of the cross, are Mary and John, and be- 
tween John and the cross is another soldier with the 
sponge and the vessel of vinegar; over the arms of the 
cross are the sun and the moon hiding their light. The 
composition bears a strong resemblance to a mosaic, now 
destroyed, from the chapel of John VII in St. Peter's 
(fragments in the Grottos of the Vatican)."^" In the re- 
production, the names Sea. Maria, 8cs. loannes, and 
Longinus appear. Reil adds more details: "Der Speer- 
trager, durch die Beischrift (Longinus) deutlich gekenn- 
zeichnet, ist eine bartige, mit griinem und auf der Brust 
goldverziertem Warns bekleidete Figur. Ein Schwert 
hangt an seiner Linken. Er steht halbseitwarts nach 
hinten und stosst mit beiden Handen die Lanze in Christi 
rechte Brust, aus welcher ihm Blutstrahlen ins Gesicht 
springen."^^ Indeed Keil sees in this blood streaming into 
the face of Longinus, indication of recognition of his 
blindness by tlie artist. ''Entstromendes Blut haben erst 
die Bilder in Maria Antiqua und S. Giovanni e Paolo 
abzubilden gewagt. Auch hier halfen andere Motive, 
asetischen Wider willen zu iiberwinden. Die Hinzufii- 
gung des Namens Longinus im Bilde von S. Maria An- 
tiqua und die Kopfhaltung des Speertragers hier \\de in 
S. Giovanni e Paolo, durch welche das Blut Christi sein 
Gesicht treffen muss, beweisen, dass die um seine Per- 
son gebildeten Legenden, hier insbesondere die Heilung 
des blinden Longinus durch die Christi Seite entstromen- 
den Bluts-tropfen, ins Bild eingedrungen sind."^^ 

Whether the artists in the cases just mentioned in- 
tended to represent Longinus's blindness or not, is per- 

lo/fttd., pp. 175-176. 

11 Reil, op. cit., p. 77. 

12 Reil, op. cit., p. 90. 


haps to be questioned. The reference, however, soon be- 
comes unmistakable. J. R. Allen, speaking of Irish 
crosses, says: "The representations of the crucifixion 
upon the Irish crosses were probably copied from the 
illuminations of the Celtic MSS, which, in their turn, 
were derived from the Byzantine or Greek MSS."^^ In 
this Irish type of crucifixion, he notes, "the eyes are 
shown open. ... As a rule, the only actors in the 
scene of the crucifixion, as treated in Irish art, are the 
two soldiers, one piercing our Lord's side with a spear, 
and the other offering Him a sponge, or cup, shaped like 
a crescent, filled with vinegar, at the end of a reed."^* 
Irish crucifixions, following the Eastern type, are nu- 
merous in MSS and on crosses. The most interesting of 
these is a miniature in the St. Gall Gospels (no. 51), 
a MS of the ninth centuiy,^^ which shows Longinus 
piercing the left side of Christ. In this representation 
the blindness of Longinus and the miraculous restoration 
of his sight is indicated unmistakably by a zig-zag line of 
blood — the line in the MS is red — drawn from the side of 
Christ where the point of the spear still rests, to the eyes 
of Longinus. 

It may not be amiss to enumerate still other manu- 
script illuminations that deal with the story of Longi- 
nus, some of which represent his blindness. These illus- 

13 J, R. Allen, Christian Symbolism in Great Britain and Ire- 
land, 1887, p. 142. 

14 Ibid., pp. 144, ff. 

^5 Ibid., fig. 36. Cf. F. Keller, Bilder und Schriftziige in dem 
irischen MSS der sehweizerischen Bibliotheken, PL V; Longinus 
pierces the right side of Jesus. The whole picture is reversed. 
Cf. also Westwood, Facsimiles of Miniatures and Ornaments of 
Irish and Anglo-Saxon MSS, 1868, pi. 28, codex no. 1395 (ninth 


trations are often found in the Passions, or Hours of the 
Cross, under the hour of None. 

A manuscript Horae in H. Yates Thompson's collec- 
tion (MS 59, fol. 37'') contains an illumination which is 
thus described : "At the foot of the cross, kneeling on one 
knee and spearing the Saviour's side, is the soldier Lon- 
ginus, represented as an old man with white hair, wearing 
a long open-sleeved robe and a full head-dress hanging 
down the back of the head ; his face is upturned, and with 
his left hand he points to his right eye, which is closed, as 
if imploring the Saviour for restoration."^® 

Another of the Horae, in the same collection, which also 
represents the blindness, is MS 75, fol. 113. Longinus 
kneels to the left and points tO' his eye, while he pierces 
Christ's side with a spear. To the right is the centurion 
in Roman armour.^^ In MS 85, fol. 61, Longinus, in 
the background to the left, pierces the side of Christ and 
points to his eye.^* 

In an illustration of the crucifixion found in the 
British Museum, Royal MS 19 C I, fol. 119, Longinus, 
with a spear, appears on the left. He points to his eye.^® 

Also showing the blindness, is an illustration found 
in the magnificently ornamented Trinity College Horae, 
B. 11, 31, 32 (James 269, 270), of French execution. 
The catalogue description is as follows : "The side pierced 
and the sponge offered. Longinus is blind. The virgin 

16 James's Catalogue of Yates Thompson's MSS, p. 86. Horae 
of 'Elysabeth the Quene,' date c. 1400-1415. 

T^T Ibid., p. 173, Horae of Jeanne II, Queen of Navarre, four- 
teenth century. 

^sibid., p. 173, Horae of Admiral Prigent de Coctivy. Before 

19 A southern French Breviaire d" Amour of the fourteenth 


swoons. The tMeves are bound, not nailed to their crosses. 
The bad one has back to Christ." 

In ivories, Longinus, of course, is seen frequently. Two 
examples in the Maskell collection, British Museum, may 
be noted. The first is found in a panel of a Carlovingian 
book cover, of the ninth century ; Longinus and the sponge- 
bearer appear on the right and the left of Jesus. The 
other is in a German crucifixion of the eleventh cen- 
tury: Longinus is sho^\Ti on the left^ kneeling with up- 
lifted, clasped hands, his spear on the ground at his side, 
his eyes open, his face uplifted; the sponge-bearer is on 
the opposite side; Mary and John stand opposite each 
other, and the two thieves are similarly placed. In the 
Sneyd collection, also in the British Museum, there is a 
Ehenish panel of the eleventh century, which is similar 
to the Carlovingian panel noted above. 

Other representations that are somewhat different are 
found as follows: In Bodleian MS, Liturgical 334, fol. 
3*^, there is an old fifteenth century print of the cruci- 
fixion colored by hand. Mary and John stand opposite 
each other in the foreground. Just behind Mary, with 
pink robe and green hat, stands Longinus with spear di- 
rected toward the right side of Christ. An angel just 
above holds cups under the right hand and the wound 
in the side of Christ, to catch the blood. A similar angel 
catches the blood from the left hand.^" 

In Trinity College, Cambridge, MS, B 10, 12 (James 
223), of the fifteenth century, Longinus is shown old and 
bearded, in a red turban. The body of Christ is bleed- 
ing in numerous places from the flagellation. 

20 Cf. W. de Grey Birch and H. Jenner, Early Drawings and 
Illuminations in British Museum. 


In Britisli Museum Eoyal MS, 20 D VI, f. 46^ of 
the thirteenth century, Longinus stands by two falling 
columns and idols, on a background of polished gold. 
Longinus is clad in a red tunic and green cap, and holds 
a large axe. 

Different from any other I have seen is the illustration 
in another Trinity College Horae, B. 11, 7 (James 246), 
no. 57, Vespers: "The Virgin swoons on the left, John 
supports her, and the Magdalen stands behind her. Lon- 
ginus kneels with the spear; the centurion, ruler and 
soldiers appear on the right. On Longinus's robe is the 
word amor, and on that of the centurion, durant; on the 
ruler's vere. On the ground is written: 'Misericordia 
et Veritas obuiauerunt sibi ; Justicia et pax osculate 
sunt.' " 

More interesting still are the representations of the 
story found on monuments and in buildings, in places 
frequented by all classes of people, and consequently 
making wider appeal than illuminations in manuscripts 
could. There are a number of these illustrations of the 
legend in England. Some of them are: A crucifixion 
with the two thieves, the spearman, (but no spongec 
bearer) on the font at Lenton, ITotts. f^ another on the 
shaft of the jamb of the ISTorman doorway at Dudding- 
stone, near Edinborough, with the sponge-bearer, Longi- 
nus, and a bird ; on Moone Abbey Cross ;^^ on a slab built 
into the walls of the Saxon Church at Daglingworth 
(eleventh century ?) ;" on a cross at Spital, Hexliam, 
iNTorthumberland, a soldier with his lance on the right 

21 J. R. Allen, op. cit., fig. 112. 

22 lud., fig. 69. 
2S Ibid., fig. 41. 


of Jesus ;^* on a cross at Aycliffe, Durham ;^^ on a cross 
at. Alnmouth, J^orthumberland.^'' The last two have 
been considered as belonging perhaps to the eighth cen- 
tury. Longinus appears also on the roodscreen of Suf- 
field church,^^ In the east window of St. Peter's, Man- 
croft, Norwich,^* Longinus is shown with a spear in one 
hand, pointing to his eye with the other, ^^ 

It is unnecessary here to speak of more modern uses 
of Longinus in art. His position as the patron saint of 
Mantua^" has made him a subject of some of Mantegna's 
best known paintings.^^ He appears in Kuben's Ant- 
werp Crucifixion, and elsewhere. Suffice it to say that 

24 J. Stuart, Sculptured Stones of Scotland, pi. 88. 

25 iMd., pi. 90. 

26 Ibid., pi. 117. 

27 F. C. Husenbeth, Emhlems of Saints: by which they are dis- 
tinguished in works of art, 1882, p. 131. 

28 IMd., p. 131. 

29 No attempt has been made to make these representations of 
Longinus in art exhaustive. Many other examples are accessible. 
I have merely tried to show that the story of Longinus was popu- 
lar in the art of the Middle Ages, and so of influence. 

30 According to tradition, Mantua possesses the body of St. 
Longinus, and drops of the blood of Christ brought by Longinus 
to the city. In the history of Longinus given in the Petits Bol- 
landistes Vies des Saints, it is stated: "Le reliquaire du saint 
sang figure sur plusieurs monnaies anciennes de la cite de Man- 
toue." ... St. Longinus appears with "reliquaire" and drops 
of blood in a picture in the Louvre, by Giulio Romano. Cf. 
the engraved title page of La Vita dis Longino Martire Cavalier 
Mantoana, Girolano Magagnati, 1605. S. Longinus stands on one 
side and S. Barbara on the other. The vessel containing the 
sacred blood is in the center, and Mantua is below. Longinus is 
shown with his spear in his hand, his helmet and armor at his 
feet. The usual belief is (cf. Bollandists) that the Mantuan story 
did not exist until 804, when a small vase of lead was found. 
Some time after a body was also found, but there was nothing to 
indicate that it was the body of Longinus. 

F. Nodari attempted in 1899, to restore favor to the idea that 


art shows rather more clearly than literature just how 
his legend travelled from one part of the world to an- 
other. The earliest appearance of the Longinus story 
in art was in Syria. From there it seems to have trav- 
elled to Rome, and probably directly also to Ireland. 
Reil says: "Dass gerade die Irlander dem Bilde des 
Gekreuzigten unter den germanischen und keltischen 
Volkern, die samtlich gleiches Interesse an dem helden- 
haft fiir seine Mannen sterbenden Christus hatten, zu- 
meist Eingang verschafften liegt an ihrem Wandertriebe 
und Missionseifer."^^ And again, "Dazu war die direkte 
Verbindung Irlands im 8. und 9. Jahrhundert mit dem 
Osten lebhaft. Wie von iiberall her, so wanderte man 

S. Longinus preached the faith and suffered martyrdom in Man- 
tua: he tried to show that this belief extended back of the dis- 
covery of the relics in 804. In criticism of this work in Analecta 
Bollandiana, tom. XIX (1900), 46, the author says in part: "A 
partir du IXe si&cle surtout les Revelations et les Inventions se 
multiplient d'une fagon inqui6tante et am§nent au jour des reli- 
ques que I'antiquite avait toujours ignorees, qu'elle aurait meme 
repouss6es avec horreur, tant I'imagination surexcitSe se donne 
de license." 

31 Woltmann-Woermann, Hist, of Painting (tr. C. Bell) II, 376. 
At Mantua, by Mantegna, "Christ rising from the grave, with SS. 
Andrew and Longinus, the patron saints of Mantua, on either hand." 
Cf. Kristeller, Mantegna, pp. 386, 400, "We would be almost 
tempted to see in this composition [The Risen Christ between SS. 
Andrew and Longinus] the design for a group of statuary, per- 
haps for the high altar of S. Andrea in Mantua, which was raised 
above the most sacred relic possessed by the city, the 'prezio- 
sissimo sangue di Cristo.' Longinus, who is supposed to have 
brought this relic to Mantua, and Andrea, were the especial pa- 
tron saints of the town, and particularly of the church of S. 
Andrea." Cf. also the Madonna della Vittoria of Mantegna, now 
in the Louvre. 

32 Reil, op. cit., p. 114. Cf . D. Hyde, A Literary History of Ire- 
land, 1903, pp. 453, 454, who says of Irish art, that it is not Irish, 
but Eastern. He thinks that so-called Irish patterns started 
from Byzantium, spread over Dalmatia and North Italy, and 
finally found their way into Ireland. 


auch voni aussersten Westen nach. Palastina. Irland- 
ische Pilger besuchten die heiligeii Statten. Adamnan. 
der Abt von Hj, schrieb um 670 seine Reisenotizen ; 
Marcellus und Moengal kamen von einer Palestinareise, 
als sie sieh in St. Gallen niederliessen. Aegjptische und 
andere auswartige Moncbe pilgerten nack Irland und 
wurden hier bestattet, etc."^^ Adamnan did not, accord- 
ing to Stokes, visit Palestine. He saw and used Arculf s 
notes and took from Arculf bis description of the coun- 

It has already been noted that Allen considers Irish 
art Oriental in character, thus bearing out in a measure 
Reil's conclusions. Zimmer, though chiefly concerned 
with the diffusion of Irish culture, rather than with its 
sources, refers to Ireland and Spain as the two countries 
offering an asylum to Greco-Roman learning in the sev- 
enth century. ^^ Stokes also calls attention to the fact 
that numerous Eastern ecclesiastics found refuge in Ire- 
land in the eighth century.^® Irish monasticism, peculi- 
arities of church service, art, architecture, are now traced 
to Oriental sources. 

The history of Longinus in art is interesting for still 
another reason. It explains, I think, one of the most 
puzzling points in the evolution of the legend. The 
church accounts, it will be remembered, gave no sugges- 
tion as to why the centurion was more or less entirely su- 
perseded in popular favor by the soldier. As the Cru- 
cifixion came to be the dominant inspiration of art, and 

33Reil, op. cit., p. 114. 

34 G. T. Stokes, Ireland and the Celtic Church, p. 99. 

35 H. Zimmer, Irish Element in Mediaeval Culture, trans, by 
J. L. Edwards, p. 11. 

36 G. T. Stokes, op. cit., p. 188. 


since, in the East especially, it kept before the minds of 
the people the idea of the physical suffering of Christ on 
the cross, the spearman, as the human instrument of this 
torture, the person most closely associated with the shed- 
ding of the blood of the living Saviour, naturally became 
more and more prominent. The role of the centurion, on 
the other hand, was less dramatic and would make far 
less appeal to the emotions. Moreover, just the familiar- 
ity with the soldier that would come from seeing him rep- 
resented everywhere in the art of the time, would result 
finally in impressing his story much more forcibly on the 
public than the tale of the centurion, which appeared far 
less frequently. 



The history of the lance in the liturgy lies so close to 
its history as a relic, that in some ways it seems unwise 
to separate the consideration of the two. Its growing 
importance as a relic increased, of course, its liturgical 
value; and, on the other hand, the prominence of the 
lance in the most solemn service of the Greek Church 
greatly enhanced the value, as a relic, of the lance already 
honored independently as an instrument used in the cru- 
cifixion itself. Since, however, the two uses have led to 
separate literary development — the lance as a relic as- 
sociating itself with the romances which deal with the 
crusades, and the lance of the mass connecting with the 
spear of the Grail romances — it vnll be convenient to 
consider first, the lance as a relic, and, second, the re- 
lation of Longinus and his lance to the liturgy. 

§1. The Lance as a Sacked Relic 

The earliest reference I have found to the history of 
the lance used at the cross is that in the Departure of 
My Lady Mary: 

"In the year 345 (Greek era, A. D. 33 or 34) ... my Lady Mary 
came forth from her house, and went to the tomb of the Messiah. 
. . . But the Jews, as soon as the Messiah was dead, closed the 
tomb. . . . And the Jews took the cross of our Lord, and the other 
two crosses, and the spear with which our Saviour had been 



pierced, and the nails which they had fixed in his hands and feet, 
and the robes of mockery which he had worn, and hid them."i 

In a Breviarius de Hierosolyma, which dates from 
about 530, there is a description of the Basilica of 
Constantine in Jerusalem: "Et est in medio civita- 
tis basilica ilia, ubi est lanoea, unde percussus est 
Dominus, et de ipsa facta est crux, et lucet in nocte 
sicut sol in virtute diei."^ In 570, Antony, the martyr, 
saw the lance in the basilica of Sion.^ Arculf, about 
670, also testifies that he saw the spear with which the sol- 
dier pierced the side of Christ. According to him the 
spear was fixed in a wooden cross in the portico of Con- 
stantine's basilica, its shaft being broken into two parts. 
He states that the whole city of Jerusalem resorted to 
the basilica in order to kiss and venerate the spear.* 

Bede gives testimony as to the lance in his time: 
"Lancea militis inserta habetur in cruce lignea in por- 
ticu martyrii, cujus hastile in duas intercisum partes, a 
tota veneratur civitate."" 

1 W. Cureton, Ancient Syriac Documents (from the year after 
our Lord's Ascension to the beginning of the fourth century). 
Reprinted in Journal of Sacred Literature, 4th ser. Ill, 1865, 
p. 133. 

2 Pilgrim Text Soc. I, 26; Tobler and Molinier, Itinera Hieroso- 
lyma, I, 57. An exactly similar account is found in the De terra 
Sancta, IV, of Theodosius. circa 530 (Tobler and Molinier, I, 64). 

sPilg. Text. II, 18; Tobler and Molinier, I, 126. 

4PtZ(/. Text. I, 34; Tobler and Molinier, I, 153. A very late 
pilgrim reference is interesting in this connection: The Pil- 
grimage of Sir Richard Guylforde to the Holy Land, A. D. 1506, 
Camden Sc. 1851, p. 4. "Frydaye to Labrylle, and to Lyon, where 
we taryed bothe Saterdaye and Sonday, and vysyted the relyques 
at the Yle where saint Anne lyeth and Longyous; there is also a 
cuppe of an emerawde stone whereof oure Sauyoure Crist dranke 
at his maundy." For the history of this emerald cup, see Th. 
Sterzenbach, Ursprung und Entwicklung der Sage vom heil. Oral, 
1908, pp. 28 ff. 

5 De Locis Sanctis, Giles, IV, 408. 


After this time there are varying accounts of the 
whereabouts of the lance,® imtil in 1098, the crusaders 
discovered it at Antioch/ Perhaps the most interesting 
reference to this discovery is found in the letter of the 

lords to the Pope: 

Epistola Boamundi Principis Antiochiae, Reymundi Comitis 

Sancti ^gidij, Godefredi Duels Lotharingise, Robert! Comitis 
Normanniae, Robert! Comitis Flandrensis, & Eustachi! Comitis 
Boloniae ad Urbanum II, Papam. 

Anno, 1098, 
Quare ita desolati & afflict! fuimus quod fame & alijs multis 
angustijs morientes, equos & asinos nostros famelicos interfici- 
entes mult! nostri comederunt. Sed interim clementissima miseri- 
cordia omnipotentis Dei nobis subveniente & pro nobis vigilante, 
dominicam lanceam, qua latus Jesu Christ! Longini manibus per- 
foratum fuit, sancto Andrea Apostolo cuidam famulo Dei ter reve- 
lante & ipsum locum ubi lancea jacebat demonstrante, in Ecclesia 
beati Petri Apostolorum principis invenimus. Cujus inventione & 
multis alijs divinis revelationibus ita confortati & corroboratl 
fuimus ut qui antea afflict! & timid! fueramus, tunc ad bellum 
faciendum audacissim! promptissimique, alij alios bortabamur."" 

There are two accounts of the finding of the lance by the 
pilgrims. That given by most historians follows an early 
anonymous authority: "Erat autem quidam peregrinus 
de nostro exercitu, cui nomen Petrus, cui antequam Civi- 
tatem intraremus, apparuit Sanctus Andreas apostolus, 
dicens. Quid agis, bone vir? Cui ille respondit: Tu 
quis es ? Dixit ei apostolus : Ego sum Andreas Apos- 

6 Moron! (Dizionario, XXXIX, 89 ff.) comments on Bede's testi- 
mony, and states that afterwards the Saracens invaded Jerusa- 
lem, and carried the sacred iron to Antioch and buried it. 

TFulcherius Carnotensis (1058) Historia Hierosol. Recueil des 
Eistoriens des Croisades, III, 344; cf. also H. Hagenmeyer, 
Anonymi Oesta Francorum, 1890. cap. XXVIII; cf. V. de Beau- 
vais. Spec. Historiale, lib. XXV, cap. C, De inventione lanceae 
saluatoris nostri ihesu Cristi. 

8 S. Baluzii, Miscellaneorum, Paris, 1678, I, 415. 


tolus. Agnoscas, fili, quia, dum villain intraveris, va- 
dens ad ecclesiam beati Petri, ibi invenies lanceam Salva- 
toris nostri Jesu Christi, ex qua in crucis pendens pati- 
bulo vulneratus est."^ Another quite different explana- 
tion is given in Le Chevalier au Cygne. A Christian 
slave at Antioch goes to Peter the Hermit and says: 
(1. 8173) "A ceste sainte eglise dont ichj vous devis Avoit 
moult de relicques, ce nous dist \j escrips." These relics 
include the robe of Jesus, and the lance of Longinus, which 
Helena had left there, and which had been kept in St. 
Stephens, Antioch, unknown to the Saracens. The lance 
was exhibited by Peter to Godfrey and the other cru- 
saders, and its genuineness was tested. It shone and it 
filled the place with a sweet odor. The lance was discov- 
ered at an extreme moment; the famine was so great that 
a mother devoured her child. When the sacred lance was 
taken into battle, however, victory was gained and the 
troubles of every kind were at an end.^** 

9 Anonymi Gesta Francorum, ed. H. Hagenmeyer, Heidelberg, 
1890, cap. XXV, year 1098. 

10 De Reiffenberg, Le Chevalier au Cygne et Oodefroid de Bouil- 
lon, II, LXXX. Moroni, Dizionario di Erudizione Storico-Ecclesi- 
astica, says that after tlie finding of the Lance by the Crusaders, 
it was deposited in Constantinople, and adds that, according to 
some authorities, it was there in the sixth century. Rohault de 
Fleury, M^moire sur les Instruments de la Passion, Paris, 1870, 
p. 274, has also traced the history of the relic. According to him, 
in 1243, Baldwin sent the point to St. Louis with other relics that 
he had in trust from the Venetians. A part was sent in 1492 by 
Bajazet, emperor of the Turks, to Innocent VIII, who placed it in 
St. Peter's at Rome. Benoit XIV had made a piece like the point 
at Paris, and found that it fitted the part in Rome. Fleury said 
he had not been able to see the spear at St. Peter's. The Sainte- 
Chapelle possessed the point in 1793, and it was removed from 
there to the Bibl. Nat. ; but it was not, he asserted, at the time he 
was writing, at either place. Cf. Du Cange, suJ) voce, "Lancea, 
Caroli Magni." 



The lance of the crucifixion held prominent place 
among the relics which Charlemagne is said to have 
brought back with him from his visit to Constantinople. 
P. Meyer" discussing these says: "D'apres une tradition 
constatee dans la Chanson du Pelerinage de Charle- 
magne, le grand empereur aurait rapporte de Constanti- 
nople un des clous de la Crucifixion, en meme temps que 
d'autres reliques." In the Karlamagnus-saga of the 
twelfth century, Charles visits the tomb of Christ, re- 
turns by Constantinople, and aids the king of the Greeks 
against the Infidels. The Greek king offers to become 
the vassal of Charles; but Charles refuses to accept his 
offer, and asks only for relics. He is given the "suaire" 
the point of the lance of the crucifixion and the lance of 
St. Mercure. He places the relics in different French 
cities, and has the lance point set in the hilt of his sword. 
It is named from that time "Joyeuse."^^ 

The lance is included by William of Malmesbury in 
an account he gives of the presents sent by Hugh of 
France to Athelstan, whose sister he desired in mar- 

"Ensem Constantini magni, in quo litteris aureis nomen an- 
tiqui possessoris legebatur; in capulo quoque super crassas auri 
laminas clavum ferreum affixum cerneres, unum ex quatuor quos 
Judaica f actio Dominici corporis aptarat supplicio: lanceam Ca- 
roli magni, quam imperator invictissimus, contra Saracenos exer- 
citum ducens, siquando in hostem vibrabat, nunquam nisi victor 
abibat; ferebatur eadem esse quae, Dominico lateri centurionis 

11 La Chanson des Clowechons, Romania, XXXIV, 96. 

12 G. Paris, Bibl. de VEcole des Chartes, XXV, 102. Cf. Gautier. 
Epopees Franc. HI, 292. In the Iter Jerusol. eleventh century, 
Epopees Franc. Ill, 288, the relics given Charl. are: crown, nail, 
piece of the wood of the cross, 'suaire' (robe, or shroud of Jesus), 
the chemise of the virgin, the ceinture that held our Lord in his 
cradle, and the arm of Simeon. 


manu impacta, pretiosi vulneris hiatu Paradisum miseris mortall- 
bus aperuit."i3 

Among the miraculous properties connected with such a 
relic, one would certainly expect to find the power of heal- 
ing. And in Clement Brentano's Passion de Notre Sei- 
gneur' Jesus Christ this property is explicitly ascribed to 
the lance. Longinus, we are told, in the course of his 
ministry converted many and "guerissait des malades en 
leur faisant toucher un morceau de la sainte lance qu'iJ 
portait avec lui,"^* Brentano's Passion, it is true, is of 
late date, but in this matter it may easily reflect earlier 

According to Moroni, the sacred lance is still preserved 
at Rome ; there is, however, the additional statement by 
the same authority that a similar lance is preserved at 
Prague, and another in ISTorimbiga.^® 

The lance, then, was in the Middle Ages, according 
to tradition, an object of veneration and reverence — one 
of the most prized of the cruciiixion relics. It had 
miraculous qualities ; it shone by night as the sun shines 
by day: it blazed when proof of its authenticity was 
needed ; it healed the sick. It was identified with the 
marvellous weapons of kings; it brought victory in bat- 
tle and help in trouble. 

i3Z)e Gesta Regum Anglorum, Rolls Series, 1887, 1, 150. Cf. 
Gervase of Canterbury, Rolls Series, 1880, II, 47, and Chron. 
Henry Knighton, Rolls Series, 1889, I, 20. 

14 La Passion de notre Seigneur, d'aprgs les visions d'Anne 
Catherine Emmerich, tr. de I'allemand, quoted by I'AbbS Profillet, 
Les Saints Militaires, Paris, 1891. 

15 S. C. Malan, Original Documents of Coptic Church, 1873, p. 10, 
adds yet another to the places that claim possession of the lance 
of Longinus. "His spear-head, without the shaft, is one of the 
relics enshrined in the Cathedral of Etchmiadziu, where it was 
shown me not long ago." 



The tendency to dwell upon the physical sufferings of 
Jesus is conspicuously illustrated, as we have seen, in 
the art of the Eastern church. The same tendency ap- 
pears also in the Oriental liturgy, and during about the 
same period, that is, from the fourth to the ninth cen- 
turies. In Sophocles's Greek lexicon of the Roman and 
Byzantine period, B. C. 146 to A. D. 1100, ^^oyxn 
is defined as follows: "A little spear with which the 
sacramental bread is pierced by the priest in commemo- 
ration of the piercing of the side of Jesus."^® This "lit- 
tle spear" assumed large importance in the ritual of the 
mass. JSTevertheless, the influence of the story of Longi- 
nus does not manifest itself in the liturgy any earlier 
than in the other records already considered. 

It is now possible to examine the liturgy of the church 
at Jerusalem as early as the fourth century.^^ From its 
general character, we should expect to find some mention, 
of Longinus and his act, the piercing of the side of 
Christ, but there is none. The fourth century, accord- 
ing to Cabrol, marked a most important transformation 
in the liturgy. Up to that time the Christians had 
usually held their religious meetings in secret. Under 
Constantino they met openly. Great churches were 
built, "on institua des processions ; les chants et les autres 
parties de I'office se developperent."^^ He adds justly: 

16 E. A. Sophocles, 1870. 

"^T Peregrinatio Silviae (Etheriae). Reprinted from Bihl. delV 
Accad. storico giuridica, IV, Rome, 1887, in Christian Worship, a 
Study of the Latin Liturgy up to the Time of Charlemagne, by L. 
Duchesne, Eng. Ed., London, 1904, App. pp. 490 ff. 

18 Les Eglises de Jerusalem au IV si^cle, 1895, p. 31. 


"L'histoire du Seigneur est rappelee, vecue a nouveau; 
c'est un drame en action, c'est presqiie, a certains mo- 
ments, mais avec un caractere plus grave, le mystere, tel 
que le mojen age le mettra en oeuvre quelques siecles 
plus tard."^' 

Especially significant is the omission of all reference 
to Longinus in that part of the Good Friday service 
which has to do with the adoration of the cross, for the 
feast of the Adoration or Exaltation of the Cross, it 
should be remembered, is the one with which Longinus 
is later associated.^" If the lance had attained any im- 
portance in the church by the fourth century, it would 
surely have found mention here among the other relics. 
The following account of the Adoration of the Cross is 
given by Silvia: 

"Et sic ponitur cathedra episcopo in Golgotha post Crucem, 
quae stat nunc; residet episcopus hie cathedra; ponitur ante eum 
mensa sublinteata; stant in giro mensa diacones; et affertur lo- 
culus argenteus deauratus in quo est lignum sanctum crucis; 
aperitur et profertur; ponitur in mensa quam lignum crucis quam 
titulus. Cum ergo positum fuerit in mensa, episcopus sedens de 
manibus suis summitatis de ligno sancto premet; diacones autem 

19 Op. cit., pp. 35, 36. 

20 Cf. ^Ifric's sermon on the Exaltation of the Cross, p. 83 ff., 
the first vernacular reference to Longinus in English literature. 
The feast of the 'Exaltation* was either the same as the 'Adora- 
tion,' or early became fused with it. S. C. Malan, Hist, of Copts 
and their Church, p. 38, says the origin of the 'Exaltation of the 
Cross' was the appearance of the cross to Constantine. The feast 
is celebrated on the 14 or 15 Sept. Duchesne, Origines du culte 
Chretien, p. 124, says that the exaltation without doubt was intro- 
duced after the recovery of the cross by Heraclius in the year 
628. On p. 263 he states that the feast of the cross, 14 Sept., is 
the anniversary of the dedication of the Constantine basilica in 
335. Attached to it is also the association of the discovery of the 
true cross. It was an occasion that drew to Jerusalem a great 
concourse of bishops, monks, and pilgrims. It lasted eight days. 


qui in giro stant custodent. Hoc autem propterea sic custoditur, 
quia consuetude est ut unus et unus omnis populus veniens, tarn 
fideles quam cathecumini, acclinant se ad mensam, osculentur 
sanctum lignum, et pertranseant. ... At ubi autem osculati 
fuerint crueem [et] pertransierint, stat diaconus, tenet anulum 
Salomonis et cornu illud de quo reges unguebantur; osculantur 
et cornu attendant et anulum.21 

!N"ot until the seventh, or eighth century, in fact, does 
the lance appear in the liturgy. It occupies an import- 
ant position in the liturgy of Saint Chrysostom, for 
■which, unfortunately, it is impossible to give an exact 
date. Swainson thinks the Mass of the Presanctified 
hardly earlier than the seventh century.^'^ This of Chry- 
sostom is a little later.^^ In the Mass of Chrysostom we 
see the attempt already spoken of, to reproduce with all 
its symbolical significance the suffering of Jesus on the 

"Deinde accipit sacerdos in sinistra manu oblationem, in dex- 
tera vero sanctam lanceam; et cum ea signum faciens supra 
sigillum oblatae, ter dicit: In memoriam Domini et Dei et Salva- 
toris nostri Jesu Christi. 

Et statim infigit sanctam lanceam in dexteram partem sigilli, 
et scindens dicit: Tamquam ovis ad occisionem ductus est. In 
sinistra similiter infigens sanctam lanceam dicit: Et sicut agnus 
sine malitia coram tondente se sine voce, sic non aperit os suum. 

In superiore autem parte sigilli infigens sanctam lanceam dicit: 
In humilitate ejus judicium ejus sublatum est. In inferiori etiam 
sigilli parte rursus infigens sanctam lanceam dicit: generationem 
ejus quis enarrabit? 

21 Duchesne, op. cit., p. 510. 

22 Swainson, The Greek Liturgies, 1884, p. xxviii. 

23 Op. cit., p. xxxvi. The Liturgy is not assigned to Chrysostom 
in the oldest Barberini MS. (Duchesne, Origines du culte chrest., 
p. 71, states that Cod. Barb. no. 77 of the eighth or ninth century 
is the oldest MS of the Byzantine Liturgy.) It was assigned to 
Chrysostom a little later. 


Diaconus vero in qualibet incisione dicit: Dominum precemur. 
Tenens autem dextera manu stolam, postea dicit diaconus: Tolle, 

Et sacerdos immittens sanctam lanceam, ex obliquo dexterae 
partis oblatae, extollit sanctum panem, sic dicens: quia tollitur 
de terra vita ejus perpetuo, nunc et semper, et in saecula saecu- 
lorum. Amen. Et ponens ipsum sublimem in sancto disco, 
postquam dixit diaconus, Immola, domine, sacerdos sacrificat ilium 
in modum crucis, dicens: Immolatur Agnus Dei, qui tollit pecca- 
tum mundi, pro mundi vita et salute. Et convertit aliam partem 
quae habet superne crucem; et dicit diaconus: Punge, domine. 

Sacerdos autem ipsum in dextera pungens cum sancta lancea 
dicit. Et unus militum lancea latus ejus aperuit; et statim exivit 
sanguis et aqua.24 

The account of the mass found in Pseudo-Germanus 
is also interesting. Here the name of Longinus appears: 

Lancea vice est ejus quae latus Domini punxit. Lancea ex- 
purgari, significat illud, 'tanquam ovis ad occisionem ductus est,' 
etc. Discus lectica est in qua corpus Domini componitur a sa- 
cerdote et diacono, qui sunt Joseph et Nicodemus . . . Vinum 
simul et aqua, sunt egressi ex latere ejus sanguis et aqua: 
quemadmodem ait propheta. Panis ei dabitur ad cibum, 
et aqua ei ad potum fidelem. Nam vice lanceae quae 
punxit Christum in cruce a Longino, est haec lancea, etc.25 

The symbolism of the mass is explained by Theodorus 
Studites : 

Nonne unguentum sanctum existimas effusum fuisse ut esset 
typus Christi? Sanctam mensam pro vivifico ipsius sepulcro? 
Sindonem quae mensae imponitur, pro sindone qua involutus 
sepulcro mandatus est? Sacram lanceam pro ea qua divinum 
ipsius latus apertum fuit? Spongiam pro ea, qua fuit potatus 
felle? Crucis imaginem pro ligno vivifico ?26 

The importance of the lance of Longinus in the liturgy 
is illustrated also by the mass of the Syrian Jacobites. 

24 Pseudo-Chrysostom, Paris, 1838, XII, 1013. 

25 Pseudo-Germanus, Migne, Patrol. Gr. 98, col. 397. 

26 Patrol. Gr. 99, col. 489. v 


It is in part similar to the mass of Clirysostom, There 
occurs also in the service this sentence: "By the nails in 
thy hands and thy feet, by the spear which pierced thy 
side, pardon me mine offences and my sins."^' 

Another striking testimony of the imposing position 
of the lance in the mass of the Eastern Church is given 
in the translation from Old-Slavonic by P. Kuvochinsky: 

"Then the Priest shall take the Bread into the left hand, and, 
holding in his right the Holy Spear, shall make therewith the 
sign of the cross above the seal on the Bread, saying: 

In remembrance of our Ood and Saviour Lord Jesus Christ 

And immediately he shall thrust the spear into the right side 
of the Seal, and as he pierceth it, shall say: 

He loas led as a sheep to the slaughter. 

And, piercing the left, he shall say: 

And as a spotless lamb before his shearers is dumb, so opened 
He not his lips. 

And piercing the top, shall say: 

In his humiliation His judgment was taken away. 

And piercing it from underneath, shall say: 

For His generation who shall declare it? 

And the Deacon, gazing reverently at the Mystic Rite, holding 
his stole in his hand, shall say at each incision: 

Let us pray to the Lord. 

While the priest thrusts the spear obliquely from below into the 
right side of the Bread, and removes the part upon which is im- 
printed the Seal, the Deacon shall say: 

Master, take it hence, for This Life is taken from the earth. 

The priest, having laid it, inverted, upon the Paten, and the 
Deacon having said: 

Master, make the sacrifice. 

He shall sacrifice it, cutting it crosswise, and say: 

Sacrificed is the Lamb of Ood who taketh away the sins of the 
world for the life of the world and its salvation. 

He shall then turn upward the other side, which beareth upon 
it the emblem of the cross, and shall pierce the right side with 
the spear, while the Deacon shall say: 

27 F. E. Brightman, Liturgies Eastern and Western, p. 107. 


Pierce, Master. 

And the Priest shall say: 

One of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear and there 
came forth blood and water, and he that saw it bare witness and 
his witness is true.^^ 

In discussing the symbolism o£ tlie liturgy, Kuvoch- 
insky notes that the entrances are very impressive : "xit the 
procession of the Lesser Entrance, the priest comes forth, 
followed by the deacon, who carries a large book of the 
Gospels typifying the teaching of our Lord." The Great 
Entrance, the carrying of the elements of the Prothesis 
to the altar, contains more that is striking: "It symbolizes 
the last Advent of Christ when he shall come with glory. 
First comes the reader bearing a high candlestick with a 
lighted candle. After this follow the deacon or deacons 
in order, symbolizing the ranks of angels. Then come 
those who bear the Holy Gifts. If there be more than 
one present, each of the rest holds a sacred object — ^the 
cross, the spoon, the spear. "^^ 

These instances of the reverence shown the lance in 
the comparatively early history of the Church, grow in 
suggestiveness in the light of the increasing importance 
of the relic in the Middle Ages, culminating in the four- 
teenth century in the "Feast of the Nails and the 

The extravagant feeling of the time endowed the lance 
with contradictory powers. On the one hand it was a 

28 The Liturgy of the Graeco-Russian Church, trans, from Old 
Slavonic by P. Kuvochinsky, London, 1909, pp. 33 £f. Cf. also 
The Office of the Prothesis, Neale, Hist, of Holy Eastern Church, 
1850, p. 344. 

29 P. Kuvochinsky, op. cit., p. xxii. 

30 Jo. Henr. a Seelen, De Festo Lanceae et Clavorum, Misc. 
Lubecae, 1734, p. 347. Cf. J. C. Thilo, Codex Apoc. Novi Test., 
note p. 587. Cf. also Mone, Lat. Hymnen des Mittelalt, I, 175. 


weapon, world-conquering, flesk-subduing, devil-banish- 
ing — an instrument of vengeance, to be used against 
those hostile to Christ. On the other, it was honored as 
a blessed deliverer, which had opened a fountain of 
grace; it was the means bj which the Church had issued 
forth from Christ's wounded side, the bride from the 
side of the bridegroom; it was also a sacrificial imple- 
ment which had wounded the heart of the Redeemer, ia 
order that the heart of the sinner might be healed. A 
fourteenth century sermon of Henricus de Hansia illus- 
trates well this somewhat complex attitude toward the 
lance : 

"Videte arma salutis, crucem, lanceam & clavos. Videte char- 
acteres vietorie, quorum contemplatione vincitur mundus, caro 
compescitur, conterretur demonium. . . . Lancea equidem aqua & 
sanguine dedicata lateris Christi, que nobis thesaurum pretiosum 
de profundo Cordis Dei effodit, que fontem gratiarum clausum 
effluere fecit, que sponsam de latere sponsi formauit, que cor vul- 
nerauit redemptoris, ut cor sanaretur peccatoris." 

"Surgite in aduersarios Christi, extrahite gladium lanceam In 
turbatores pacis, erigite hastam, vibrate lanceam defensari eccle- 
siam, que de Christi latere eflBuxit lancea perforati, eft'undite iram 
vestram, inimiciciam non in subjectos Christianos, sed in gentes, 
que Christum non nouerunt & in regna, que nomen eius non 
inuocauerunt, vestraque arma Christi ne teneatis ociosa, neque 
splendorem fulgurantis haste triumphalis Jesu Christi rubigi- 
nare permittatis etc."32 

It is possible to judge from the comment made by 
Seelen, who quotes this sermon, just how far veneration 
of the lance itself went. He attempts in every way to 
show how impious the cult of the nails and lance came 
to be. He quotes from Bishop Luitprand's account of 
Otto: "Eex sese cum omni populo lacrymas fundens 
ante victoriferos Clauos manibus Domini nostri J. C. 

32 Cf. Seelen, pp. 380-383. 


affixes, suaeque Lanciae impositos in orationem dedit, 
quantumque iusti viri tunc valeret oratio, res manifesta 
probauit, Eo namque orante quum ex suis nuUus occum- 
beret hostes sunt omnes in fugam conuersi etc.^^ And 
again, from Krantznis, who is speaking of Henry: "Sac- 
ram Lanceam venerabundus flexis genibus adomuerit."^* 
And, further, without direct quotation: "Urspergensis 
quoque in Hist. Ottonis I egregiam eius victoriam, quam 
modo memorauimus, Lanceae ab ipso adoratae refert ac- 
ceptam.^^ Seelen condemns especially the superstition 
that by worship of the lance victory is obtained,"''® and 
deroions are brouglit to nought. 

It is interesting to note other evidences of the currency 
of these beliefs about the lance in the Middle Ages. As 
a victory-bringing weapon it is identified with the mar- 
vellous weapons of heroes; as an object which gives power 
over evil spirits, it becomes important in spells and 

33 Luitprandus, Be Rebus Oestis Ottonis Magni (960-4), loc. cit., 
p. 134; cf. Seelen, 372. 

34 Krantznis, loc. cit., p. 73; cf. Seelen, 372. 

35 Seelen, p. 372. 

36 In this worship of the spear itself, there are interesting non- 
Christian parallels, which suggest that the practice was an old 
one Christianized. A. Wilder, in his edition of R. P. Knight's 
Symbolical Language of Ancient Art and Mythology, pp. 114, 115, 
gives a note on the subject. He quotes Plutarch, Romulus: "In 
Rhegium a spear was set up and worshipped as Ares, or Mars." 
Justin, Hist. XLIII, 3: "From the beginning, the ancients have 
worshipped spears as emblems of the immortal gods." "Herodo- 
tus also declares that the Scythians erect an iron scimiter as the 
effigy of Mars, and offer to it more sacrifices than to all the other 
gods of the pantheon. The Getae, Goths, Alans and Sarmatians 
also worshipped a sword, as Ammianus Marcellinus declares 
(XXXI, 2): 'Their only idea of religion is to plunge a naked 
sword into the ground, with barbarous rites, and worship it as 
Mars.' " 


charms; as a death-dealing instrument of sacrifice, it 
becomes the symbolic weapon used in the mass. 

The deed of Longinus was not only kept before the 
minds of the people of the Middle Ages by the presence 
of the lance in the mass, and by the special feast days — 
such as the "Exaltation of the Cross," and the "Feast of 
the ISTails and the Lance." They were reminded of it 
also by such prayers as this, from The Book of Nunna- 
rtiinster, which dates from the eighth century. 

(fol. 30a) De latere domini. 

O medicinae diuinae mirabilis dispensator qui tibi lancea latus 
aperire permisisti, Aperi mihi quaeso pulsanti ianuam uitae, in- 
gressusque per earn confitebor tibi per tui uulnus lateris omnium 
uitiorum meorum [fol. 30b] uulnera per misericordiae tuae medi- 
camen sana, Ne umquam indignus presumptor tui corporis et san- 
guinis reus eflBciar, Pro meritis propriis meorum peccatorum, 
Sed ut anima mea miserationum tuarum abundantia repleata, Ut 
qui mihi es pretium ipse sis et praemium, Domine Jhesu Uhristl, 

37 Printed by W. de Grey Birch, An Ancient MS of the Eighth 
or Ninth Century (Hampshire Record Society, 1889), p. 77. I do 
not know how ancient the following "parodies" to be used on 
Good Friday are: 

Ad sanctum Longinum Qui uno lanceae ictu Jesu cor, d Mariae 
animam pertransiuit. 

Ave Mariae animae, et Jesu cordis lanceator sanctissime 
Longine. Magna misericordia, mira dementia, & gratia plena 
Dominus tecum functus est. Tu ei dira lancea vulnerasti prae- 
clarum cor, & purissimam matris animam: & Ipse tibi pretioso 
sanguine sanauit caecum oculum, & faedam animam: & fecit te 
suum Eremitam, Episcopum, & Martyrem, Benedictus tu inter 
omnes Christi milites, pontifices, & confessores, & benedictus fruc- 
tus lanceae tuae Jesu ex latere emanatus, Ecclesiae nempe eximia 
Sacramenta, quae cum sanguine, & aqua ab illo exierunt. Sanc- 
tissime Longine fac ut lancea tua clauis adaperiens tatoruu the- 
sauroru ostium & gladius doloris pertransiens animam sanctae 
Mariae matris Dei, sit pro nobis peccatoribus nunc gladius doloris, 
quo ploremus scelera nostra, & passionem Domini nostri Jesu 
Christi, eiusque Matris, & in hora mortis nostrae sit clauis adape- 


The lance, it has been shown, early became important 
in the liturgy of the Eastern Church, There the whole 
passion scene was re-enacted. The sacrificial significance 
was emphasized as strongly as possible, and the ceremony 
itself made dramatic largely by the use of the lance. 
The reverence paid the lance grew until it resulted in 
open, superstitious adoration of the crucifixion relic, as 
a sacred object considered powerful and miracle work- 
ing in itself, when the whole practice was condemned by 
the Church. 

ries [sici iannas regni Caelorum, ubi sunt thesauri indificientes 
[sic]: & satiabimur gloria, & gaudiis sempiternis Amen. Ave 
Maria Parodiis, C. Tomasio, Rome, 166 [4?], p. 85. 

The above I owe to the kindness of Mr. Stephen Gaselee, Pepy- 
sian Librarian, Magdalene College, Cambridge. 


The charms with which we find the name of Longinus 
connected are another evidence of the fusion in the Mid- 
dle Ages of Christian legendary and heathen customs. 
"What maintained the use of the spell-prayer in full 
vigour throughout the earlier and mediaeval epochs of 
Christendom, even in the orthodox ritual," Famell tells us, 
"was chiefly the practice of exorcism and the belief in 
demons and demoniac possession; and the legal institu- 
tion of the ordeal contributed also to its maintenance."^ 

The spirit of the Leech Books is, however, for the most 
part, Christian. The church was hostile toward charms, 
which were thought to be connected with pagan idola- 
try — the work of evil spirits and demons. In conse- 
quence charms were met by counter charms. Invocations 
t-y spirits and the occult powers of nature were replaced 
by invocations to Christ and the saints.^ 

That charms of the same general character as these of 
the Middle Ages, are of high antiquity is shown by Baby- 
lonian and Assyrian religious literature. Professor Jas- 
trow comments on the great number of "texts containing 
formulas and directions for securing a control over the 
spirits which were supposed at all times to be able to 
exercise a certain amount of power over men."^ The 
charms, or incantations, themselves, he characterizes as 

1 Famell, The Evolution of Religion, 1905, p. 230. 

2 J. F. Payne, Eng. Medicine in A. S. Times, 1904, pp. 109, 110. 

3 Religion of Babylonia and Assyria, p. 253. 



"appeals interspersed with words of a more or less mys- 
tic character."* 

IsTotwithstanding the fact that charms are of such high 
antiquity, I have found only one English charm concern- 
ing Longinus that has come do^vn to us in Anglo-Saxon. 

Wip gestice. 

Wri]? Cristes mal and sing J>riwe J^aeron Ipis and pater noster, 
longinus miles lancea ponxit dominum et restitet sanguis et re- 
cessit dolor.o 

Perhaps the most interesting of the Longinus charms, 
because of its suggestion of ancient tradition, though 
itself belonging to the Middle English period, is this 
against the toothache: 

A charme for the tethe-werke. 

Say the charme thris, to it be sayd IX times, and ay thris at a 

I conjoure the, laythely beste, with that ilke spare 
That Longious in his hand gan here. 
And also with ane hatte of thorne 
That one my Lord's hede was borne. 
With alle the wordis mare and lesse, 
"With the Office of the Messe, 
/ With my Lorde and his XII postilles, 
With oure Lady and her X, maydenys, 
Saynt Margrete, the haly quene, 
Saynt Katerin, the haly virgyne, 
IX tymes goddis forbott thou wykkyde worme. 
That ever thou make any rystynge, 
Bot awaye mote thou wende. 
To the erde and the staneis 

^Ibid., p. 283. 

5 Cockayne, Leechdoms, I, 393; cf. Brand, Popular Antiquities, 
p. 279; W. G. Black, Folk-Medicine, p. 80 (Polk-Lore Society, 
XII); Payne, op. cit., p. 130. 

Q Reliquiae Antiquae, I, 126 ("Paper MS. Lincoln Cathedral A. 
1, 17, compiled by Robt. Thornton 1430-1440"). cf. Horstmann, 
R. Rolle, I, 375. 


This idea of the worm as the cause of toothache goes 
back to Babylonia. Rogers says in this connection : "Of 
all the literature of incantations perhaps no single piece 
has more human interest than the so-called legend of 
the worm." 

"After Anu [had created the Heavens] 

The Heavens created [the Earth] 

The Earth created the Rivers 

The Rivers created the Canals, 

The Canals created the Marshes, 

The Marshes created the Worm. 

Then came the Worm to weep before Shamasb 

Before Ea came her tears: — 

'What wilt thou give me for my food, 

What wilt thou give me to destroy?' 

'I will give thee dried bones, 

(And) scented wood!' 

'What are these dried bones to me. 

And scented wood!' 

Let me drink among the teeth, 

And set me on the gums (?), 

That I may devour the blood of the teeth 

And of their gums destroy the strength; 

Then shall I hold the bolt of the door"? 

One wonders how a charm for the toothache became 
associated with Longinus. The connection may be due 
to the fact that spear-throwers were used in folk medicine 
in the cure of the ailment. Frazer, in discussing the 
transference of evil says: "To cure the toothache some 
of the Australian blacks apply a heated spear-thrower to 
the cheek. The spear-thrower is then cast away, and the 
toothache goes with it, in the shape of a black stone 
called harriitch."^ This custom probably goes back to 

7R. W. Rogers, Religion of Ba'bylonia and Assyria, 1908, pp. 
155, 156. J 

8 Golden Bough, II, 149. 


early times and may, I think, explain how Longinus and 
his lance became connected with the charm, the spear 
naturally suggesting to the christianizing agent the fa- 
mous Christian spearman. 

The charms in which the name of Longinus appears 
most frequently are those for the staimching of blood. 
Sometimes his own miraculous healing is refei*red to, 
though no direct connection is made between his case and 
that of the person for whom the charm is used. 

(1) To Staunch Bleeding. 

"A soldier of old thrust a lance into the side of the Sa- 
viour; immediately there flowed thence blood and water — the 
blood of Redemption and the water of Baptism. In the name 
of the Father J^ may the blood cease. In the name of the Son ^ 
may the blood remain. In the name of the Holy Ghost .J. may no 
more blood flow from the mouth, the vein, or the nose."9 

(2) ffor to stawnche hlode. 

"fferst haue the name of the man or of the woman than go to 
chirche and sey this charme and loke thow sey hit but for man 
or woman devoutly. When oure lord jhesus Cryst was don on 
the cros than longius come thedir and stange hym witft- hys 
spere in the syde — blod and watir com out at the wownde he 
wypid his eyene an saw anon thorow the holy vertu that god 
showede. y coniure the blode that thou come nozt owt of this 
cristyn man and nomme the manys name twyes =/ =/ or her 
name. In nomine patris .J* et filii^et spiritus sancti 4. Amen. 
Say is charme thryes ne dar the neuer recche wher the man or the 
woman be so thow know his name or her."io 

9W. G. Black, Folk Medicine, pp. 79, 80 (MS. Liher Loci Bene- 
dicti de Whally, 1296-1346); cf. Trin. Coll. Cambr. MS. O. 9, 26 
(James 1438), fol. 4b. 

lOAshmol. MS 1443 (fol. 101). Cf. Holthausen, Anglia xix, 80, 
for an almost identical charm; cf. also O. Ebermann, "Blut- u. 
Wundsegen," Palaestra, xxiv, 46, for a slightly different text. 


(3) Charme for [ifo] staunche Mod. 

"Longeys let our lord Jesum Crizst blod, which blod was holy 
and god. Thorw tha^ iche blod thai is holy and good, I comawnde 
J?e, Jon or W., J>at J>ow blede no more."ii 

Many others show some confusion, being united, as 
Ebermann has pointed out, with the Jordan charm/^ In 
Ashmolean MS 1418 (Part IV, f. 14) there occurs the 
following charm: 

(4) for to staunche hlood. 

"Longeus that worthy knyght with a spere he persed the syde of 
our lord, and anon ther went out blod and watter, the blod of 
redemption, the watter baptism .J. In the name of the father rest 
blod, in the name of the sone cese <^ blod, .J. m the name of the 
holy gost goo out no drope of blod, as veryly as we beleve that 
our lady mary is truly the mother of god, and as verely as she 
bare her sone Crist, so hold you still vaines and blod, and so 
rest blod as the watter of Jordaine rested when Crist was baptized 
in that watter, so rest blod in the name of the blessed trenyte." 

Here the Longinus charm has been combined with some 
such charm as this: 

Charm to stop 'bleeding. 
Our Saviour Christ was born in Bethlehem, 
And was baptized in the river of Jordan: 
The waters were mild of mood. 
The child was meek, gentle, and good. 
He struck it with a rod and still it stood, 
And so shall thy blood stand, 
In the name etc. 

Say these words thrice, and the Lord's Prayer 

iiAwgrZia xix, 80, "Rezepte, Segen u. Zauberspriiche aus zwei 
Stockholmer Handschriften." (second half of the fourteenth cen- 
tury). O. Ebermann, op. cit., p. 46. 

12 Op. cit., 47. Here are found also a number of German Lon- 
ginus charms. 

13 W. Henderson, Folk-lore of the Northern Counties of Eng- 
land, p. 169; cf. W. G. Black, Folk-Medicine, p. 76. 


(5) Charme for to Staunche Blood. 

Longinus miles latus ^ domini nostri .J. Ihesu Chrisfi .J. lancea 
perforauit, & continuo exiuit sanguis et aqua in redemptionem 
nostram .J. Adiuro te sanguis per J^ ihesum. .J. Christum per ^ 
latus eius per ^ sanguine eius, sta J^ sta ^ sta .J.. Chris^ws et 
Johannes descenderunt in flumen iordanis. Aqua obstipuit & 
stetit. Sic faciat sanguis istius corporis. In .J. Chrtsti nomine 4. 
et Sancti Johannis Baptiste. Amen, & dicat ter pater noster.i4 

(6) A charm for the hlody fiyxe. 

In nomine Patris et Filli et Spiritus sancti, 

Amen! Stabat Ihesus contra flumen Jordanus et posuit pedem 
suum et dixit, "Sancta aqua per Deum! Te conjuro, Longinus 
miles, latus Domini nostri Jeshu Christi, lancea perforavit et 
continuo exivit sanguis et aqua sanguis redempcionis, aqua 
baptismatis. In nomine Patris, cessit sanguis! In nomine Filii 
recessit sanguis! In nomine Spiritus Sancti non exeat sanguis 
gutta ab hoc famulo Dei, sicut credimus quod sancta Maria vera 
mater est et verum infantum genuit Christum, sic retineantur 
vene quam plene sunt sa'nguine; sic restat sanguis sicut resticit 
Jordanus quum Christus in eo baptizatus fuerat. In nomine 
Patris et Filii 

A different type is found in charms to draw iron out 
of wounds. It is not difficult to see how Longinus should 
have come to be connected with these. 

(1) "A Notable charme or medicine to pull out an ar- 
rowhead, or anie such thing that sticJceth in the flesh or 
hones, and cannot othenvise be had out. 

Sale three severall times kneeling: Oremus, praeceptis salu- 
taribus moniti, Pater noster ave Maria. Then make a cross 
saieing: The Hebrew knight strake our Lord Jesu Christ, and I 
beseech thee, Lord Jesu Christ by the same iron speare, bloud 

14 MS of the time of Edw. IV. Notes and Queries, IV, (7tli 
ser.) 56. 

^^ Reliquiae Antiquae, I, 315; cf. Palaestra XXIV, 47, for a 
slightly different charm without English title. 


and water, to pull out this iron. In nomine patris & filii & 
Bpiritus sanctiA^ 

(2) to draw out Yren d6 Quarell. 

"Longlnus Miles Ebreus percussit latus Domini nostri Jesu 
Christi: sanguis exuit etiam latus; ad se traxit lancea ^ tetra- 
gramaton ^ Messyas ^ Sother Emanuel ^ Sabaoth ^ Adonay J^ 
Unde sicut verba (ista fuerunt verba). Christi, sic exeat ferrum 
istud sine quarellum ab isto Christiano. Amen. And sey thys 
Charme five tymes in the worschip of the fyve woundys of 

A curious French charm of the thirteenth century is 
found in a Cambridge MS: 

"Treis bons freres estoient ke aloient al mont d'Olivet por 
coillir herbes bones a plaie & a garison. Et ancontrerent nostra 
Seignor Jesu Crist, & nostre Seignor lor demanda: "Treis bons 
freres, ou alez vous? & il responderent: 'Al mont d'Olivet por 
coillir herbes de plaie & de garison.' Et Nostre Sire dit a eus: 
"Venez o moi, & me grantez en bone fei ke vous nel diez a nul 
home ne a femme ne aprendrez: Pernez oile d'olive & leine ke 
unkes ne fust lavee, & metez sor la plaie.' Quaunt Longins I'ebreu 
aficha la launce en le coste nostre seignor Jesu Crist, cele plaie ne 
seigna, ele n'emfla point; ele ne puoit mie, ele ne doloit mie, ele 
ne rencla mie, el n'eschaufa mie. Ausi ceste plaie ne seine mes, 
n'emfle point, ne pue mie, ne doile mie, ne rancie point, n'eschaufe 
mie. En le nun del Piere, el nom del Fiz, el nun del Seint Espirlt. 
Pater Noster treis fois."i8 

The Longinus ballad in AVales, cited in part in an- 
other connection,^® is also of the nature of a charm as is 
shown by the context. In a note the editor adds: "The 

16 Reginald Scot, The Discoverie of Witchcraft, 1st ed. 1584; ed. 
B. Nicholson, Lond. 1886, pp. 219, 20. Incomplete in Ebermann, 
op. cit., 50. 

17 W. G. Black, op. cit., p. 79. Without English beginning and 
ending in Ebermann, op. cit., p. 48. 

18 P. Meyer, "Les MSS Frangais de Cambridge, Trinity College," 
Romania xxxii, 77. 

19 Cf. p. 1G4. 


poem goes on to express the notion of Mary's dominion 
over Purgatory; 'Over the mountain, the cold mountain, 
I saw Mary with a halo about her head establishing a 
place betwixt every soul and hell:' and promises immu- 
nity from evil dreams to such as record and say the 

20Robt. Owen, Sanctorale CathoUcum, 142. Owen adds, Lon- 
ginus is called in Brittany "Longius am dall," the blind. This 
recalls a Spanish expression, "el finzido Longinos," applied to beg- 
gars pretending to be blind. El Donado hablador, novella del 
Doctor J. de Alcala (1624), p. 510. 



In English literature the story of Longinus appears 
frequently. From the tenth to the sixteenth centuries^ 
his legend is found in every type of literary production. 
Naturally the metrical Lives of the Saints, or Festials, 
find place for so popular a legend. The early sermons 
for feast days that were drawn from these festials like- 
wise include his story. Later mystic homilists of the 
Richard Rolle type show little interest in the martyrdom 
of Longinus, but in directing attention to the suffering 
of Christ on the cross and to the divine love that would 
sacrifice itself for the happiness of sinful man, they dwell 
on the divine act itself — the sheddiug of the blood of re^ 
demption and the miraculous water of baptism; and so 
celebrating the deed, they recall also the spearman inti- 
mately connected \vith it. The emphasis is shifted ac- 
cording to the mood of the writer, from the wicked, dolor- 
ous act which showed the ingratitude of man for the great 
sacrifice made by Jesus, to the blessed consequences which 
followed the stroke of tlie spear. The blood of Christ shed 
at the crucifixion of the Saviour became through the 
church the sustenance of man and the means of making 
him one with God. Occasionally Longinus's legend is 

1 It is surprising to note that Longinus has been made the sub- 
ject of a nineteenth century English poem. Aubrey de Vere 
{Legends and Records of the Church and Empire, 1887, p. 33) has 
turned back to the old martyrologies for inspiration, and written 
the life of Saint Longinus, without, however, giving the old story 
any fresh turn. It is a more or less mechanical rehearsal of the 
events in the life of the martyr. 


used to illustrate the great mercy of Jesus in granting 
pardon, and confirming it by a miracle of healing, even 
at the moment when Longinus was depriving him of life. 

From these sermons — ^themselves more or less lyric 
expressions of the ardent love of his followers for 
Jesus, — it is an easy step to the definite lyrical type 
found in the Hours of the Cross, the Meditations on the 
Passion, the Sorrows of the Virgin, and to the pure lyric 
which has for its burden divine love. 

In addition to these special types of religious literature, 
there are the narrative poems on the Passion, which deal at 
length with the sufferings of Jesus, into which laments, 
meditations and lyrics are introduced. 

Closely related to these passion poems stands the treat- 
ment of the life and sufferings of the Saviour in the relig- 
ious drama. Here the legend of Longinus becomes of 
great importance, enabling the dramatist, as it does, to 
represent in fullest reality the agony of Jesus on the 
crpss, the divine grace shown by Jesus to his chief tor- 
mentor, and the establishment through the suffering of 
Jesus of the church as his representative on earth. 

Longinus is likewise introduced into the crusading 
romances that have to do with the regaining of the Holy 
Land, or the relics of Christ's passion, from the heathen. 
All relics in the Middle Ages were venerated and be- 
lieved to possess miraculous power; but those connected 
with the passion itself were of the greatest significance, 
as precious in themselves, and as retaining somewhat the 
divine power of Jesus himself. In the Middle Ages no 
dividing line was drawn between religious and secular 
literature. Consequently, a legend, popular in one kind 
of writing, was inevitably carried over into the other. 
As a result saints and martyrs became heroes of romance. 


and heathen gods and heroes became Christian saints, with 
feast days in the calendar of the church. Christian expla- 
nations attached themselves to the productions of pagan 
art. Heathen charms were transformed into Christian 
exorcisms. Mary took the place in secular song of the 
lover's mistress ; Jesus replaced the earthly lover. There 
is no distinction in types used; whether in secular love- 
lyric, vision poem, dirge, romance or drama, the religious 
writer employed exactly the same forms, frequently with 
only the slightest modification. 

jSTot only is the legend of Longinus embodied in every 
literary type known in the IMiddle Ages ; it is found in 
the writings of the great, as well as in those of the obscure. 
The author of Piers Plowman, Chaucer, Lydgate, all made 
use of the familiar story. ^ 

1 Interesting as showing its very general employment for all 
kinds of purposes, is the appearance of Longinus in a poem 'writ- 
ten by Walter Map, when Archdeacon of Oxford, against the 
Cistercians. According to Giraldus Cambrensis (Opera IV, 219) 
Map's ill-feeling toward the Cistercians was due to some trouble 
he had with them over the rights of his church at Westbury. 
Only one line of Map's poem has been preserved, and that Is 
found in the reply made by Canon Bothewald of Saint Fride- 
swide to Map. This invective is printed in the catalogue of the 
Ashmolean MSS (MS 1281, fol. 272 b). Cf. Latin Poems of Walter 
Mapes, T. Wright, Camden Society, 1841, app. p. xxxv: 

Lancea Longini, grex albus, ordo nephandus. 
Cum monachis albis Longini lancea venit: 
Non quoniam feriant, sed feriantur ea, 
Lancea sunt illis vilis cibus, aspera vestis, 
Mansio deserti, nocte dieque labor. 
Cum contempnantur, et plus aliis patiantur. 
Pro Christo, non est ordo nephandus eis. 
Ordo quisque bonus, set non bonus ordine quivis: 
Nee tamen ordo sue laudis honor^ caret, etc. 

The poem contains 90 lines. 


§1. Homilies and Homiletic Teeatises 

The earliest vernacular account of Longinus that I 
have found, occurs in ^Ifric's alliterative metrical hom- 
ily, The Exaltation of the Holy Cross. ^Elfric in adding 
the story of Longinus appears to have departed slightly 
from the current usage in such sermons, offering in this 
respect the first illustration of what later occurs fre- 
quently. The English writer often, on finding in his 
Latin or French source mention of the lance or of the 
sufferings of the crucifixion, was reminded of Longinus 
and so enlarged his original by the addition of the legend. 
For JElfric's sermon I have found no definite source,^ 
but very similar sermons are common. St. Andrew of 
Crete in his homily De Sancta Cruce^ refers to the pierc- 
ing of the side of Jesus on the cross. Joseph, Archbishop 
of Thessalonica,* in the same connection, mentions the 
sacred wood of the cross, the nails, the lance, Callisti, 
Patriarch of Constantinople^ (later, of course, than 
^Ifric), includes in his homily on the Exaltation of the 
Cross reference to the conversion of the centurion at the 
cross. ^Ifric, then, seems to be following the general 
type of such homilies. He uses the story of Longinus to 
show the gi'eat mercy of the Saviour : 

Swa milde is se hselend J^aet he miltsian wolde 

his agenum slagum gif hi gecyrran woldon. 

and biddan his miltsunge . swa swa heora msenig dyde. 

2 The sources of this sermon have not been considered by the 
various investigators of ^Ifric's sources, J. H. Ott, M. Forster, 
C. L. White. 

SGretser, Opera (1734), II, 72. 

4 Ibid., 85. 

5 Ibid., 191. 


swa swa se hundredes ealdor . ]>e hine hetelice stang 

on his halgan sidan . and siSSan him beah to. 

se hundredes ealdor hatte longinus. 

He geseah Sa sona hu seo sunne a)7ystrode. 

fram mid-daege o5 non . and eall middan-eard bifode. 

and stanas toburston . ]>& beah he to criste 

sleande his breost . and secgende hlude. 

Uere . filius dei est hie . Sojjlice )?aes is godes sunu. 

He forlet Sa his folgoS . and ferde to Tpam apostolum. 

and wears gelaered to geleafan Jjurh hi. 

and mid fulluhte a^wagen fram his fyrlenum dsedum. 

He daelde l^a his eahta ealle on gelmyssan. 

and on claennysse leofode , swa swa cristes tSegen. 

on mycelre forhaefednysse . and pa,m. hsej>enum bodade 

J>one so]7an geleafan . and synne forgifennysse. 

and to-wearp deofolgild . and wundra gefremode 

on godes naman . ot5 paet sum gramlic dema 

hine ge-martyrode mid micclum witum. 

Ac he worhte fela wundra setforan J»am deman. 

betwux p&m. tintregum . and ablende )?one deman 

Jjurh godes mihte . peet menn mihton tocnawon (sie) 

hu mildheort se haelend is . pe hine mersode swa. 

He wear}) pa, . beheafdod for tSaes haelendes naman. 

}?one pe he ser gewundode waelhreowlice on rode. 

and wuna?5 on ecnysse on wuldre mid him. 

Octauius hatte se haej^ena dema 

pe hine acwealde . ac he com sit5San 

Jjffir he ofslagen wags . and gesohte his lie 

biddende forgifennysse mid wope and heofunge. 

pa geseah he sona gesundfullum eagum. 

J>urh t)one ylcan onliht pe hine aer ablende. 

and se dema J^a deorwurtslice bebyrigde 

longines lichaman . and gelyfde on crist 

aefre wuldrigende god . ot5 J»aet he gewat of life. 

Sy wuldor and lof fiam wel-willendan gode. 

Se ?5e aefre rixatS on ecnysse. AMEN.6 

^Ifric's storj of Longinus resembles the general type 
found in the first account in the Acta Sanctorum. He 

6 Lives of the Saints, EET8., 94, 154 ff.; cf. Morris, Legends of 
the Holy Rood, EET8., 46, 107. Skeat, EETS., 94, p. xxiv, dates 
the Lives of the Saints about the year 994. 


omits some details: he does not mention Csesarea as the 
place of the martyrdom, he does not include the long con- 
versation mth the judge, the tortures, the recognition of 
Longinus by the demons — in fact, many of the stock de- 
tails found usually in the acts of saints. Longinus in this 
account is the centurion, and there is no reference to his 

The next mention of Longinus — ^this time a slight 
one — occurs in a thirteenth century sermon, ]>e Wohunge 
of Ure Lauerd. This homily is interesting in two re- 
spects: it speaks of Christ after the fashion of the 
mediaeval mystics, in phrases which closely correspond to 
those used in the secular love lyrics of the time; and it 
refers also to the sacramental and mystical blood of re- 
demption and water of baptism, the fruit of Christ's 

"Bote ne I)inche ham nawt t5et l^at he is ful pinet ne l?at rewfule 
deade bodi nulen ha nawt fritSie. Bringen forS longis wi5 }jat 
brade scharpe spere. He ]?urles his side cleues tat herte. And 
cumes flowinde ut of J>at wide wunde, >e blod Jjat bohte, ]>e 
water }jat te world wesch of sake and of sunne."7 

There is here perhaps a slight implication of the blind- 
ness of Longinus in the suggestion that he was led forth. 
Curious in its relation to the pe Wohunge of Ure 
Lauerd, is a treatise of the following century, entitled A 
Talhyng of pe Loue of God. Horstmann prints the lat- 
ter from the Vernon MS, the only MS in which it is 
known to occur. Horstmann calls it an imitation of 
Richard Rolle, "the work of a (probably young) monk 
of the Fra Angelico type, who, shut out from the world 
in his monastery, finds comfort in sweet meditation and 

7 Old English Homilies (XII, XIII centuries) ed. by Morris. 
EET8., 29 and 34, 283. 


song. It is one of the pearls of Old English literature." 
This treatise is not only an imitation of Rolle, of whose 
Meditatio de Passions Domini^ there are in the Talkyng 
definite reminders in phrase and incident, but it is a 
combination of two earlier homilies. Attention has not 
been called to the fact, so far as I know, that the first 
eight pages reproduce with enlargement the homily 
known as On Ureisun of oure Louerde, and that the last 
thirteen reproduce quite as definitely ]>e Wohimge of Ure 

The reference to Longinus in the Talkyng occurs in 
the following passage : 

But lit my derwor])e leof whon ]>ei hedden pe slayn. al at 
heor wille, ne J)30Uite hem not J>at Inoui, pat pei se^e J?i dede 
bodi so reu)?li honge on Roode; ne wolde J>ei not spare pe de[d] 
ne o-lyue, but brouhte torp Longius )?at was a blynd kniht, and 
token him a scharp spere to stinge Jjorw }>in herte, so J^at hit clef 

8 Engl. Stud. VII, 454 ff.; also Rich. Rolle of Hampole, I, 83 ff. 
Morris, op. cit., p. x, takes the Wohunge to be a paraphrase of a 
portion of the Ancren Riwle and perhaps, in its original form, by 
the same author. 

9 The sources and authorship of the Wohunge and the Ureison 
have been investigated by Einenkel, Anglia V, 265 ff., and by 
Vollhardt (Einfluss der lateinischen geistlichen Litteratur auf 
der englischen Ubergangsperiode, 1888). Einenkel finds resem- 
blances to the Ancren Riwle, Sawles Warde, and Holi Meidenhod, 
and attempts to show that the Wohunge and the Ureison were 
written by nuns for whom the Lord was in the Middle Ages the 
type of the perfect man, just as the Virgin was for the monks the 
type of the perfect woman. Vollhardt dismisses as unfounded the 
question of a woman's authorship, and shows that such mystic, 
fervid expression of adoration of Christ was common in the 
Latin writers most influential in mediaeval Christian English 
writing. Vollhardt (p. 48 ff.) cites interesting parallels to the 
Wohunge and the Ureison found in Meditationes and Orationes of 
Anselm, with additions from the De Anima of Hugo of Saint Vic- 
tor. The present writer expects to consider this matter more 
fully in a separate study. 


a-tuo and of J)at ilke welle of lyf, J?orw J)at grisly wounde: 
runne two floodes: pi Riche precious blod J»at al pe world boujte, 
and J>at deore holy water J>at al J)is world wosch Of sake and of 

Though Longinus is here referred to as blind, nothing 
is said of his healing or conversion. The interest is 
not, of course, in the story of Longinus. But that his 
name was almost indissolubly connected with the wound 
in the side of Christ is clearly indicated. The account 
of the passion is one of the passages most enlarged by 
the later writer. Here he definitely reminds one of 
Rolle, dwelling as he does on the horrible suffering of 
Christ on the cross, and of Mary in witnessing her son's 

§2. The Gospel of !N'icodemtjs 

The great popularity of the Gospel of Nicodemus in 
England has been discussed by Wiilker, who pointed out 
its significance in Western literature, and later by Pro- 
fessor Hulme in the introduction to his edition of the 
poetical Middle English versions.^^ It was repeatedly 
translated in both poetry and prose. The separate 
legends which it includes were by this means scattered 
everywhere. Though the texts now in existence are not 
of earlier date than the fifteenth century, Professor 
Hulme thinks the poetical version "was probably first 
translated not far from the beginning of the fourteenth 
century."^^ He calls attention to the fact that the "in- 

10 Horstmann, R. Rolle II, 361. 

11 R. P. Wiilker, Das Evangelium Nichodemi in des abendldndi- 
schen Literatur, 18 ff., 66 ff.; W. H. Hulme, The M. E. Harrowing 
of Hell, etc., EETS., e. s. 100. 

12 J&id., p. xxi. 


fluence of tlie Evangelium Nicodemi was felt in Eng- 
lish literature long before the period of the religious 
drama," and says the Latin version was known in Eng- 
land not long after the introduction of Christianity.^^ 

The metrical versions printed by Professor Hulme are 
from the following MSS : B. M. Cotton Galba E. IX ; 
B. M. Harl. 4196; B. M. Addit. 32,578; Sion College 
arc. L. 40.^* The reference to Longinus contained in 
these texts is slight. The Harley and the Cotton MSS 
do not mention Longinus by name, nor do they give the 
legend, though they betray its influence in the statement 
that the spearman is blind. The Harley reads: 

1. 625 A blynd knyght, so thoght >am best, 
A spere J>ai gaf gud spede; 
To Ihesu syde >ai gan it threst. 
And blode and water out yhede. 

Aside from the blindness, there is here no addition to 
the Latin original. The Sion MS adds also the name 
Longinus. It is in the Additional MS, however, that the 
influence of the legend appears most clearly. In this, 
one not only finds Longinus named, but also mention of 
the cure of his blindness: 

To longeus an betoke a spere 
A blynde knyght was in ))at rowte; 
To ihesu herte he gon it here, 
And watre & blode anon wente oute 
And sprent on longeus eghen Jjere 
And sone he sawe witnouten doute 

The Gospel of Nicodemus was current in English also 
in a number of prose versions.^^ Some of these give no 

i3 76id., p. Ixvii. 

14 iMd., pp. XV ff. for description and relation of the MSS. 

15 IMd., pp. xxxiii ff. for list and description of prose MSS. 


fuller account of the story of Longinus than is found in 
the metrical version. The Salisbury Cathedral MS 39 
(fol. 135), the British Museum MS Additional 16165 
(fol. 101), and the Worcester Cathedral MS 172 (fol. 
4)^® all make brief reference to Longinus. They all fol- 
low the Latin original closely. 

The Worcester Cathedral MS reads: "Longius the 
knyght forsoth takyng a spere opened his side and ther 
issued out bloode and water." 

In the later versions the story is elaborated. MS Harl. 
149, which is "comparatively late," according to Pro- 
fessor Hulme, and shows "traces of modernization," 
gives a much fuller account: 

(fol. 261) "Than the prynces comaunded a knyght named 
Longeus that he schuld perce hys syde vfyth a spere (fol. 262) 
And he so dyd and oute of the wownde came bloode and watyr 
whych ranne alonge by the spere to hys honde, and wi/t7i the 
same honde he touched hys yghen and forthwythal, hys syght 
was restoryd and bare wytnes of trowthe. And al thys was done 
vppon the mownte of Golgotha whych now ys called Caluarye." 

Somewhat different is the story found in the Black 
Letter edition of the Gospel of Nicodemus by Wynken 
de Worde (1509) :" 

"And than sayd the knightes in scorne yf ]ju be kynge of lewes 
delyuer now thyselfe / and than was commaunded that a knyght 
sholde be broughte forthe whose name was Longeus/ and hym 
they made to put a spere to Ihesus syde. This knyght 
Longeus was blynde and soo the prynces of the lawe made hym 
for to perce our lordes syde/ and so there came out of it bothe 
blode and water/ and so the blode came rennynge downe by the 
spere shafte vnto Longeus hande / and he by auenture weped his 
eyen with his hande/ and anone he dyde se." 

16 Prof. Hulme has most generously allowed me to use his tran- 
scripts of these and the following prose MSS. 

17 p. 18. Cf. Hulme, op. cit., p. Ivii, for discussion of early 
printed versions. For the use of this transcript also I am in- 
debted to the kindness of Professor Hulme. 


Closely related to the Gospel of Nicodemus^* and con- 
taining likewise references to Longinus, is the so-called 
Siege of Jerusalem attributed to Adam Davy.^^ The 
poem is a long one, written in rhyming couplets.^" Ber- 
gau^^ considers four MSS: Laud 622, Douce 78, Digby 
230, Additional 10036. He comments on the fact that it 
is called variously "The Bataile of Jerusalem," the title 
in Laud MS; "The Vengeance of Goddes Deth," found 
at the end of the Laud MS ; or "The Sege of Jerusalem," 
the form used at the close of the Digby MS. The poem is 
difficult to classify. Bergau calls it "eine Art religiosen 
Epos . . . geschrieben zuni Lob und Preise unseres Hei- 
landes Jesu Christi."^^ He divides it into four parts: 
the Passion of Christ, the Healing of Vespasian, the Siege 
of Jerusalem, the Punishment of the Jews.^^ 

The section devoted to the Passion — which is the only 
one of concern to the present study — is based, as the au- 

18 Prof. Hulme, op. cit., p. xxii: "In its complete form this poem 
does contain (11. 395-666) the principal features of the Gospel." 

19 The catalogue description of Douce MS 78 states that the poem 
was at one time ascribed to Adam Davy, and even to Lydgate. 
It was written the third quarter of the fifteenth century (?) Dr. 
Henry Bradley (Diet. Nat. Biog.) says of Davy that he was "a 
fanatical rhymer" who "has obtained unmerited importance in 
literary history from the fact that he was formerly supposed to be 
the author of all the poetry contained in the Bodl. MS Laud 622." 
He sees no reason why he should not have written the present 
poem, "though there is no real evidence on the point." 

20 Another version written in alliterative verse I have not been 
able to examine. 

21 F. Bergau, The Vengeance of Ooddes Death, Konigsberg, 1901. 

22 Ibid., p. 41. 
2SIbid., p. 42. 


thor expressly informs us, upon the Gospels and the Gospel 
of Nicodemus : — 

V. 7 ff. Gospelles I drawe to witnesse 
of ]>is matere more and lesse 
And pe passioun of Nichodeme 
Who Jiat takej> right good yeme.24 

Reference to the healing and conversion of Longinus is 
introduced in the course of a brief summary of the won- 
ders attending the death of Jesus. I quote from the text 
of MS. Douce Y8 (fol. 30a) : 

And as sone as Criste was brojte of lyfe 

per fylle mony wondres also blyfe 

Some of J>am y schall you telle 

pay byn as trewe as is ]?e gospelle 

When Centurio behilde and saide )7us 

Verely ]?is is godis ihesus 

And so dede longeus \>e blynde knyjhte 

Aftur pat he had his sy^te 

pe temple of pe iewys a to dede clefe 

And men y beryd ded and deffe 

Dede arise and walke aboute 

Fro towne to towne a grette route.25 

24 Cf. Bergau, p. 42, for sources of the whole poem. 

25 A fragment is found in a Pepysian MS printed by R. Fis- 
cher, (Archiv. Ill, 285 ff. and 112, 25 ff.) under the title Vindicta 
Salvatoris. It does not, however, contain the Longinus incident. 
The whole poem has also been edited by J. A. Herbert, 1905, 
for the Roxburghe Club. This edition I have not seen. Besides 
these printed texts and the MSS already referred to, there are 
numerous MS versions. To those enumerated by Bergau and 
Kopke may be added: (1) B. M. Addit. MS, 36523 (middle of XV 
cent.) Art. 1; (2) Ashurnham Addit. MS, 130 (XIV-XV cent.) 
Art. 3, (Hist. MSS C. Rep. VII, 106); (3) Harl. 4733; (4) B. M. 
Addit. 36983, Art. 6. 


§3. The Cursor Muistdi 

The story of Longinus naturally appears in the Cur- 
sor Mundi/^ described by Morris as a storehouse of relig- 
ious legends and quaint conceits. In the four manu- 
scripts printed by Morris, the story occurs in two forms. 
The shorter form is found, with little variation, in MSS 
Fairfax, Gottingen, and Trinity. I quote the passage 
from the Trinity text : 

11. 16834 ff. Of him [Jesus] brake l^ei no bone 

But blynde longeus w'i)> a spere: 
pat knyjt was one 
pe lewes made him ])ourje his side: 
to put hit sone anone 
Ajein his wille he hid dude: 
perfore he made mone 
Blood & watir out of his syde: 
Muchel Jjo J>ere ran 
Of )?at blood ran to his bond: 
his siite soone he wan. 

It is to be noted that Longinus is represented here as 
unwilling to do the deed — an early instance of this de- 

The Cotton MS of the Cursor contains an interesting 
interpolation, Hupe calls attention to the fact that this 
manuscript, following 1. 16814, adds 72 extra lines, writ- 
ten in a second hand and in a different (Midland) dia- 
lect." The Longinus story is a part of this addition. It 
runs as follows: 

1. 21 (Add.) Of cure lorde brake J>ai no lym, 
For he was ded by-fore, 
Bot calden a blynd knight 
To wirk after t>er lore, 


26 Ed. Morris, EET8. 

27 Cursor Mundi, Introd. p. 63*. 


With a spere in hand 
And til his hert hit sett, 
per-with he therled his hert, 
Bothe blode & water oute lett 
By J»e spere til his hand 
Ran doun of his blode. 
He wipped is egen Jjer-withe 
And silt he hade ful gode. 
"Mercy," he cried, "oure lord!" 
And gart cristen him I-wis 
Sithen for his luf was slayn 
And a gode naarter is. 

Though the name Longinus is not mentioned here as 
ill the other MSS, the story is much fuller, containing 
as it does, reference to the subsequent life and martyr- 
dom of Longinus. His cry for mercy is, moreover, sug- 
gestive of the dramatic treatment of the story. ^® 

§4. The South English Legendary 

In the South English Legendary the legend of St. 
Longinus, though absent from what Horstmann^® takes 
to be the oldest extant MS, Laud 108 (about 1285-95), 
is included in many of the later versions.^" This great 

28 Professor Carleton Brown, "The Cursor Mundi and the South- 
ern Passion," Mod. Lang. Notes, Jan., 1911, has shown, since 
the above was written, that this Cotton interpolation was bor- 
rowed from the "Southern Passion," the corresponding passage 
of which he prints from Harl. MS, 2277. See for the Longinus 
episode, 11. 23 ff. 

29 C. Horstmann, South English Legendary, EET8. 87, p. xlll. 

30 The life of Longinus appears in the following MSS (cf. 
Horstmann, South English Leg., EETS, p. xiv ff.): Corp. Chr. 
Coll. Cambr. 145 (ca. 1320), no. 21, fol. 32 (cf. Zupitza, Anglia 
I, 397) ; Egerton 1993 (ca. 1320), no. 31, fol. 119; Vernon (ca. 1380), 
no. 18, fol. 14; Trinity Coll. Cambr. R. 3, 25 (James no. 605) ica. 
1400), no. 25, fol. 50, and no. 63, fol. 122; St. John's Coll. 
Cambr. B. 6; cf. also Horstmann, Altengl. Legenden, Paderborn, 


Festial, like the Legenda Aurea, of which it is appar- 
ently independent, is a storehouse of legends — a col- 
lection of sermons or material for sermons for all the 
festivals of the year, Horstmann, who recognizes it as 
'"one of the most important works of mediaeval litera- 
ture," discusses its formation: "The collection grew 
slowly . . . ; it was the work of many decades of years, 
of many collaborators, most likely the joint work of a 
whole abbey, that of Gloucester, where the plan seems to 
have been fixed and brought into definite shape."^^ 

Though the story of Longinus does not occur in the 
Laud MS 108, there is reason to believe that it was in- 
corporated into the Festial only a trifle later. In the 
list of contents of MS Harleian 2277 and MS Corpus 
Christi College, Cambridge, 145, printed by Horstmann, 
St, Longinus is no, 21, Unfortunately, in the Harleian 
(about 1300), long considered the oldest MS of the Fes- 
tial, the first 24 numbers are now missing. 

The text I give here is from Laud MS Miscell, 463 
(fol, IG**). The catalogue states that it is an English 
Festial of the fourteenth century. 

Seint Longius was a blind knyght, J?o Christ was done on rode 

Pilat him made our lord stynge antZ o)?er ]>at \>er stode 

To his herte he smote ]>e spere J)0 he feld >e blod 

per vfith he wipte is blind eyen and ]?ei were cler and god 

pis knight >o he my^te see, he saw t>e er>e quake 

And )?e eclips of J)he sonne \>e deuel he gan forsake 

Of the apostles he let him christene and sij'e by he rede 

1875, p. XXX, ff.: Trin. Coll. Oxford 57 (end of fourteenth cen- 
tury); Laud Misc. 463 (beginning of the fifteenth century), no. 
22, fol. 16. The life of Longinus appears also in the following 
MSS, the contents of which are not given by Horstmann: Add. 
10301 (fourteenth century), fol. 68; Tanner 17 (fifteenth cen- 
tury), no. 22, fol. 30; Pepys 2344. 
31 EET8., 87, p. viii. 


In >e lond of Capadoce hard lyf he gan lede 

A maner monk as pei he were seuene and twenty jere 

pis holi man sent longius in penaunce woned })er 

pe lu>er prince was J?ere herde of him speke 

So he lette fette hym to his c7iristdom to breke 

He bad him honoMre is fals godes hot he him with seide 

And seide he might as wel be stille -with is fole rede 

pe prince let for wratthe po all Jje te]> in his heued 

With strong yren draw out per was not on bileued 

SiJ?e he hat kerue of is tonge Faste bi pe more 

And jet he spak })orw godes grace as he dide bifore 

Sire prince he seide i am belimed for ]7in false godes loue 

let mi lord l^oru me with hem speke a.nd loke who shal beo aboue 

Seint longeus all her fals goddes with an ax alto drow 

pe deueles flowen fiikke out and maden deol y now 

pai went anon to pe luj>er men pat per aboute stode 

Some bicome blinde anon some gydye a,nd wode 

And to drowe alle here limes with oper sorwe y now 

pe prince was bothe blind and wod and all his limes to gnow 

Longius axed Jjes foule wightes whi >ei woned Jjere 

In mamutes and in fals godes more Jjan elles where 

pei seide we mow no wer men so wel bitraye 

As per with fals bileue ne our maistre so wel paye 

And for god is not J?er nempd ne is signe is not I^ere 

perfore god pes we have J?er and reste with oute fere 

Seint longius for ]70Uit pat pe prince himself had so y gnawe 

pu worst neuer he seide hoi ar ))u me bringe of dawe 

And panne i wol bidde for pe })at our lord shal pe sende 

hele of body and of soule in his seruise to ende 

pe prince let smyte of is hed as had er i seid 

bifore pe bodi fel adoun and forieuenes bed 

Our lord him sent is wit a^en and his eyen also 

Seint Longeus he had mercy of J^at he hadde misdo 

He let him baptise anon and bicom gode man with alle 

pe godnesse )>at he hadde J>er bi seint longius gon bifall 

Now god for }?y mercy J^at }ju seint longius hast y do 

forjeue us our misdede her and bring us to heuen also.32 

32 The legend of Longinus is found also in the Passion included 
in the South English Legendary. Horstmann gives the contents 
of the Passion in MS St. John's Coll. Cambr. B. 6 (c. 1400) 
and mentions Longinus (Altenglischen Legenden, Neue Folge, 
Heilbronn, 1881, Lv). It is probably contained also in other 


Tlie story as given here follows closely the Golden 
Legend type, though. I do not mean to imply that it is 
taken from Voragine. The questions of the judge and 
the Aphrodisius episode are omitted, and the whole ac- 
count is much more popular in tone. This full form of 
the story never really got into literary usage. The cruel 
judge and the miracle of his healing are heard of no 

Caxton's translation of the Legenda Aurea should per- 
haps be noted in this connection. In the legend of Lon- 
g-inus, Caxton appears to follow the Latin text. This 
particular legend is not discussed by Butler, but as he 
does not include it in his lists of those specifically drawn 
from the English or the French sources, I infer that he 
would derive it from the Latin version. It is fuller than 
the Latin, but contains no incidents that cannot be ac- 
counted for by the Latin text.^^ 

§5. The "iNToRTHEKN Passion" 

The Longinus story is of importance in the "!N'orthem 
Passion," which exists in several manuscripts.^* Horst- 

MSS of the South English Legendary. In Horstmann's lists of 
the contents of these MSS (EET8., 87, XIII ff.) the Passion ap- 
pears in the following: Harl. 2277 (c. 1300) ; King's Coll. Cambr. 
15 (c. 1350); Vernon (c. 1380), no. 33; Trin. Coll. Oxf. 57 (c. 
1380) without first days of Passion Week; Laud L 70; Tanner 17 
(fifteenth century); Bodl. 779 (fifteenth century), no. 8. Pro- 
fessor Carleton Brown has published, since the above was writ- 
ten, the part of the "Southern Passion," which contains the Lon- 
ginus episode from Harl. 2277 (cf. note 28). Miss M. M. Keiller 
is preparing an edition of the "Southern Passion" from sev- 
eral MSS. 

33 Cf. Pierce Butler, Golden Legend, p. 75, for discussion of 
sources. He does not identify the English source. 

34 Horstmann, Altenglische Legenden, Neue Folge, Heilbronn, 
1881, p. Ixvi, discusses the Northern Passion in Cambr. Univ. MS 
Gg. 5 31: "Dieselbe Passio begegnet, ohne die nordliche Samm- 


mann has printed a portion of it from Harleian 4196 
(Archiv. 57, 78 ff.). This version in the part which in- 
troduces the story of Longinus, differs somewhat in ar- 
rangement from the usual type; the centurion story does 
not immediately precede the Longinus episode as it 
usually does in passion poems and in the mediaeval drama. 
I give the text here from Ashmole MS 61.^^ The 
poem in question begins at fol. 87** with the lines: 

"Lystyns lordynges I wyll you telle 
of mekyll pete I may you spelle" 

The Longinus story comes at fol. 104*: 

Besyde J?e rode per stod a man 
His ryiht name telle you I can 
A gret cry he gan make 
When he sey Ipe wondis slake 
Centyr pat was hys name 
For hys cry pe jeues gane schame 
He seyd pis is godts sone 
Therfore >ei dyd hym in pHsone 
The oj^er dey aboute none 
When )?at day was all done 

lung, in MS Gg. I, 1, fol. 122 . . . hier im siidlichen Dialect, . . . 
ferner in MS Ff. V, 48, li, IV, 9; in Dd. I, 1, ... In Harl. 4196 
ist sie in die Sammlung selbst aufgenommen, zugleich umgearbei- 
tet und am Ende durch einige Zusatze, zu denen das northumbr. 
Evang. Nicod. oft wortlich beniitzt ist, vermehrt (solche Zu- 
satze sind die Abschnitte Joseph petiit corpus Jhesu, de libera- 
tione Joseph a carcere). Meine friihere, auf diese Gleichheit 
gesttitzte Annahme, dass die Passio vom Dichter des Evang. 
Nicod. herriihre, ist nicht richtig, da die Passio weit alter ist, 
wohl aber ist wahrscheinlich, dass der Dichter des Ev. Nic. der 
Umdichter der Harl.-Version der Passio ist." 

35 Ashmol. 61 is described by Black as "a collection of Metrical 
Romances, Lays and other Poems in Old English, made by one 
Rate, in or before the time of Henry VII" (Catal. of Ashmole 
MSS, Oxford, 1845, col. 106). 

98 THE lege:xd of LONGIIv^US 

There come a man of ryche se 

That dwellyd in pat contre 

Joseph was hys name ryue 

He loued Jhesu as hys lyue 

Forth anone he wente hys gate 

To he come to sire pylate 

He seyd sire pylat I praye the 

That body l?u gronte me 

Soffere me to take hym done 

Or }?at I hens gone 

Syre pylat seyd I grante pe 

We wyll wyte fyrst if he dede be 

He callyd forth kny^hts hende 

With Joseph forto wende 

As he seyd unto Jhesu 

And loke pat he be dede inow 

jiff he be dede take hym doune stylle 

And late Joseph haue hys wylle 

The knyihts per gane forth gone 

To pe rode ]7ei come anone 

First f'ei come pe fieues to 

BoJ>e per theys wer broke in two 

Seth pei stode in pat place 

And beheld Jhesu in pe face 

The sey well I>at Jhesus was dede 

To breke hys bonys it was no nede 

Besyde pe rude stude a knyght 

That longe hade foregone hys syght 

hongeus was t?at knyihtys name 

He was bothe blynd and lame 

They made hym under Jhesus stond 

And pute a spere in his bond 

They leyd l^e spere to Jhesus syde 

Pute up Jjei seyd what so betyde 

Longews pute pe spere hym fro 

To Jhesu herte it gane go 

The blode gane anone oute sprynge 

And pe water anone oute wryuge 

Fro synne we wer with hys blod bouiht 

And fro hell par we wer brought 

'Longeus stode welle styll fian 

By hys fyngerys pe blode ranne 

With pat blode he wyped hys face 


Than of hys syght he hade grace 
On hys kneys he gane doune falle 
And of Jhesu mersy calle 
He sey I wyst not what 1 dede 
Bot as o}?er hade me bede 
Joseph toke done ]>e body anone 
And leyd it in a feyre stone.36 

Though it is dangerous to cite parallels when only 
short sections of long poems have been carefully ex- 
amined, it may be well to call attention to the fact that 
there is a slight resemblance between the story of Lon- 
ginus in the "E'orthern Passion" and that found in The 
Lamentation of our Lady and Saint Bernard. This gen- 
eral resemblance is perhaps a little strengthened by the 
use of a line in the Vernon text common to all the ver- 
sions of the "N'orthern Passion," "Beside the rood there 
stood a knyght," etc.^^ 

36 The story of Longinus as here given is practically the same 
in this group of eight MSS; (1) Ashmole 61, (2) Cambr. Dd. 1.1 
(second half of fourteenth century), fol. 18b (a part of the 
Longinus story is missing where the MS is torn); (3) Cambr. 
Gg. 1.1 (first half of fourteenth century), no. 11, fol. 133a; (4) 
Cambr. Gg. 5.31 (early fifteenth century), no. 3, fol. 169a; (5) 
Cambr. li, 4.9 (handwriting of the fifteenth century), fol. 37a; 
(6) B. M. Addit. 31.042, no. 3; (7) Cambr. Ff. 5.48 (fifteenth 
century) no. 5, fol. 39a (signed Gilbert Pilkington, who accord- 
ing to S. Lee, Diet. Nat. Biog., fl. 1350, and is the reputed author 
of "The Tournament of Tottenham"); (8) Rawl. C. 86 (end of 
the fifteenth century), fol. 26b. (at the end: "Iste liber constat 
[words erased] Wyllimis Aylysburry monachus Sancti Salvatoris 
de Bermundsey"). Cf. G. L. Kittredge, Am. Journ. Philol. X, 2; 
Hammond, Chaucer Bibl. Man. p. 185. Miss F. A. Foster of Bryn 
Mawr College is engaged in editing the Northern Passion from 
nine MSS. 

37 Cf. note 67 for resemblance to the Lamentation of our Lady. 


§6, Other Poems on the Passion 

The story of Longinus, cast in mucli the usual form, 
appears in an imprinted fifteenth century poem on the 
Passion, found in Cambridge University MS Dd. 11, 89, 
fol. 183''. It is "\vritten in alternate rhyming lines : 

Longinus broujte a spere ful kene 
And set hit to his swete sj'de 
poruj bidding of his enemyes breme 
He naade pere a wounde ful wyde 

His swete herte pat was so dene 
Wi]? pat spere was opened po 
per ran out water and blod ful schene 
pat was raunsom of oure wo 

per was mercy y seye ful son 
pe knyjt hadde y ben blyn ful longe 
pe herte blod by J^e spere doun ron 
He felede hit wet upon his honde 

per wij? he wippede boj^e his eyen 
poruj }jat blod he hadde J^e grace 
Anon J>at bodj ful wel he sey^e 
pat J>ere was honged in J>at place 

Mercy he gan crie ful sone 
And in his herte he sikede sore 
pe fader of heuene herde his bone 
Hit was forjeuen hym ry^t >ore.38 

The unknown author of the Scottish Legends of the 
Saints, though he does not include Longinus in his cal- 
endar of saints, tells the story of his healing and mar- 

38 Title, "How ich Cristenman owe for to hafe a remembrance 
of the passion of our Lord Jesu Criste." 

It begins: Of alle the joyes that in this worlde may be 

That thorw wyt to man myth be ordeyned and wroute 
A swete lofe thowt is praised of me, etc. 



tyrdom in the account of the life of Christ which he 
gives in his Prologue: 

1.37 I hafe translatit symply 

sume part, as a fand in story, 
of Mary & hir sone Ihesu. 

1.69 & hou Jjat longius, ]>e knycht 

l^at of his ene had tynt J^e sycht, 
& mad jet ]?are in cristes syd 
a slope, J^at ves bath lang & vyd, 
vith ane scharpe spere a-pon J^e rud, 
hot, quhen til his hand ran J^e blud, 
& vith J^at hand [he] twechit his he, 
thru grace of god he can se, 
& syne of god sic grace he had, 
]?at for hyme he ves martyre mad.39 

The following Cornish Passion follows closely the gen- 
eral type: 

In aga herwyth y ^ese. vn 

marreg longts hynwys 
dal o ny wely banna- ef rebea 

den a brys 
gew a ve yn y jewle- gans an 

ej ewon gorris 
ha pen lym rag y wane- ie 

golon Ihesus hynwys 

liOngis sur an barth dyghow- 

jB grous Ihesus y jese 
len marreg worth y hanow- y a 

yrhys may whane 
yn corf Ihesus caradow- en 

gew lym ef a bechye 
pwr ewn yn dan an asow- dre 

an golon may ;;ese 

Along with them was a soldier 

named Longis: 
Blind was he, he saw not a drop; 

he was a man of worth. 
Into his hands a spear was put 

by the Jews, 
And a sharp point for him to 

pierce to mild Jesus' heart. 

Longis, sure, was on the right 

side of Jesus' cross, 
To the soldier by his name they 

bade that he should pierce. 
Into the body of lovable Jesus, 

the sharp spear he darted 
Right under the ribs, so that it 

was through the heart. 

39 Legends of the Saints, {ac. 1400 A. D.) Scottish Text Society 
I, 3. Cf. Horstmann, Barbour's Legendensammlung. Heilbronn 
1881, I, 3. 



An golon y leth stret bras- 

dour ha goys yn kemeskis 
ha ryp an gyw a resas- je 

aewle neb an gwyskis 
y wholhas y jewlagas- gans y 

eyll leyff o gosys 
dre ras an goys y whelas- 

Ihesus crist del o dy igti« 


(fo. 19 a.) 

Eddrek mttr an kemeras- rag an 

ober re wresse 
ay ben dowlyn y coias. arluth 

gevyans yn me ^e 
dall en ny welyn yn fas. ow 

bos mar veyll ow pewe 
Ihesus jO 20 a avas- pan welas 

y edrege 

From the heart there came a 

great spring, water and 

blood mixed. 
And ran down by the spear to 

the hands of him that 

struck him: 
He bathed his eyes with his 

one hand that was 

bloodied — 
Through the blood's grace he 

saw how Jesus was 


220. ■ 
Great sorrow seized him for the 

work he had done. 
On his knees he fell — "Lord, 

forgiveness!" he said, 
"Blind was I, I saw not well, 
that I am living so vilely." 
Jesus forgave him when he saw 
his sorrows.4o 


The persistence of tlie popularity of Longinus 
legend is shown by the fact that his story is included in 
the sixteenth century poem by Walter Kennedy on the 
Passioun of Christ.*^ As pointed out by Holthausen/" 
and as stated by Kennedy himself ("As Lendulphus and 
vtheris can record"), Ludolphus of Saxonia is Kennedy's 
principal source. In the use of the Legend of Longi- 
nus he follows Ludolphus.*^ 

io Pas con agan Arluth, a Mid-Cornish poem, (Harl. MS 1782, 
fifteenth century) W. Stokes, Trans. Phil. Soc. 1860, App. 1, 
stanzas 217 ff. 

41 Printed by J. Schipper, Denkschriften d. k. Akad. d. Wissen- 
schaften, Wien, 1902, vol. 48, 25 ff. 

42 Archiv, 112, 298 ff. 

43 Cf. p. 24. 


Bot fra Jjai saw >at cristynnit Kingis face 
All wan and paill, eik closit wes his sycht, 
His bludy body stif in euery place, 
Thai estemit J^at ded had done his rycht. 
Throw pe richt syd him woundit a blind knycht 
With a scharp speir, quhill blude and watter cleir 
Agane natour his ded hert woundit [sair] 

The precius blud ran vnto Longeus hand, 
And he his eyne anoyntit with it throu caiss; 
Off Ipe] tuiching of God sic grace he fond. 
With e and hert }jat he knew Cristis face; 
He left his office, resignit in pat place, 
Als levit lang in relyiosite. 
Syne bischope maid and marter deit he. 

§7. Hours of the Cross 

It is to be expected that the story of Longinus would 
be found in the Hours of the Cross. It appears in the 
Vernon MS Patris Sapiencia, sive Horae de Cruce**^ 
though it is not found in the Latin text referred to by 
Horstmann/^ nor in the corresponding English poem in 
MS Bodl. Miscell. Lit. 104, fol. 50."' The Vernon version 
reads as follows : 

Hora Nona dominus Cristus expirauit, 
"Heli," damans spiritum patri comendauit, 
Latus eius lancea myles perforauit. 
Terra tunc contremuit, & sol obscurauit. 
Adoramus te, criste, & benedicimus tibi, 
Quia per crucem tuam redemisti mundum. 

44: Minor Poems of Vernon MS, EETS., pp. 40, 41. 

45 Daniel, Thes. Hymnolog. I, 337, the corresponding stanza of 
which reads: 

"Hora nona dominus Jesus expiravit, 
Heli damans animam patri commandavit, 
Latus eius lancea miles perforavit, 
Terra tunc contremuit et sol obscuravit." 

46 Printed by Horstmann at foot of page, EETS,, 98, 37 ff. 


At Non J>er >urlede Ihesus herte: Longius, a Blynd kniht; 

He wupte his Eijen wi)j his blod: porwh fiat he hedde his siht. 

J?e eorfie quok, pe stones clouen: pe sonne les his liht, 

pe dede a-risen of heore graues: In tokene of godus miht 

pat us on Rode bouhte, 

pe soules pat weren in helle: Ihesus sone out brouhte. 

An interesting relationship is to be noted between the 
Vernon poem on the the Hours of the Cross, and an "O 
and I" poem from a Cambridge MS, Gonville and Cains 
College, no. 175, of the fifteenth century. 

Hord nond divus Jesus expiravit 

"At noon J>yrlede hys syde, 

Longeus, a blynde knyjt 

He wyped his eyen wi> J>e blood, 

per wi)? he hadde hys sy^t. 

pe erjje quook, the stones schoke, 

pe sunne loste here lyjt; 

Dede men resen out off here graue, 

pat was Goddys myjt, 

Wi]? an O, and an I, J)at on pe rode us boujte, 

For men ]?at were in helle for synne Jesus out hem brouit."4T 

The Caius poem retains only one line of the Latin text, 
and begins the fifth long line (the poem is written in 
half lines) Avith the refrain "With an O, and an I." The 
Vernon MS is of course the earlier, and it may be possi- 
ble that the writer of the Caius version followed the Ver- 
non, merely inserting the refrain. ■ There are some indi- 
cations of Southern dialect in the later poem, besides one 
or two evident mistakes, such as: Adam to rhyme with 
man, where the Vernon has Sathan; and the substitution 
of thre Tcynges for hnihtes, as the guards appointed by 
Pilate to guard the tomb of Jesus. On the other hand, 
the "O and I" poem agrees in metrical form with the 

47 w. Heuser, "With an and an I," Anglic, XXVII, 313. 


regular characteristics of this type as tentatively formu- 
lated by Heuser** in his study of a group of such poems : 
the stanza consists of six lines of six or seven stresses 
rhyming aaaahh, the refrain "With an O and I" forming 
the first half of the fifth line. 

Just what the relationship between these two poems 
is, it is impossible to decide. It seems in every way 
more probable that the Caius should derive from the 
Vernon type. The Caius is more dramatic than the Ver- 
non, and more lyric because of the addition of the refrain. 
If this is the true state of the case, however, it would sug- 
gest that the "O and I" poems originally started from a 
metrical form like that of the Vernon Horae, and that the 
type was produced by the simple insertion of the "O and 
I" refrain into a stanza already established. 

An interesting parallel to the Caius poem is found in 
Ashmole MS 41,*^ written, according to Black, toward 
the end of the fourteenth century: 

(fol. 134a) With an O and an i J)an dyed our lord J^at stound 
A blynd knygth thorow hys syde smote with spere 

and mad a wound 
pat spere blode of hys hert toke. per wyth raun 

water lak 
Sone and mone vpon to luke. po waxed both blake 
Stones brosten J^e erth schoke. and dede folke ganne 

a wake 
pat ]>is is soth in holy boke. Seynt jone to borow 

i take 
With an o and an i. Seynt jone i ta[ ] to borw 
Marie and Cristes passione. vs help [ ]k a sorow. 

48 J&id., 310. 

49 Prof. Carleton Brown has kindly allowed me to use his tran- 
script of the Ashmole "0 and I." 


§8. Saint Edmund's "Speculum" 

Horstmann refers to two metrical translations of Saint 
Edmund's Speculum, both found in the Vernon MS,^° 
the first of these, ]>e Spore of Love, contains our story; 
but in the second, How to live parfytly, it is not found. 
In the Spore the story takes the form of a meditation on 
the hours ; indeed, Horstmann suggests that here the 
English text is not following the Speculum, but the 
Horae de Cruce from the Vernon MS just quoted.^^ The 
Spore reads: 

At noon: of \>e passion, and of pe Assencion. 

Be-l^enk J>e at >e vre of noon: 

Whon Crist hed seid J)at al was don, 

Mildeliche wij^-outen bost 

To his ffader he jeld his gost. 

And to him he made a cri 

Hely lamajabatani, 

pat is to seye aftur pe Book 

"ffader, whiere ]50u me forsok?" 

As hos sei)?, J>us here for to spille; 

A, lord, for hit was ])i wille. 

A blynd kniht J^en atte laste 

A Spere ]?orw [his] herte Jjraste, 

pat Blod and water ]7en out jede. 

perof we schulde take good hede: 

pe blynde knijt Jjerof cauite his siht, 

And ure Bapteme J»ere hedde mijt.52 

Besides these metrical versions of the Speculum, Horst- 
mann mentions three prose translations: that in the 
Thornton MS, which he says is the only l!^orthern one 

50 7?. Rolle, I, 219. 

51 See above, pp. 103, 104. 

52 Minor Poems of Yernon MS, EETS., pp. 292, 293. 


known; that in the Vernon, which follows more closely, 
according to Horstmann, the Latin original ; and one in 
a Cambridge MS, Ef 6, 40 (fol. 207), which contains 
only a partial translation.^^ As far as the Longinus story 
is concerned, the Thornton version does not depart from 
the Latin text, which here follows the Bible. The Thorn- 
ton reads : "And ]?are was a knyghte redye with a spere 
and perchede pe syde of Ihesu, and smate hym to pe herte ; 
and als-sone come rynnande downe pe precyouse blode and 
watire."^* Horstmann thinks it highly probable that 
Richard Eolle himself was the translator of the Specu- 

§9. English Meditations derived from Bonaventura 

The great popularity in England of the Meditationes 
Vitae Christi, long ascribed to Bonaventura, has already 
been noted. ^^ Almost every Marian lament, whether in- 
corporated in some longer treatise, or independent, shows 
trace of its influence. In the English translations the 
story of Longinus occurs in two forms, one slightly 
fuller than the other. The metrical version by Robert 
Mannyng of Brunne, found in MS Harl., 1701, contains 
the story in the shorter form. Though here the poet has 
made some additions, they do not affect the episode 

pan longeus >e kny^ht dyspysed here pleynt, 
pat ]>o proude was, but now, be mercy, a seynt. 
A spere he sette to crystys syde, 
He launced and opun[de] a wounde ful wyde. 
purgh hys herte he prened hym wit^ mode, 

53 R. Rolle, I, 219. 

54iMd., 237. 

55 See above, p. 24. 


And anone ran downe watyr and blode. 
AA, wrong! aa, wo! aa, wykkednes! 
To martyre here for here mekenes. 
pe sone was dede he felte no smerte, 
But certes hyt perced pe modrys 

There are also numerous Englisli prose versions of the 
Meditationes. Bonaventura's text is closely followed in 
the English version by ISTicholas Love, in whose Mirrour 
of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ,^'' the Longinus in- 
cident is exactly the same. Two anonymous English 
treatises also find direct source in the Meditationes; the 
first of these is contained under the title, The Privity of 
the Passion, in the Thornton MS f^ the second, entitled 
Meditacyon after noon of the opening of the syde of our 
lord jhesus, occurs in Pepys MS, 2125, fol. 35*. In both 

5&EETS., 60, 27. 

5" Ed. L. F. Powell, Oxford. Cf. the Myrrour of the Blessed Life 
of Jhesu-Crist. Hunterian MS, 77 (p. 85 Cat. for full description), 
which evidently corresponds exactly to N. Love's translation. Cf. 
also Bonaventura's Life of Christ, in English, Trin. Coll. Cambr. 
MS, B. 10, 12 (James, no. 223), a fifteenth century MS, with 
excellent miniatures. It begins, "When tyme was comen of 
forgifnes and mercies of oure lorde in whilke he had or- 
denede to safe mankynde;" and ends (after the account of the 
appearance to Thomas), "Whilke ioy and comforth he grawnt us 
pi wt his precious blode boght us." This appears to be unlike 
other versions that I have seen. No. 23 of the miniatures, is 
described in the cat.: "The side pierced, The Virgin swoons. 
Longinus points to his eye." Cf. also the Mirror of the Blessed 
Life of Jesus Christ translated by "N" and dedicated to Archbp. 
Arundel, Lambeth MS, 328, (fifteenth century); and the English 
translation of Bonaventura's Vita Christi found in Camb. Univ. 
MS, Hh. 1.11 (art. 1), "This," according to the catalogue descrip- 
tion, "contains chaps. 1-5 and 57 to the end;" and Speculum 
Devotorum, or A Myrour to Devot Peple, in Cambr. Univ. MS. Gg. 
1.6 (fifteenth century), which is apparently another English 
translation of the Vita Christi. 

58 R. Rolle, I, 208. 


of these meditations Longinus is described as wicked, but 
as afterwards converted and suffering martyrdom. 

The second and fuller form of the story which appears 
in the Bonaventura translations, adds to the original a 
reference to the blindness of the converted Longinus. 
Of this second type there are several somewhat varying 
texts. That found in MS Egerton 2658'^ (fifteenth cen- 
tury), fol. 9% reads as follows: 

His modur sniSSe lest pel wold haue ydo so by hym stillich and 
wis a ful rewliche chere wepynge and all hoose; she wrynged hur 
hondes and spak to hem and sayde my dere bre^ren I beseche yow 
for J>e hye goddys loue J>at le do no more to my dere sone. I am 
his moder je wetej? wel dere brej?/en >at I offended you neuere ne 
neuer dide lou wrong. And J)ouj je haue do my sone )5is dishese 
spare]? hym now and I will forreue low alle pe offence and J?e 
dee]? of my chylde. So myche mercy and pite haue]? on me J?at je 
breke not his lymes. Doe lee see]? J?at he is deed and an houre 
it is si]?nes he dijede . . . pan was per a kny^t J?at was 
blynd and hy^t longius. he was an euyl proude man. And toke 
litel hede of oure lady talkynge and jit afterward he was a holy 
seynt and martir for Cristes [loue. cf. Stonyhurst MS. BXLIII, 
f.56b] blind as he was he pressed among l?e jewes and wij? a 
spare as )?ese cruel jewys sette him to to. he shoof hadde as ]?ei 
bad hym. And opened oure lordes rijt side a greet wounde. And 
a none per gusshed out blode and watre. longius feled wete 
)?yng come rennynge downe by pe spere to his hond. he gnodded 
his eyjen per wiJ? and anone he hadde his siit and of ]?at miracle 
he becam a good man evere after. 

Another version found in Trinity College Cambridge 
MS B. 5.42 (James 374), (fifteenth century), fol. 33% 
without title in the mianuscript, but described by James as 
a Life of the Virgin and of Christ in English, is clearly 

39 Cf. H.ulme, op. cit., p. xxxvi, for description of the MS. I am 
indebted to Dr. Hulme for the use of his transcript of this MS, 
and also for that of the Stonyhurst MS B. XLIII, fol. 56b, whicli 
is another copy of the same text. Dr. Hulme also kindly called 
my attention to Pepys MS 2498, reference to which follows. 


also following Bonaventura as far as this extract is con- 
cerned. I have not examined the whole manuscript. 

Whan the lewis come to Cryst bycause they founde hym dede 
they breke not his thyes. But a knyit amonges hem that hete 
longius A proude man and A wykid at that tyme but aftur he 
was conuertid. he was an holy martur not takynge hede to J>e 
wepyng«s ne the prayours of that holy Companye. But dispytusly 
with a scharpe spere openyd the syde of oure blessid lord ihesus 
And made a gret wounde. And clefe his hert out of the whyche 
wounde ranne bothe blode and water. And as we rede this knyit 
was att moste blynde and hit happinyd to him to touche his yen 
witTi the blode of Cryste and he myjt.e see aftur ward well ynow. 

This second type is contained also in the Pepys MS, 
2498 (Magdalene College, Cambridge) in "The Passion; 
caulid the complainte of our Lady," The story of Lon- 
ginus is found at fol. 38*: 

[The knights broke the bones of the thieves] and whan hy 
comen to hym he founden hym ded hy ne breken nouith his 
hypes ac hy duden a kniith >at hiith longys smyte hym in to >e 
side un to J^e hert and wi]? ]>e out drawing of J'e sper comen out 
water and blode and )>e dropes of blode runnen adoun to longys 
honde wij> whiche he wyped his eiien and als sone he sey and 
whan he sey Jjat wonder he fel doun on knees and repented hym 
in his hert and cried mercy, pan wenten pe princes and all hom 
and leften kniites for to kepe Ipe body and i loked to my swete 
son and seije his heued Jjat helde up al pe werlde hengeande 

§10. Marian Laments 

Hardly to be distinguished from these Bonaventura 
Meditations, so far as the Longinus incident is concerned, 
are the epics or lyrics known definitely as Marian La- 
ments. Indeed, Thien^° in his study of the Middle Eng- 
lish "Marienklagen" does not differentiate them. For 

60 tj'ber die engl. Marienklagen, Kiel, 1906. 


his purpose it was of course suitable to consider not only 
monologues or dialogues in which Mary is the speaker, 
but to include passages founded on the planctus wherever 
x;hey occui — in treatises or poe^ms on the passion, in the 
drama and elsewhere. I shall take up here only the 
lament in its more restricted form. The type is of in- 
terest since it represents, as Professor Gerould remarks,"^ 
"the movement which from the twelfth century human- 
ized religion at the same time that it popularized the 
elements of mysticism." 

It is easy to see how the story of Longinus could be- 
come attached to the Marian lament. In her complaints 
Mary usually recites in detail the tortures of the cruci- 
fixion. In the well known Filius regis mortuus est (Lam- 
beth MS, 853) there occurs this stanza, in which there is 
reference to the spear, but not to Longinus : 

O je creaturis vnkynde! ipou iren, Jjou steel, )>ou scharp Jjorn! 
How durst 56 slee joure best frend, 
pe holiest child t>at euere was born? 

je haue him woundid, ye haue him pyned; 

Spare & nail his bodi haj? schorn! 

pou spere! whi suffridist J^ou J^e smyth \>e grinde 

So scharpe ])at al his herte ]?ou hast to-torn? 

I may crie out on \>ee bo>e euen. & morn, 

A wemless maydens sone Ipou sleest! 

I wringe & wepe as t>ing for-lorn! 

Filius regis mortuus est.62 

In some cases, however, the appearance of the spear has 
suggested to the writer the story of Longinus. 

An interesting lyric complaint of the sixteenth cen- 
tury — preserved, so far as is known, only in Balliol MS, 
354 — contains mention of Longinus. It begins : 

61 In his review of Thien's study, Engl. Stud. 37, 406. 

62 Pol. Relig. and Love Poems, EETS., 15, 209, 210. 


Whan J^at my swete sone was xxxti winter old 
than J>e traytor Judas wexed very bold. 

The last stanza reads : 

Thowgh I were sorrowful no man haue at yt wonder, 
for howge was l^e erth quake, horyble was ye thonder, 
I loked on my swate son on pe Crosse >at I stode vnder, 
than cam Lungeus, with a spere & clift his hart in sonder. 

Each stanza is followed by the refrain : 

O my harte is wo, Mary she sayd so. 
For to se my dere son dye, 
& sonnes haue I no mo! 63 

Thien^* comments on the line, "Though I were sorrow- 
ful no man haue at it wonder," as a popular phrase in 
the laments. He cites as sources: Bernard's Tract. (Lat. 
XI) 65 ff. : tristitia vexabar . . . nee mirum; Dreves, 
Analecta Hymnica, IV, "87 : Nee mirum, si sis anxia. 

The several texts of The Lamentation between our 
Lady and Saint Beimard vary considerably in the space 
given to Longinus. The story in MS Rawlinson 
(Poet. 175), and in MS Cambridge, Dd. 1, 1, is 
twice as long as that found in the Vernon text, and 
somewhat longer than that in the Cotton version. The 
variation in the case of the Cotton MS is caused by a 
different stanza arrangement and the omission of refer- 
ence to Longinus in the shifted stanza. Horstmann con- 
sidered the Cotton (which he dated about 1350) as the 
oldest MS of the poem. Frohlich, on the other hand, takes 

SB Songs and Carols, from Balliol MS, 354, R. Dyboski, EETS., 
101, 40; printed by Fliigel, Anglia 26, 262; also in Early Eng. 
Lyrics, Chambers and Sidgwick, pp. 142, 143. 

64 Op. cit., 20. 


the Rawlinson (the middle of the fourteenth century) to 
be the oldest MS."' 

The Rawlinson text reads as follows: 

1.577. I folowd fast with all my myght 

With John & with my sisters two. 
Omang I^am pare ]jan stode a knyght, 
BIynd he was & lame also, 
And all I>ai said longius he hyght; 
Vnder ^e cross J^ai gert him go — 
And sertes ))an I saw a syght 
pat was pe werst of all my wo 

585. pai gaf J^e knyght a spere full gude, 

And sett it to my dere son syde, 
pai bad him styng fast J?are he stode 
For any thing J^at myght betyde. 
'* He putt it vp with eger mode, 

To my sun hert he gert it glyde: 
And sone brast out both water & blode 
Of t)at wound pat was so wyde. 

593. pan wex my hert heuy als lede. 

When J>at 1 saw fat rewfull syght: 
pe watetr clere & pe blode rede 
pat ran out of J>e wound full ryght;66 
pan fell I doune als I war dede, 
Langer to stand had I no myght; 
John me comforth in J?at stede. 
So did Joseph J?at noble knyght. 

601. pe blode ran doune vntill his hand. 

And >are with wyped pe knight his eghe, 
So gatt he syght als he gan stand 
And luked brade withouten leghe, 

65 Ms Rawlinson, Poet. 175 version is printed by W. Frohlich, 
De lamentacione sancte Marie, 1902, p. 63 ff. The Vernon text by 
Horstmann, EETS., 98, p. 297 ff. The Vernon and Cambr. Dd. 1, 1, 
by Kribel, Engl. Stud., VIII, 85 ff. The Tiber. E. VII, by Horst- 
mann, R. Rolle, II, 274 ff. For full description of MSS and their 
relations of. Frohlich. 

66 Dd. I.a96 reads instead — To Longius hand it ran doun rihte. 


He thanked god of all his sende — 
Lyftand his hert to heuen on heghe. 
pat syght sone dele nay bale vnbande, 
And other mo Jjat stode me neghe.67 

The Longinus episode apparently is an addition by the 
English author, since it does not occur in the sermon of 
St. Bernard, which is supposed to be his source: "Vide- 
bant Christi corpus sic male tractatum ab impiis, sic lacte- 
ratum a pessimis, jacere exanime suo sanguine cruenta- 
tum."®^ Who this author was, however, is not known. It 
has been ascribed to Richard Rolle of Hampole, but Horst- 
mann,** Kribel,''" and Frohlich^^ all agree that it cannot 
be by Rolle. Plorstmann first suggested as the probable 
author Richard Maidenstoon,^^ and later William Nas- 
syngton.'^^ Frohlich^* dismisses both these suggestions as 

67 In Tiber E. VII, the stanza beginning 1.593 follows that be- 
ginning 1.601. Both these stanzas are omitted in the Vernon 
text. MS Laud Misc. 463, gives for 11., 602-4, a very pretty varia- 

He wipid his eyen and wel he sey 
ffelde and wode water and londe 
ffoul in firmamente on hey. 

A slight resemblance in the Vernon text to the Northern Pas- 
sion is to be noted. L.579 reads: "Besyde J^e Roode J?er stod 
a knijt Blynd he was and lome also." The corresponding line in 
the Northern Passion (MS Ashm. 61) reads: "Besyde J^e rude 
stude a knyght, l^at longe hade forgone hys syght." See above, 
p. 99. 

68 Printed by Kribel, op. cit. p. 109, from Antwerp ed. 1616. 
esEETS., 98, 297. 

TO Op. cit., 84. 
71 Op. cit., 54. 
72EETS., 98, 297. j 

73 R. Rolle, II, 274. 

74 Op. cit., 54. 


§11. Religious Lykics 

Tlie religious lyrics in Middle English, as Chambers"^' 
has noted, exceed in number the love-lyrics. Several of 
these have already been included in other connections, as 
Marian laments, poems on the Hours, or meditations on 
the Passion. Their origins are usually shown by the 
remnants retained by them of the older forms from which 
they derive. For instance, they are often translations 
with slight expansion of Latin hymns. As in the case of 
the Vernon Horae de Cruce, they keep the Latin poem 
as heading, and add in English a free paraphrase, some- 
times including details not found in the source, as, for 
example, the Longinus reference in the Vernon poem. 
Such a poem as this is still further popularized by the 
inclusion of a refrain, as illustrated by the "O and I" 
drawn from, the Horae?^ Again, a secular lyric serves as 
the direct model for the religious poet. He addresses the 
Virgin as the "may," "Mi leove swete lefdi," "Lavedi so 
fair and so hende." Jesus is the "lemman;" as already 
noted, in the half lyrical homilies, the Wohung of ur'e 
lauerd, and the Talkyng of the Loue of God. All the 
followers of Rolle show this intimacy of appeal, the de- 
sire of the love of Christ, as a source of earthly ecstacy 
and peace. In speaking of Rolle, Chambers says, "All 
his verse is of 'love-longing,' filled with that sense of 
personal contact between the soul and the divine object 
which appears to be at the heart of the mystical appre- 
hension. . . . He conceives of love, not as softness, but 
as fire; to him, as to the trouveres, although in another 

"75 Cf. Chambers and Sidgwick, op. cit., p. 287. 
76 See above, p. 105. 


sense, it is 'derne love.' "^^ Such feeling is the source 
of many of the mediaeval religious lyrics. Sometimes 
these poems succeed admirably in keeping the charm of 
the secular lyric, then again they are travesties, showing 
merely a didactic attempt to ecclesiasticize the popular 
song in order to draw the attention from worldly to 
heavenly thoughts. 

A highly secularized, or slightly ecclesiasticized, lyric 
which mentions the blindness of Longinus without giv- 
ing the miracle, is this from a fifteenth century MS, 
edited by Wright. It is prefaced, "A song to the tune 
of. And I were a mayd, etc." : 

They hym nayled, and yl flayled, 
Alas, that innocent I 

Lunges, blind knyght, with al his myght. 
With a spere hys hart rent. 
Hey, now, now, now, 
Watur and blod fro hys hart yode. 
And yet that blyssed sone 
Prayd for thosse that ware hys fosse, 
To get for them pardone i 

Hey, now, now, now.78 

A curious and extreme example of this moralizing pro- 
cess applied to secular lyrics, is found in The New Not- 
hrotune Mayd upon the Passion of Cryste. "The pro- 
duction," as Hazlitt notes, "consists of a dialogue be- 
tween Christ and the Virgin Mary, in which the latter 
intercedes with our Saviour for mankind." The tag, "I 
am a banysshed man," which appears at the close of each 
of the sections in which Jesus speaks, gives here an ab- 
surd effect of caricature. 

77 iMd., p. 289. 

T8 So7igs and Carols, Pei'cy Society, XXIII, 72. 


Longinus is mentioned in Maria's speech: 

1.126 Swete sonne, syth ye. 

To make hym fre, 
Wold dye of your good mynde; 
Your herte souerayne 
Clouen in twayne, 
By longes the blynde. 
And all was done. 
That man alone 
Shulde not be left behynde; 

Your goodnes euer 

Dothe styll perseuer 

Though he haue ben unkynde; 

What is offendyd, 

Shall be amended. 

Ye shall persayue anon; 

Ye shall be kynde 

Yeldynge his mynde 

And loue to you alone.79 

Another example of a religious lyric in the dress of 
the secular — ^though in this case the poet is more success- 
ful — is found in the remarkable poem The Quatrefoil of 
Love, printed by Gollancz (from Brit. Mus. MS Addit. 
31,042). Here the lyric takes the form of a vision and 
begins in the usual vision style. The marked allitera- 
tion is to be noticed: 

In a moruenyng of Maye whenne medowes salle spryng: 

Blomes and blossomes of brighte coloures: 

Als I went by a welle: on my playing: 

Thurghe a merry orcherde bedand myne hourres. 

He sees a "Turtille" in a tree, which speaks and tells 
him of a "trew-lufe grysse," "with iiij lef es it sett fulle 

79 Early Popular Poetry of England, III, 1, ff. Hazlitt says the 
poem appears to be a translation from the French. 


louely aboute." The four leaves represent the Father, 
Son, Holy Ghost, and Mary. 

Reference to Longinus is found in connection with the 
second leaf (stanza xviii) : 

_^itt spak J)at noble kynge, was naylede on Jiat tre; 
Untille his modir dere was mournande ]?at tyde: 
'Leue pi wepynge, womane, and morne noghte for me: 
Take John to pi sone I^at standis bi J)i side: 
Johne, take Mary pi moder now moder to pe: 
To kepe and to comforthe loure blysse for to byde! 
pe hate blode of his hert dide Longeus to-see: 
pat rane by pe spere schafte fra his wondis wyde 
pat daye 

It was grete dole for to se: 

When he was taken of pe tre: 

The seconde lefe of the three 

Was closede in 

The Bannatyne MS contains several poems, which 
mention Longinus, different in type from those already 
examined : 

We that are Bocht with Chrystis Blude 

Betuix ws and thy fell one sede 
Ane wall ar Chrystis woundes fyve 
His body bathit in blud all rede, 
The scurgis that his flesch did ryfe 
The speir that Longeus did indryfe 
In latus eius per vigorem, 
Schaip the no moir with ws to stryve: 
Virgo peperit 

The Latin tags in this and the next poem indicate their 
probable origin. 

80 Furnivall Miscellany, p. 121. 

81 Hunterian Club, I, 78. In this edition the first lines are used 
as titles. 


My wofull Hairt me Stoundis. 

Fra XII to iiij upoun the croce I hang, 
Plungit in panis and perplexite; 
Longius a lance into my body thrang; 
I wes tane doun, and woundit richelie, 
My muderis splene pairfit calamide; 
My blissit body, quhilk passit all riches, 
Within a crag wes closit quietle: 
Benedicta sit Sancta Trinitas.82 

woundit Spreit and Saule in tell Exile 

Punyss nocht thy peple. Lord God, in thy grevance; 
Think quhy thy Sone Cryst sufferit sic passioun; 
The croun of thorne, the croce, eik Longins lance 
For manis syn makis intercessioun."83 

Compacience perssis 

My wofull hairt is boyth roiosit and sad, 
Thy cross. Lord Jesus Chryst, quhen I behald 
Off my redemptioun I am merry and glaid, 
Seand thy panis sair wep I wald. 
Cryand holy, the gaistly sperit thow yald; 
To Longens hand the blud ran in a rest; 
Thy pretius blud for our redemption thow said, 
Quhen thow inclinit with 'Consummatum est.' 
Dirk wes the sone fra the sext hour to nyne, 
Mountains trymblit. hillis, erd schuk ard claif; 
Centurio said, Thow art Godis Sone devyne.s^ 

§12. Fifteen Signs befoee the Day of Judgment 

Kot only in places where it would be expected, sucli 
as in descriptions of the passion, or the sorrow of the 
Virgin, is the story of Longinus found. It may be added 
to any poem that contains mention of the spear. In this 

82 Ibid., 84. 
s'siMd., 88, 
Si Ibid., 91. 


way it was inserted in some versions of the Fifteen Signs 
before the Day of Judgment. Though there are a num- 
ber of English poems'*^ on tliis theme, the Longinus in- 
cident appears in only two — those in Cotton MS Caligula 
A 11/' and Trinity College Cambridge MS B. 11, 24." 
The reference to Longinus is more interesting in the 
Cotton text; 

The XV. day hyeth bylyve. 

For ^pQT ys no mon on lyfe 

Fro Adammus day, \)e tyrst mon, 

To ]?e dome he shall come J^ann; 

And fro \>e deth he shall aryse, 

And of \>Q dome full sore agryse, 

Every man yn XXXti wyntur of olde 

Shall come )?e dome to beholde; 

And every mon shall ol^ur mete 

At >e mownte of Olyvete. 

Two angelles shall blawe wyth homes. 

For drede all shall come at ones; 

Well sore J)ey may agryse. 

That fro >e deth >en shall ryse. 

Two angelles shall come Jesu beforn 

Wyth schorge and spere and crowne of ]>orn, 

Wyth drery chere and sorrowful mode, 

And so hyt herte and hys blode. 

The spere as blody and as sharpe. 

As he was stongenn wyth to Jje herte. 

For nonn envye ne for no pryde 

Longeus stonge hym Jjorow >e syde. 

But he nam >e blode so rede. 

As ]>e prophesye hym bede, 

He strokke hyt to hys yesy^th, 

Hyt wax as clere as candellyght. 

He sayde: "Lorde full of pyte, 

85 Cf. Nolle, Beitrdge, VI, 474; also H. E. Sandison, Archiv /. 
das Stud. d. neueren Sprach. u. Lit. CXXIV, 80, 81; and Varnha- 
gen, Anglia III, 534 ff. 

86 Printed by Varnhagen, Anglia III, 549. 

87 Ed. Furnivall, Hymns to Virgin and Christ, SETS., 24, 123. 


Thys mysdede }>ou forjeue me. 
I ne dede hyt for no wykkedhede. 
But as pese cursede jewes me bede." 
Two angelles shall brynge pe rode bry^t, 
pe blody naylus, so presyous of syght, 
And say: "Lorde, we beseche pe, 
Of all us to have pyte." 

Then Jesus calls to mind his suffering on the cross ; Mary 
intercedes ; the evil are oondemned to sorrow, and the good 
are rewarded. Jesus proceeds at once to speak of the 
pain caused him by the scourges, the spear, the nails, etc. 
Here, it will be observed, the story of Longinus has been 
dragged in at the mention of the symbols of the suffering 
of Jesus. It interrupts the narrative and is out of keep- 
ing with what precedes and follows, as Longinus is repre- 
sented as the unwilling instrument. Noteworthy are the 
lines : 

But he nam pe blode so rede 
As pe prophesye hym bede. 

No other version of the story with which I am familiar 
refers to a prophecy in this connection.®^ 

§13. PiEEs Plowman 

ISTo mediaeval writer, great or small, could avoid Lon- 
ginus. The author of Piers Plowman, describing the 
passion of Christ in the framework of a vision, pauses 

88 Varnhagen, op. cit. p. 533, comments on the close relationship 
of the Cotton MS version to that found in Digby 86. He says, in- 
deed: "Welchem derselben die prioritat gebiihrt, lasse ich 
dahingestellt sein." The Digby MS does not contain the Lon- 
ginus story. The Cotton MS is very closely paralleled by the 
Trinity College Cambridge MS B. 11, 24 (James, 263), also of the 
fifteenth century. The latter omits the suggestion of prophecy 
and is somewhat briefer. 


long enougli to tell the story of Longinus. Here the 
Bpearman is seen as a gallant and knightly fig-ure, and 
his deed is spoken of in terms of knightly encounter. 
The scene is made highly dramatic, and, notwithstanding 
the secularization, pathetic. 

1. 78. Ac J^ere cam forth a kny^te • with a kene spere ygrounde, 
Hijte longeus, as pe lettre telleth, and longe had lore his 

Bifor pilat & other peple • in pe place he houed; 
Maugre his many tethe • he was made J^at tyme 
To take pe spere in his honde • & iusten with ihesus; 
For alle J^ei were vnhardy • )?at houed on hors or stode, 
To touche hym or to taste hym • or take hym down of 

85. But J?is blynde bacheler Jeanne . bar hym J>orugh pe herte; 
pe blode spronge down by pe spere • & vnspered pe knijtes 

panne fel pe knyite vpon knees • and cryed hym mercy — 
"Ajeyne my wille it was, lorde • to wownde jow so sore!" 
He seighed & sayde • "sore it me athynketh; 
For pe dede Jjat I haue done • I do me in jowre grace; 
Haue on me reuth, rijtful ihesu!" • & riit with J?at he 

Thanne gan faith felly • pe fals iuwes dispise. 
Called hem caytyues • acursed for euere, 
For J>is foule vyleynye • "veniaunce to jow alle, 
95. To do pe blynde bete hym ybounde . it was a boyes 
Cursed caytyue! • knijthod was it neuere 
To mysdo a ded body • by day or by ny^te. 
pe gree jit hath he geten • for al his grete wounde. 
For lowre champioun chiualer • chief kniyjt of jow alle, 
jelt hym recreaunt rennyng • riit at ihesus wllle.89 

Longinus, it is interesting to note, is here introduced as 
the "champion" of the Jews (cf. especially 11. 99-100), 

89 Vision of Piers Plowman, Ed. Skeat, B-text XVIII, 78-100; 
C-text XXI, 81-105. Cf. Kroner, p. 32. 


SO that tie stands forth as the protagonist of the anti- 
Christians. Acting in this representative capacity, he 
becomes almost an allegorical figure, and his conversion 
in consequence something more than a private incident.^" 

§14. Chatjcee 

Chaucer also has made use of the legend. In his ABC 
poem, a free translation of the prayer to the Virgin in 
Guillaume de Deguilleville's Le Pelerinage de la Vie hu- 
maine, there is found a passing reference to Longinus 
though no mention of him occurs in the corresponding 
stanza of the French text: 

Xristus, thy sone, that in this world alighte, 
Upon the cros to suffre his passioun, 
And eek, that Longius his herte pighte, 
And made his herte blood to renne adoun; 
And al was this for my salvacioun; 
And I to him am fals and eek unkinde; 
And yit he wol not my dampnacioun — 
This thanke I you, secour of al mankinde.91 

§15. Lydgate 

Lydgate more than once shows his familiarity with the 
legend of Longinus. The first passage in which he tells 
the story occurs in the Nightingale — a poem which em- 

90 The representation of Christ as a knight engaged in knightly 
encounter with his enemy is not uncommon in the Middle Ages. 
Cf. P. Meyer, Introduction to Les Contes Moralises de N. Bozon. 
Soc. des anciens textes fr., pp. xli-xlii. The allegorical poem on 
the Crucifixion by Bozon, referred to, has been printed by A. 
Jubinal, Nouveau Recueil, II, 309 ff.; and by T. "Wright, Pierre 
Langtoft's Chronicle, Rolls Ser., II, App. II, 426 ff. In this poem 
Christ encounters Belial, who gives him the five wounds. 

91 The Minor Poems, Ed. Skeat, 1894, p. 270. The French origi- 
nal of the poem is printed at the bottom of the page. 



ploys the vision setting, but which in its arrangement fol- 
lows the Hours of the Cross. The mention of Longinus 
comes as usual at the hour of "none" : 

1.379. Thus heng oure lord nayled to the tre, 

Fro the oure of sixt unto the oure of none, — 

Ande also longe was in prosperite 

Oure fader Adam, tyll tyme that he had done 

That high forfet for which he banyshid sone 

Was in-to yerth, to lyue in langour there 

Ande all his o[f] spryng, — till Longens with a spere 

The oure of none, as lewes hym desyred, ^ 

Thirled and persed thorgh his hert & side. 
He, seyng then: '•Consummatum est,"' expired 
And heed enclyned, the gost yaf vp that tyde 
Vnto the fader. The sunne, compelled to hyde 
His bemys bright, no longer myght endure 
To see the deth of the auctor of nature. 

Thus hath this brid, thus hath this nyghtingale, 
Thus hath this blessed lord that all hath wroght, 

Upon a crosse our soules dere y-bought."92 

In Lydgate's Testament, under the sub-title Lyh a 
Lambe offryd in sacrifice, these stanzas occur : 

Behold the speere moost sharply grounde and whet, 
Myn herte woundid upon the rihte syde. 
Behold the reed speer, galle and eysel fett. 
Behold the scornyngis which that I did abyde. 
And my five woundys that were maad so wyde 
Which no man lyst of routh to advertise, 
And thus I was of meeknesse ageyn pryde, 
To mannys offence offrid in sacrifise! 

See how that I was jugid to the deth, 
See Baraban goon at his liberty, 

92 EET8., e. s. 80, 14. Cf. MacCracken, The Lydgate Canon, p. 
xix, for notice of MSS. 


See with a speere how Longius me sleth, 
Behold too licoures distyllyng doun fro me. 
See blood and watir, by merciful plente, 
Rayle by my sides which auhte I nouhe suffise 
To man whan I upon the roode tre, 
Was lik a lamb offrid in sacrifise.93 

A reference to Longinus appears also in the first section 
of the same poem : 

By blood Jhesus made our redempcioun. 

With watir of baptym fro felthe wessh us cleene, 

And from his herte too licours there ran doun. 

On Calvary the trouthe was wel seene. 

Whan Longius with a spere keene 

Percyd his hertet upon the roode [tre] ; 

O man unkynde! thynk what this doth meene. 

And on to Ihesu bowe adoun, thy kne.9^ 

Ljdgate emphasizes here the doctrinal points connected 
with the sacrifice of the Crucifixion — the atoning, expia- 
tory 'blood of redemption' and the miraculously shed 
'water of baptism.' 

That Lydgate should introduce mention of Longinus 
also into his Testament is not surprising. Indeed, when 
one considers how usual it was to attach the legend to 
any reference to the spear, it becomes matter for remark 
that Longinus is not more often found in "Testament" 
poems. Thien includes this type also among his 'Marien- 
klagen,' to which it is closely related. Frequently the 
lance is made prominent, as in the Vernon version of the 
Testamentum Christi, where Christ is the parchment; 
the scourge is the pen; the wounds are the letters; the 
spear and nails, the seals. 

93 Minor Poems of Dan John Lydgate, Percy Society, II, 262. 
dilDid., II, 234. 


1.135 pe seles ])at hit was seled wij? 
pei were grauen vp-on a sti]? 
Of gold nor seluer weore ]?ei nouit, 
Of stel and Iren were ]?ei wroujt: 
With f>e spere of stel myn herte J>ei stongen.95 

§16. A LoLLAED Ceeed 

Pollard prints in "The Examination of Master Wm. 
Thorpe, priest, of heresy, before Thomas Arundell, Arch- 
bishop of Canterbury, 1407," A precise and authentic 
Lollard Creed. The Archbishop charges William with 
having infected and poisoned the land with his "untrue 
teaching and shrewd will," to which William responds: 
"Sir, since ye deem me an heretic out of belief, will ye 
give me here audience to tell my Belief?" His creed con- 
tains interesting mention of Longinus: 

And notwithstanding that Christ was wilfully, painfully, and 
most shamefully put to death as to the world, there was left 
blood and water in his heart, as he before ordained that he 
would shed out this blood and this water for man's salvation. 
And therefore he suffered the Jews to make a blind knight to 
thrust him into the heart with a spear; and this blood and 
water that was in his heart, Christ would shed out for man's 

95EETS., 117, 647. Though I have found Longinus mentioned 
only in this Testament of Lydgate, his name is included among 
the signatures of the witnesses in two versions of Testamentuvi 
Christi, MS Harl. 6848, fol. 239, and Add. Char. 5960. For these 
references I am indebted to the kindness of Miss M. C. Spalding, 
who expects to publish soon a critical edition of the Middle 
English versions of the Testamentum Christi. 

QG Fifteenth Century Prose and Verse, A. W. Pollard, 107, 108, 


§1Y. Romances Exclusive of the Gkail 

In the Englisk romances unconnected with the Grail, 
Longinus and his lance are of no great importance. Gen- 
erally speaking, only those of French origin include any 
reference to the story. As in the French romances — 
though in English the illustrations are comparatively 
few, — Longinus's name is found in the long prayers made 
by the heroes before entering combat. Kroner draws 
most of his examples of the French use of the legend from 
such prayers, which occur abundantly. °^ Sometimes, as 
in the following lines in Robert the Devyll, Longinus is 
brought in quite incidentally in the course of a reference 
to the redeeming blood of Christ : 

And forthe he rode to the church door 
And discended from his horse right there 
So he kneled downe in the floore 
And to oure lorde god he made hys prayer 

97 Since Kroner's dissertation was published, E. Langlois has 
compiled a Table des Noms Propres Compris dans les Chansons 
de Geste, 1904. His list of the appearances of Longinus includes, 
in addition to those mentioned by Kroner, the following: Rolant 
(W. Foerster, Alt. franz. Bib. VI) 200, 352; Rolant (Bib. VIT) 
290, 291; Berte (A. Scheler, 1874) 1431; Gaidon {Anc. poetes de 
la France) 42, 43, 66, 131, 170, 255; Anseis de Cartege {Bib. de 
litt. Verreins CXCIV) 260, var; Gui de Bourgogne {Anc. Poetes) 
29, 30, 42, 52, 58, 106; Aliscans {Anc. Poetes) 214; Enhances 
Vivien (A. Nordfelt) 1895; Girart de Vienne {Poetes de Champ. 
XVI, 16) 103; Aimeri de Narbonne {Anc. Textes) ; Mort Aimeri 
2001; Beuve de Commanchis (Scheler) 520; Parise la Duchesse 
(F. Guissard et L. Larchy) 2; Renart de Montauban {Bib. des 
litt. Vereins Stutt, LXVII) 176, 180, 214, 226, 349; Maugis (M. F. 
Castels, Rev. des langues rom. XXXVI, p. 5-259) 6619; Mort 
Garin (duMeril) 218; Chanson d'Antioch (P. Paris) I, 132, II, 22, 
88, iii; Conq. de Jerusalem (Hippeau) 866, 7031; Baudoin de 
Sibourc I, 316, II, 154, 171, 304, 321, 322, 365, 374, 447; Bastard de 
Buillon, 33, 859, 2499, 3242, 4086, 6150. 


Saying, swete Jesu that bought me dere 

Haue mercy on me for that precyous bloude. 

That ran from your hearte with longis speare 

Which stonge youe in the side hangynge on the roode.98 

A second type of prayer, common in the romances, is 
found in the long petition of Olyuer before his fight with 
Fierabras, in which he recounts the life of Christ. This 
is taken from Caxton's Charles the Grete: 

"O gloryous god, cause and beginning of al that is aboue and 
vnder the fyrmamente, which for your owne playser fourmed 
our fyrst fader Adam and for hys companye gauest vnto hyra 
Eue, by whome al humayn generacyon is conceyued gyuyng to 
them lycence to ete al maner fruytes reserued onely one, of 
whyche Eue by the moeuyng of the serpent, caused Adam to ete 

. . . . And whan ye were in age by you determyned ye 
went in the world prechyng to your frendes. Thenne after- 
ward by thenuyous lewes ye were hanged on the crosse, in 
whiche so hangyng longyus the knyght by the Induction of the 
lewes percyd your syde; and whan he byleued in you and wesshe 
hys eyen with your precious blode he recouered his syit fayre 
and clere and cryed you mercy whereby he was saued. . . . 
Thus my god, my maker, as thys is trouthe and I byleue it 
verayly and fermly, be ye in my comforte ageynst thys myscre- 
aunte that I may vaynquysshe hym in suche wyse that he may 
be saued."99 

Similar in type to the preceding is another prayer in 
the same romance, offered in this case by Charles for the 
success of Oliver. The mention of Longinus is as follows : 
"And after Longyus smote you in the ryght syde to the 
hert, which was blynde and after that he had leyed on hys 
eyen of your precuous blood he sawe moche clerely."^"*' 

In another type of prayer, common in the old French 
romances, Longinus is mentioned, along with the Magda- 

9s Roberte the Devyll, London, 1798, p. 28. Reprinted by Haz- 
litt. Remains of Early Pop. Poetry, I, 244. 

99 The Lyf of the Noble and Crysten Prynce Charles the Orete, 
EETS., e. s. 37, 65, 66. 

100 Ibid., 71. 


lene, Judas, and others, as an example of a great sinner 
who repented and was forgiven. Of this kind is the fol- 
lowing from Garin de Loherain, though in this case Lon- 
ginus figures alone: "Sire, dit-il je vous ai souvent of- 
fense, et j'en grand regret. Mais vous avez pardonne a. 
Longis le coup de lance qui vous donna la mort ; preservez- 
moi aujourdhui I"^"^ So far as I am aware, this type of 
prayer is not illustrated in the English romances. 

Besides this use of Longinus in prayers, the romances 
sometimes mention him in connection with the relics of 
the crucifixion, which, in the crusading romances, play an 
important part. In Sir Ferumbras,^^^ the winning from 
the Saracens of the relics of the crucifixion is one of the 
motives of the romance. Floripas gives the 'relyques 
preciouse and fyn' to the French knights : 

1.2122 'Be-holde]?, lordes,' sayde sche J>an.' and but> now 

murie and glad; 
pis ys t>at tresour whar-for ^e ban! trauayl and tene 

Which J>at my fader let here awayi of Rome as ^e 


Again the relics are brought out in time of trouble and 
the knights kneel to them and pray for help: 

1.5049 Wan Jie barouns had y-sejen hem alle, On hure knes 
]?ay duden falle, and cryde god mercy. 

pat burde bryit >anne tok hem out, and knelyng J)ay 
kussede alle about J^e relyques with gret honour; 

And prayede god ])orw vertue of hem Scholde sauye 
hem ther fro hej7[en] men. 

The Saracens scale the walls, but when the relics are 
'schewede hem on hur face,' they fall back and from such 
a great height 'that hure bodies al to-burste.' 

101 Ed. P. Paris, 1862, 339. Cf. for other French examples. Kro- 
ner, op. cit., 34 ff. 

102 EET8., e. s., 34. 


In Sir Ferumbras the lance is not mentioned among 
the relics, as at the time celebrated in the romance, the 
lance had already been removed from Jerusalem. ^"^ In 
Roland and Yernagu, a related romance, it is included. 
Constantino showed Charlemagne the relics, the odor of 
which cured three hundred sick people. There were the 
holy crown, the arm of St. Simeon, a piece of the cross, 
our Lady's smock, the rod of Aaron, and one of the nails. 

And a spere long and smert, 
pat longys put to godes hert. 
He gaf charls \>q king; 

Charles then prayed for a proof of the genuineness of the 
relics, and the place was filled with a heavenly light. ^°* 

A third point of contact between the legend of Lon- 
ginus and the romances lies in the invention of the 
sacred lance at Antioch by the crusaders. Here again 
English literature illustrates less well than French. In 
the French romances the episode is treated with more 
spirit. The invention, however, is found in English in 
Godefroy of Boloyne. After speaking of the knights 
dying of hunger, the writer adds: 

It were a long thyng for to recounte all their meseases; but 
our lord that in alle his werkes may not forgete mercy sente to 
them grete comfort, ffor a clerk born in prouynce named peter, 
cam on a day to the bysshop of puy and to therle of tholouse, 
and sayd to them in moche grete drede, that the holy apostel 
seynt andrew had appiered to hym thryes in the nyght slepyug, 
and warned hym that he shold goo to the barons and saye to 
them that the speer with which our lord was percid in the syde 
on the crosse was hyd in the chirch of saint peter in the cyte, 
the place where it was he had certainly shewd to hym. he said 
wel that he was not come for to saye ne signefye them, but that 

103 Cf. above, chapter on the history of the lance, p. 58. 

104 Roland and Yernagu, EETS., e. s. 39, p. 40. 


seynt andreu had menaced hym at the last tyme yf he dede not 

his message he shold meshappen in his body Thenne 

began to delue and dygg depe in the place that the clerke had 
shewed to them. They fonde the spere lyke as he had sayd to 
them. Thenne had they a loye emonge them so grete, lyke as 
euery man had had as moche as he myght.ios 

§18. The Deama 

In the English mediaeval religious drama the legend of 
Longinus shows less interesting development than in con- 
temporary drama in Germany and in France. On the 
continent the religious drama took its rise earlier and 
attained in general greater development, the cycles reach- 
ing great dimensions. It is not strange, therefore, that 
such an apocryphal incident as the curing of the blind Lon- 
ginus should receive more attention in the French and 
German crucifixion plays, than in the English. Though 
the story occurs in the four great cycles, Chester, York, 
Towneley, and Hegge, and also in the Cornish Passion 
of our Lord Jesus Christ, there is only the slightest char- 
acterization of Longinus himself and no enlargement of 
the episode. Throughout, Longinus is dealt with quite 
seriously. The accounts for the most part are not given 
much more dramatic heightening and color than is found 
in the corresponding narrative treatments of the sub- 
ject, such as those which appear in the Cursor Mundi and 
in the Northern Passion. 

The text devoted to Longinus in the English plays is 
never very long. The Chester Crucifixion (Play XVII), 
is one of the more extensive of the plays. The centurion 
expresses belief in Jesus. Cayphas answers him: 

105 EETS., e. s. 64, pp. 200, 201. 


But when thou seiste his harte bleede, 
Lett us see what thou can saye. 
Longes, take the speare in hande, 
And put from thee, thou ney wounde 


O Lorde, I see ney sea nor lande 
This seven yeaire in good faye. 


Have this speare, and take good heede 
Thou muste doe as the bushoppe thee bede, 
A thinge that is of full greate nede, 
To warne I houlde you woode. 


I will doe as ye byde me, 
But on your perrill it shalbe. 
What I doe I maye not se, 
Wheither it be evill or good. 

Tunc Longius lancea perjorat latus Christi, dicens 
Highe kinge of heaven, I thee praye. 
What I have done well wotte I nere, 
But on my handes and on my speare 
Out watter ronneth through; 
And on my eyes some can fall, 
That I maye see bouth on and all, 

Lorde! wherever be this wall, 
That this watter come froo? 
Alas! Alas! And wayleawaie! 
What deed have 1 done to dale? 
A man I see, south to saye, 

1 have slayne in the streete. 

But this I hope be Christe vereye, 
That sicke and blynde base healed aye. 
Of mercye, Lorde, I thee praie. 
For I wiste not what I did. 
Jesus, moche have I harde of thee, 
That sicke and blynde through thy pittie 
Hase healed before in this cittie, 
As thou basse me to dale; 


Thee will I serve and with thee be, 
For well I leeve, in dales three. 
Thou will rise in thye postie. 
From enemyes, Lorde, I thee praie."i06 

Resemblances to the vernacular literature, such as have 
been pointed out, especially in the York Plays, by Miss 
Smith^"^ and Craigie,^"^ are here to be noted. Neither of 
these writers supplies a parallel for this particular passage 
in the plays. On the other hand, compare the directions 
given Longinus in the above passage with these lines from 
the Northern Passion : 

They made hym under Jesus stond 
And pute a spere in his hond 
They leyd ]>e spere to Jhesus side 
Pute up pei seyd what so betyde 
Longeus pute 'pe spere hym fro 
To Jhesu herte it gane go. 

And again the italicized lines above with these from the 

On hys kneys he gane doune falle 
And of Jhesu mercy calle 
He sey "I wyst not what I dede 
Bot as o]>er hade me bede."i09 

The italicized lines in the Chester play also show similari- 
ties to the text of the Cursor Mundi. ITote particularly 
the readings of the Trinity MS — 

1. 16839. Ajein his wille he hit dude 
therefore he made mone. — 

106 Chester Plays, Thomas Wright, 1843, II, 66. 

107 York Flaps. Introd. pp. xliv, xlv. 

108 Furnivall Misc., 52 ff. 

109 For the whole passage, see above, p. 99. 


and the Cotton interpolation: 

1. 33. Mercy, lie cried oure lorde, 
And gart cristen him I-wis. 

It looks as if the story had assumed stereotyped form and 
was used in much the same way by narrative and dra- 
matic writers. 

In the York play, Mortificacio Cristi (Play XXXVI), 
the episode is more briefly dealt with than in the Chester. 
Here Pilate gives the direction to Longinus. The soldier 
himself is less rude, indeed he expresses his gratitude, 
amazement, and love with lyric ardor. The centurion is 
not included, nor is there any statement as to whether 
Longinus knew what he was doing. 

Pilate: Ser Longeus, steppe forthe in \>is steede 
pis spere, too, have hold in thy hande 
To Jesu J)ou rake fourthe I rede. 
And sted nouit but stiffely )>ou stande 

In Jesu side 
Schoffe it J?is tide. 
No lenger bide. 
But grathely J)OU go to \>e grounds. 

(Longeus pierces Jesus' side) 

Longeus: O! maker vnmade, full of myght, 
O! Jesu so jentile and jente, 
pat sodenly has lente me my sight, 
Lorde! louyng to >e be it lente. 
On rode arte ]?ou ragged and rente, 
Mankynde for to mende of his mys, 
Fall spitously spilte is and spente, * 

The bloode lorde to bringe vs to blis 

full free 
A! Mercy my socoure, 
Mercy my treasure 
Mercy my sauioure, 
pi mercy be markid in 

110 York Plays (fifteenth century) L. T. Smith, 1885, p. 368. 


The Townelej Crucifixion (Play XXIII) treats the 
episode very briefly — ^two executioners appear, and one 
of these is willing to pierce Jesus in order to see if 
he be dead. The other opposes Mm and calls on Lon- 
ginus. Though Longinus asks not to be made to do 
anything ignorantly, he offers no real objection. When 
his sight is restored, he says he sinned innocently at the 
command of others. 

primus tortor 

let one pryk hym with a spere 

And if that it do hym no dere 

Then is his lyfe nere past. 
ijus tortor. 

This blynde knyght may best do that. 

Gar me not do hot I wote what. 
iijus tortor 

Not hot put up fast, 

A, lord, what may this be? 

Ere was I blynde, now may I see; 

Godys son, here me, ihesu! 

ffor this trespas on me thou rew. 

ffor, lord, othere men me gart, 

that I the stroke vnto the hart: 

I se thou hyngys here on hy. 

And dyse to fulfyll the prophecy.m 

Hohlfeld has called attention to parallel passages in 
this play and York XXXVI/^^ but these do not include 
the Longinus episode. So far as the treatment of this 
incident is concerned, there is no significant resemblance. 
That the metrical form in the Towneley Plays shows 
great variation has been noted by Pollard, Davidson, 

m The Towneley Plays, (fifteenth century), A. W. Pollard, 
EET8., e. s. LXXI, 276. 
112 Op. cit., pp. 298, 299. 


Hohlfeld, Cadj and others. In this particular play the 
variations apparently mark change in mood, and effort 
is made to suit the metrical form to the speaker. The 
lament of Mary, for instance, is written in long lines, 
usually of seven stresses and rhyming in couplets. The 
torturers use a different stanza, four stresses rhyming 
adbcch. Longinus's speech is also different, the lines con- 
taining three or four stresses and rhyming in couplets. 

The treatment of the Longinus story in the Hegge Burial 
of Christ (Play XXXIV) is more dramatic than in the 
cycles already considered. Longinus is again the innocent 
tool in the hands of the Jews. The centurion, though 
brought into no connection with the soldier, has here a 
great deal to say, all to the effect that the wonderful 
tokens indicate that Jesus is the true son of God. Two 
knights go with Joseph of Arimathea to Pilate. One 
thinks Jesus dead; the other wishes to be sure: 

jonder is a blynd knyth I xal go to. 
And sone awhyle here xal be wrowth. 

Here the knyth goth to blynde Longeys, and seyth, 

Heyl, sere Longeys, thou gentyl knyth: 
The I prey now ryth hertyly; 
That thou wylt wend with me ful wyth, 
It xal be for thi prow veryly. 


Sere, at jOur comawndement with jou wyl I wende 

In what place je wyl me have; 

For I trost ^e be my frend; 

Lede me forth, Sere, oure sabath jou save! 

Primus Miles. 

Lo! sere Longys, here is a spereT 
Bothe long, and broad, and sharp anow; 
Heve it up fast that it wore there, 
ffor here is game: — show, man, show. 



Here Longys showyth the spere warly, and the Hood comyth 
rennyng to his hand, and he avantoresly xal xcype his eyen. 
Longeus, O good Lord! how may this be, 

That I may se so bryth now? 
This thretty wyntyr I myth not se 

And now I may se I wote nevyr how! 

But ho is this that hangyth here now? 

I trowe it be the mayndonys sone; 

And that he is now I knowe wcl how, 

The Jewys to hym this velany han don- 

Here he ffallyth downe on his knes. 

Now, good Lord, fforgyf me that. 
That I to the now don have; 

For I dede I wyst not what, — 
The Jewys of myn ignoranse dede me rave. 
Mercy! Mercy! Mercy! I crye.ns 

The resemblance already noted in the case of the Ches- 
ter plays to the Cursor and the Northern Passion are 
perhaps even more evident here/^* 

The Cornish Passion, though briefer, is not unlike the 
Hegge Passion in the treatment of the character of Lon- 
ginus. As in the Hegge play, he goes willingly when 
bidden by the knights, who address him courteously. 
Ills Tortor 

longys reys yv thy's gyne 
vn pols byan lafurye 

dre worhemmyn a'n instis 
(et ducit longeum ad cruces et 
dat lanceam in manum ejus) 

me a geneugh yn lowen 
mar callen guthyl hehen 
a socor nag a seruys 

IVs Tortor 
nebes seruys ty a wra 
tan syns y'th dorn an giu-na 
ha herthy'e gans nerth yn ban 

Longius, need is to thee with us 
A little while to labour. 
By order of the Magistrate. 

I go with you gladly. 
If I can make any effort 
Of help or of service. 

A little service thou shalt do 
Take, hold in thy hand that 

And thrust it with force up- 

ii^Ludus Coventriae, J. O. Halliwell, 1841 (MS Cott. Vespas. D. 
VIII, 1468) Play XXXIV, 334, 335. 
114 See above, pp. 133, 134. 



me a'n berth guel ha gyllyf 
na vlamyough vy kyn fyllyf 
rak dal of ny welaf man 

[hie perforat cor Ihu] 

I will thrust it the best I can 
Do not blame me, though I fail 
For I am blind, I see not at all. 

Is Tortor 
benet sewys syre longys 
synt iouqn whek re'th caro 
henna yv pyth a thyuys 
gallas lemmyn lour ganso 

[tune fluat sanguis super 
lansea usque ad manus longii 
Militis et tune terget oculos 
et in debit et dicit] 

A blessing follow thee, sir 

Sweet Saint Jove love thee: 
That is what I choose; 
Thou art now very able with it. 

Arluth thy'm gaf . del y'th pysaf 

war pen dewlyn 
an pyth a wren my ny wothyen 

rag ny wylyn 
hag a quellen. my ny'n grussen 

kyn fen lethys 
rak del won sur map dev os pur 

yn beys gynys 
a vaghtyth glan. vn vap certan 

OS the 'n das du 
ow ham wyth bras, gaf thy'm 

a tas the vertu.n^ 

Lord, forgive me, as I pray thee 

On my knees; 
What I did, I knew not, 

For I did not see 
And if I had seen, I would not 

have done it. 
Though I had been killed; 
For, as I know surely. Very 
Son of God thou art. 
In the world born. 
Of a virgin pure; a son cer- 
Thou art to the Father God. 
My great bad deed, forgive me 

By thy virtue.ns 

In the English, plays, it is seen, the legend does not re- 
ceive much dramatic development. Longinus is some- 
times aware of the deed he is about to perform when he 

115 The Ancient Cornish Drama, (fifteenth century), ed. and 
translated by Ed. Norris, vol. I, 460, f. 


pierces the side of Christ, and sometimes unaware be- 
cause of his blindness. He is always overcome with re- 
pentance. In French and German plays, the legend is 
treated more freely. The twelfth century Resurrection 
du Sauveur^'^^ shows Longinus haggling over the money 
he is to receive as recompense for the deed, and there is, 
just after the marvellous cure of Longinus, a spirited 
bit of dialogue between Pilate and a soldier who tells of 
the miracle. Longinus is shown as cruel, delighting in 
his office, in the St. Gall Passion,^^^ "So wil ich in dorch- 
stechen," he says when given the spear, "das ime sin herze 
muz brechen, sin zauber wil ich so rechen." In the Don- 
aueschinger Passion^^^ he is even more venomous, — 

"Ich wil mich rachen ouch an dir 
du woltes uff erd nie helfen mir 
un hest mich lauffen blind beliben." 

Longinus is depicted as wicked also in La Passion de 
Notre Seigneur/^^ and in Greban's Mistere de la Pas- 
sion.^'^° The reverse of this characterization as cruel is 
found in the Alsf elder Passion,^^^ where Longinus is rep- 
resented as merciful: 

"Ach lieber knecht, ganck mydde! 
der mentsche lydet pyn und martet viel, 
die ich nu gern enden wylle." 

116 ThMtre Frangais au Moyen Age, Monmerque et Michel, p. 12. 
iiT Mone, Schauspiele des Mittelalters, Karlsruhe 1846, I, 121. 

118 Fifteenth century, Mone, op. cit., II, 326. 

119 Jubinal, Myst^res inedits du Quinzi^me Si^cle, p. 254. 

120 Fifteenth century, G. Paris, Paris 1878, 346. 

121 Fifteenth century, Froning, Das Drama des Mittelalters, 
III, 796. 



The centurion takes part witli Longinus in tlie Donaue- 
schinger play. When the blood falls on Longinus's hand, 
the centurion speaks to him: 

Loyne, folg mir an alien bass, 

die hend sind dir von blote naff, 

Strich das hie an dine ougen, 

Gelt du werdest geschen und glouben 

das dieser mensch gewarer Christ 

Und umb unschuld gestorben ist. 

In Greban's Passion also the centurion is brought into 
connection with Longinus. When the blood runs down 
the spear, the centurion, astonished at seeing the blood 
mingled with water, declares that this portends some mys- 
tery. He then testifies that Jesus is the true son of God. 
Longinus's speech follows at once: 

O Jhesus, je te cry mercy 

De tant que je t'ay offense 

Ne jam§s n'avoye pense 

Que tu feusses si haulte chose, 

Comme Centurion propose. 

Tu es doulx et plain de clemence 

Et en icelle confidence 

Le pur sang qui de toy degoute. 

La chere et precieuse goute 

Prendray et mettray sur mes yeux, 

Esperant qu'il m'en soit de mieulz 

Et que ma veue se ravoye.122 

The action is much longer in these plays. Extended 
conversation occurs in connection with the leading of Lon- 
ginus to the cross, and after arrival there the soldiers 
discuss at length the probability as to whether or not 
Jesus is yet dead. The soldiers, and, in some cases, Lon- 
ginus's knights, are given names. In the Alsfelder, as 

122 Le MysUre de la Passion, Paris, 1878, p. 348. 


he leads Longinus to the cross, the servant sings. Greater 
however than the difference in length of treatment, and 
in the specific attributes given Longinus by way of in- 
dividualizing him, is the difference in tone in these con- 
tinental plays. In them Longinus is no longer the grave, 
more or less definitely Biblical, figure of the soldier at 
the cross. He has become a character, frequently a dis- 
tinctly humorous one. He and his servant furnish 
amusement. The contrast in consequence after his con- 
version is all the more striking. 

In England, on the other hand, at least so far as the 
extant texts are concerned, the story of Longinus in the 
crucifixion plays never underwent any great dramatic de- 
velopment; the episode was introduced, but was treated 
in crude and mechanical fashion. It is possible, how- 
ever, that in England also the episode was later more 
developed. Among the Corpus Christi pageants at Here- 
ford, according to the Register of the Corporation for 
1503, was a play, "Longys with his Knyghtes," which 
was assigned to the "Smythes."'^* These 'Knyghtes' in 
all probability correspond to the servants or companions 
found in the French and German plays, who serve to 
lighten and elaborate the incident and to increase the im- 
portance of Longinus. 

123 Chambers, The Mediaeval Stage, II, Appendix, 368, 369. 


One of the problems most discussed in connection with 
the Longinus story is its possible relationship with the 
Baldr myth, as it appears in the Eddie poems. In the 
well known tale of Baldr, the beautiful, the god without 
blemish, the son of Odin, beloved of all the other gods, 
save Loki alone, resemblances to the Longinus story are 
easily recognized. 

Baldr's mother Erigg exacted from all things in the 
animal, the vegetable, and the mineral worlds, an oatli 
that they would not slay her son. The gods then, secure 
against the possibility of injuring Baldr, found pastime 
in hurling all sorts of missiles at his invulnerable body. 
But Loki, the evil one, took on the form of a woman, 
and learned from Erigg that there was a little tree west- 
ward from Valhal too young to take the oath — the mis- 
tletoe. When Loki found the blind God Ho6r standing 
on the outside of the circle, he asked him why he too did 
not shoot at Baldr. And when Ho6r answered that he 
could not see, and had no weapon, Loki put the mistletoe 
arrow in his hand and aimed it for him. Baldr, struck 
by it, fell to the ground dead. His body was then placed 
on a funeral pile on his ship Ringhorn. With Baldr 
was laid Nanna, his wife, who died from sorrow, and 
both were burned. 

Bugge traces the IsTorse form of this legend to the Gos- 
pel of Nicodemus and mediaeval English sources, making 
the casting of the mistletoe by the blind HoSr a repro- 
duction of the thrusting of the spear into the side of 


Jesus by the blind Longinus/ B'Ugge calls attention to 
the fact that in accounts of the legend current among the 
English and Irish, as "wiell as elsewhere, the blind Longi- 
nus has the spear put into his hand and his aim directed 
just as is the case with HoSr." And he adds that the 
belief was common in England and Ireland that Christ 
did not die until pierced by the lance of Longinus. Loki 
is identified with Lucifer. 

Bugge's conclusion with regard to the connection of 
the Baldr story and the legend of Longinus, is of course 
used by him to support his general thesis: "that at the 
time when the mythological Eddie stories took shape, 
Norwegians and Icelanders were not uninfluenced by the 
rest of Europe, but that they were subjected, on the con- 
trary, to a strong and lasting influence from the Chris- 
tian English and Irish.'" This influence, he believes, 
was operative in the ninth and tenth centuries. Into 
this larger question we need not at present enter. As 
propounded by Bugge, it aroused, as de la Saussaye re- 
marks, "a storm of both approval and disapproval, which 
has not yet subsided."* It is sufficient here to note that 

1 The Home of the Eddie Poems, trans, by W. H. Schofield, 
1899, p. xlii £f. 

2 Cf. Acta 8. JuHanae {Belles Lettres Jvliana, p. 39. Acta Sanc- 
torum, Feb., torn. II, Feb. 16) . The devil tempts Juliana: "Ego sum 
qui feci Adam et Evam in paradiso praevaricari; ego sum qui feci 
ut Cain interfeceret Abel fratrem suum . . . ; ego sum qui feci 
Judam tradere Filium Dei . . . ; ego sum qui compunxi militera 
lancea sauciare latus Filii Dei," etc., etc. 

s Op. cit., p. XV. 

4 In The Religion of the Teutons, 1902, p. 38 ff., de la Saussaye 
gives a summary of criticism on the question of how far such 
foreign influence must be admitted, for the general subject of 
Norse mythology. F. Kauffmann, Balder, Mythus und Sage, 1902, 
has performed a similar service for the history of Baldr criti- 


it is tke view of most recent critics tliat Bugge carried 
his theory too far. 

As to the specific relationship of the story of Baldr 
with that of Longinus, the present attitude is fairly sum- 
marized by Kauffmann: 

"Seine Deutung [Bugge's] der einzelnen Figuren auf Jesus oder 
auf Achilleus ersclieint aber genau ebenso willkiirlich als die von 
andern gegebenen Deutungen auf die Sonne oder auf die Unschuld 
Oder auf einen Vegetationsdamon. Die Neueren haben daher 
entweder an der physikalischen Bedeutung (Much) oder an der 
moralischen Formel (Better) festgehalten und (wie z. B. Frazer) 
auf die Buggesche Sagenkritili iibertiaupt keine Riicksicbt genom- 
men. Selbst diejenigen Forscher, die, wie W. Golther und E. H. 
Meyer, auf die Gedanken Bugge's eingegangen sind, messen seinen 
Christlichen und antiken Parallelen nur accessorische Bedeu- 
tung ZU.5 

It is difficult, in the confusion of views at present held 
b}' mythologists, to form any opinion as to the origin of 
the Baldr story. There are arguments offered, though 
in no case are they entirely satisfactory, in support of 
many theories. Baldr is explained as Apollo, as Achilles, 
as Christ, as tree spirit, sun-god, wind-god, moon-god, as 
the representative of good in the struggle between good 
and evil, or as peace in that between peace and war, as 
mere man exalted to the position of a god, or, as one of 
the most recent investigators of the myth interprets it, 
as sin-offering or scapegoat for his people. With the 
ultimate origin of the myth the present study has no 
concern. N^or can it undertake to decide whether Bugge 
is right or not in affirming that the form of the story in 
Saxo Grammaticus is reminiscent of an older type of the 
legend than that found in the Eddie poems. The ques- 
tion of the influence of Longinus is confined to the versions 

5 Op. cit., p. 17. 


of the story found in scattered fragments in Voluspd, in 
Gylfaginning, in Baldrs Draumar, and Lohasenna. 

As evidence in general for English and Irish influence 
on the l^orse lays, Bugge points to the fact that the 
poems contain not only words of English origin, but also 
'poetic,' saga-historical and mythical motives, in the ac- 
tion of the stories and in their composition, which he 
likewise traces to English sources. 

His conclusion that the Baldr story is dependent on 
the Christian, he bases on the following resemblances: 
as in the Cliristian story, Baldr's death is important; 
all else is subordinate or omitted; his fall is the turn- 
ing point in the history of the world. Both Christ and 
Baldr die in their youth. Baldr's slayer, Hot5r, is blind, 
but his blindness is only connected with the slaying of 
Baldr, as he is not blind otherwise. His blindness, more- 
over, is the outer sign of inner spiritual blindness : "he is 
not moved by malice, like Loki, but acts mthout know- 
ing what he does." In this respect the story is similar to 
that of Christ slain by the blind Longinus — ^the spiritu- 
ally blind, — the instrument used by the devil. Bugge 
further notes that the mistletoe, not common in Scandi- 
navia, is well known in England; he thinks the mistle- 
toe weapon used by HoSr is explained by the superstition 
current in the west of England, that the cross of the cru- 
cifixion was made of mistletoe. At the time of Christ 
the mistletoe was a forest tree, but because of the wicked 
use to which it was put, it was cursed and became an in- 
significant plant.® Moreover, both Baldr and Jesus are 
white, without blemish. Both visit hell. Again there is 

6 Bugge refers for this statement to Thiselton Dyer, English 
Folk-Lore, London, 1878, 34. Cf. Studien iiier die Entstehung der 
nordischen Gotter. und Heldensagen, p. 50. 


similarity in tke punishment to which their enemies are 
doomed; Loki, bound in consequence of Baldr's death, 
recalls Lucifer bound in darkness forever.^ 

Striking resemblances are here noticeable — ^the most 
interesting are the main incidents : both Christ and Baldr 
are slain by blind men, not themselves responsible for their 
deeds, but instigated by evil powers. One uses a spear; 
the other a mistletoe dart. There are, however, difficulties, 
and I find myself, in consequence, of the opinion of 
those later critics who think this Christian influence sec- 
ondary in importance, and that the myth, before com- 
ing in contact with the Longinus story, must have had 
much more its present form than Bugge appears to think 

§1. The Difficulty of Chronology 

The first obstacle in the way of Longinus as a source 
for the blindness of Ho^r is one of chronology. Bugge 
takes it that these lays were written in all probability 
in England in the ninth or tenth centuries. It will be 
remembered that the first positive evidence of the blind- 
ness of Longinus is found in a St. Gall MS of the ninth 
century,* where the blood from the side of Jesus is shown 
touching the eyes of Longinus. That this trait of the 
story was even then not generally current, is sho-wm by its 
absence from the martyrologies of the ninth and tenth 
centuries. Moreover, if these ISTorse stories were written 
in England as the result of the Longinus legend popular 
there, they would apparently precede any English story of 
the same type. The first vernacular account of Longinus 

7 Op. cit., pp. xxxix ff. 

8 See above, p. 48. 


in England, as far as I know, is found in ^If ric's sermon 
on the Exaltation of the Cross,® which belongs to the end 
of the tenth century, and which contains no reference to 
the blindness. 

§2. The Gosfokth Cross 

Again, there are other stories which explain both the 
mistletoe weapon and the blindness, and, consequently, 
make one hesitate to take the Longinus story, which lacks 
many of the other elements of the legend, as the only, or 
even the most important, source of the Baldr myth. Be- 
fore considering these directly, I shall examine another bit 
of the evidence offered by Bugge for England as the chief 
source of influence in the Baldr story, a point which is 
more or less closely connected with one of these stories. 

For confirmation of his theory Bugge appeals to the 
Gosforth Cross in Cumberland, which, as he takes it, 
dates from about the ninth century. Bugge is here mis- 
taken in the date. All these early crosses^** are now con- 
sidered later than they were formerly. To this state- 
ment the Gosforth Cross forms no exception. Colling- 
wood connects it with "Irish Viking thought and work" 
and remarks: "It i-s just possible that the idea was 
brought to this coast, frequented by Vikings, at an early 
time in the eleventh century."^^ Even if the date of 
the cross did not make it too late to serve as a source for 
the Eddie lays, there would be other difficulties. For 
this monument is a curious mixture of pagan and Chris- 
tian elements. Surmounted by a cross, and adorned on 

^EET8., 94, p. 114; 46, p. 107. 

10 Professor Cook now thinks the Bewcastle cross dates from 
about the middle of the twelfth century. 

11 Collingwood, Early Sculptural Crosses, p. 167. 


one side bj a crucifixion scene, its other sides are mucli 
more easily explained by Scandinavian than by Chris- 
tian story. As G. Stephens says, it is "redolent of heath- 
endom." "It openly handles the true faith in a light 
and interpretation, taken from that olden creed which 
the Gospel came to supplant. We have pagan Gods and 
Myths, honorably treated, straight before our eyes."^^ 

Bugge, in his discussion of the Gosforth Cross, says: 
"On the west side of this cross may be seen a woman 
sitting over a fettered man. She is holding a cup in her 
hand in such a position, that she appears to be pouring 
out its contents. The man is lying on his back, bound 
hand and foot, as it seems, to a rock. Close to the man's 
head may be seen the head of a snake." He identifies 
the man and woman as the bound Loki and Sigyn, his 
wife. On the east side he sees "Longinus piercing the 
crucified Christ with his lance." He adds: "The carv- 
ings on this monument argue, then, for the view that 
the author of Voluspd heard in northern England the 
story of Loki and Sigyn, or verses which treated that 
story. He may possibly have seen the Gosforth Cross 
himself, and have been told the story of Loki and Sigyn 
in explanation of the scenes carved thereon." In the 
next line he states that "In Codex Regius of Voluspd, 
the section on Baldrs death and LoTci's punishment is 
placed directly before the strophes on the places of tor- 
ment of the dead," etc.^^ The question inevitably pre- 
sents itself: if the author is drawing his inspiration 
from the cross story only, and if he has no other similar 
legend of Baldr in mind, why does he replace the cruci- 
fixion of Christ with the death of Baldr, a death ac- 

12 Prof. 8. Bugge's Studies on Northern Mythology, 1883, p. 23. 

13 Bugge, Home of the Eddie Poems, pp. xlviii-xlix. 


companied by the oath of the plants, the burning of 
Baldr and ]N"anna, and other incidents not known to the 
story of Longinus ? 

Moreover, a wholly different explanation for the east 
face of the Gosforth Cross — and one which connects it 
directly with Scandinavian mythology — has been sug- 
gested by W. S. Calverley/* "But who is this central 
figure on the east side of the cross ? who with stretched 
out arms grasps the rope-like border of the oblong panel, 
whose side is pierced with the spear. It may be that 
same Odin whom we have already twice seen [elsewhere 
on the cross] ; for does not Odin's Rune-song say : 

'I know that I hung on a wind-rocked tree, 
Nine whole nights, with a spear wounded. 
And to Odin offered, myself to myself: 
On that tree of which no one knows 
From what root it springs;' 

or it may be Baldr the beautiful, the peace-giver, . . . 
who by the treachery of Loki was slain, . . . And so the 
beardless man to the left, holding the spear, may be 
blind Hodr; . . . and the woman to the right may well 
be ]!:»[anna, the wife of Baldr, ... or it may be Frigg, 
who should grieve a second time over the death of Odin, 
her beloved." 

If this is Christian teaching, and it may be,^^ clearly 
strongly pagan myth is used — and myth that is already 
formed and consequently familiar to the people taught by 
it, rather than new myths in the making. This episode 
may represent a Baldr — or Odin — Christ, but in the cases 
of other carvings on the cross, the Christian parallel is 

"i-^ Archeological Journal, XL (1883), 151 ff. 
15 E. H. Meyer, Die eddische Eosmogonie, p. 22, shows how in 
the catacombs. Christian lessons were taught by pagan mythology. 


not SO obvious. Tlie Loki story lias no counterpart in 
Christian legend "Wkich would account for it satisfac- 
torily. Again the great wolves Skioll and Hati rush to 
attack the sun and the moon. Heimdall, "the warder of 
Asgard" who by a blast on the "Giallahorn" has awak- 
ened "the Ases and Einherian," and Odin riding to seek 
knowledge in "Mimer's well" as well as other figures 
readily explained by the "Voluspd appear. The fact 
that the whole cross is indubitably meant to tell Scan- 
dinavian story of course makes the Scandinavian the 
better interpretation for the crucifixion face. It would, 
however, be difficult to explain this face entirely by 
Christian analogy if it stood alone. As a matter of fact 
there is only the semblance of a cross. The figure is 
surrounded by a rope. The outstretched arms suggest 
the cross. There is also unquestionably a woman with 
long hair standing opposite the spearman. This is very 
unusual if the cross represents the crucifixion of Christ. 
As showTi above, the early type is that in which the spear- 
man and the sponge bearer appear as corresponding fig- 
ures. A little later when Mary is included in the group, 
she is placed opposite John, the first two figures being 
still retained, thus making two figures on each side of 
the cross. The fact that such a cross as this can be ex- 
plained satisfactorily by taking its carvings as illustra- 
tions of Scandinavian myth, and is less easily explained 
by Christian interpretations, must suggest that in the 
early days of its history it was probably considered 
either pagan or Christian according to the desire of thei 
beholder. As an evidence of Christian coloring in the 
Voluspa it is not convincing. The use of legend makes 
it Scandinavian and the date of the Eddaic poems, which 
according to Bugge took shape during the ninth and 


tenth centuries, would make the cross too late for any 
possible influence on their formation. 

§3. The Odin Stoey 

This Odin story is itself interesting as a possible pro- 
totype of the Baldr legend. Bugge would explain it as 
also due to the influence of the crucifixion of Christ. 
Others differ. Mogk^® says of the lines quoted from, the 
Voluspd ''Die Windgott erzahlt, wie er in seiner Jugend 
neun ISTachte in Weltenbaume gehangen, mit dem Speere 
verwundet, er sich selbst geopfert, und wie er da nie- 
dergespaht und die Runen gehoben und von Mimir ge- 
lernt und den Dichtermeet geschopft habe, bis er zu dem 
wurde, was er jetzt vor der Welt ist: das weiseste aller 

O. Bray commjents on the same passage in Voluspd: 
"The sacrifice depicted resembles in many points the hu- 
man sacrifices that were offered to Odin." Concerning 
the general type to which this story belongs, she says: 
"This legend in outline is of a god — call him Odin, 
Baldr, Osiris, Ishtar, Adonis, — who must be sacrificed 
or voluntarily die in order that he may rise again in 
fullness of power, or even give place to some new god. 
Sometimes it is clear that he typifies the beneficent pow- 
ers of nature, whether as the sun or the spring, or sum- 
mer f ruitf ulness ; but occasionally, as here, his signifi- 
cance is more doubtful."^* 

16 Paul's Grundriss III, 343: "Christlichen Einfluss, d. h. den 
am Kreuze hangenden Christus, in diesem Mythus zu finden, wie 
Bugge will, ist nicht notig." C. de la Saussaye, op. cit., p. 231, 
thinks Bugge's view is not to be followed. He cites Gering and 

17 Paul's Grundriss II, 588. 

18 The Elder Edda, 1908, p. xxx. 


'Not very different from this last conception is Frazer's 
idea of Odin, as he considers Adonis, Attis and Osiris 
different names for the same god. "The human victinis 
dedicated to Odin," says Frazer, "were regularly put to 
death by hanging, or by a combination of hanging and 
stabbing, the man being strung up to a tree or a gallows, 
and then wounded with a spear."^® Frazer sees the 
counterpart of these Odin sacrifices in the Attis cult. 
Taking Marsyas, who was hanged on a tree (and Avhose 
story is attested), as a double of Attis, he remarks: "We 
may conjecture that in the old days the priest who bore 
the name and played the part of Afetis at the spring fes- 
tival of Cybele, was regularly hanged or otherwise slain 
upon the sacred tree, and that this barbarous custom 
was afterwards mitigated into the form in which it is 
known to lis in later times, when the priest merely drew 
blood from his body under the tree and attached an effigy 
instead of himself to its trunk.""" 

Bugge's opinion is made the less convincing by the 
fact that we find connected with sacrifices to Odin such 
stories as this of Vikar. Kauffmann tells it, paraphrasing 
the ISTorse, as follows: 

"Konig Vikarr zeigte sich als gewaltiger Kriegsmann. Er hatte 
viele ausgezeichnete Kampen urn sich, aber der angesehenste von 
alien und der Liebling des Konigs war StarkaSr; er stand ihm 
zunachst an Rang, war sein Berater und Heerfiihrer und seit 
langen Jahren in seinem Dienst. Da segelte Vikarr mit starker 
Mannschaft von Agt5ir nordwarts nach H9r8aland musste jedoch 
wegen schlecten Welters lange in den Scharen liegen bleiben. Man 

19 S. Bugge, Stud, iiher die Entstehung der nord. Gotter- u. Hel- 
densagen, 1889, p. 339; K. Simrock, Die Edda, p. 382; Mullenhoff, 
Deutsche Alterthumskunde IV, 244 seq.; H. M. Chadwick, The 
Cult of Othin, 1899, pp. 3-20. All these are cited by Frazer, 
Adonis, Attis, Osiris, p. 186. -^ 

20 Adonis, Attis, Osiris, p. 186. 


holte ein Orakel ein; dabei wurde kundgegeben, dass Odin als Opfer 
nach dem Loos einen Mann aus der Kriegsschar fordere. Es 
wurde geloost und es sprang das Loos Konig Vikars heraus. Alle 
verstummten. Man kam iiberein, sich iiber die Notlage zu beraten. 
Um Mitternacht weckte Hrossharsgrani den StarkaSr und forderte 
ihn auf, ihm zu folgen. Sie nahmen ein kleines Boot, ruderten 
zu einer Insel hiniiber. wanderten das Geholz hinauf, kamen an 
eine Rodung und trafen dort eine grosse Versammlung. Da 
sassen elf Manner auf Stiihlen; ein zwolfter Sitz war leer; den 
nahm Hrossharsgrani ein und alle begriissten ihn als Odin. Er 
forderte die Richter auf, dem StarkaSr sein Schicksal zu bestim- 
men. porr legte ihm das eine, Odin anderes auf und als dies 
vollendet war, ging die Versammlung auseinander. Da sagte 
Hrossharsgrani zu StarkaSr, er habe fiir das ihm erwiesene Wohl- 
wollen auf Dankbarkeit Anspruch und verlange von ihm den 
Konig Vikarr. Starkat5r sagte zu. Da gab ihm Hrossharsgrani 
einen Speer (geirr) in die Hand und sagte, das solle ein Rohr- 
stengel sein (reyrsproti) . Am andern Morgen versammelten sich 
die Berater des Konigs und einigten sich, das Opfer zu veran- 
stalten. Auf dem Opferplatz stand eine Fohre und ein hoher 
Baumstumpf. Unten an der Fdhre befand sich ein diinner Ast 
(kvistr mjor, vgl. Vol. 32, 33). StarkaSr stieg auf den Baum- 
stumpf, bog den diinnen Ast herab und sprach zu dem Konig: 
'Nun ist dein Galgen fertig, er sieht nicht eben gefahrlich aus, 
komm her, ich will dir die Wide um den Hals legen.' Der Konig 
antwortete: '1st dies nicht gefahrlicher als es aussieht, dann 
diirfte es mir nichts schaden.' Er trat auf den Baumstumpf, 
Starkat5r legte ihm die Wide um den Hals, stach den Konig mit 
dem Rohrstengel, rief: 'Jetzt opfere ich dich dem Odin' und 
liess dem Fohrenast los. Der Rohrstengel aber war zum Speer 
ge warden und hatte den Konig durchborht; oben im Gezweig 
schwebte er und starb."2i 

Bugge thinks this story of Vikar not uninfluenced bj 
the account in the Hdvamdl of Odin's hanging himself.^^ 
But though he thinks the Ilavamal story of Odin shows 
Christian influence, he explains otherwise other sacrifices 

21 Kauffmann, op. cit., p. 247 f. Cf. Ranisch, Gautrekssaga, Pa- 
laestra XI, p. cix; cf. Detter, Beitr, 19, p. 500; C. de la Saussaye, 
op. cit., p. 372; Bugge, Studien, p. 339 ff. 

22 Bugge, Studien, 342. 


to Odin. "Das Kesultat der obigen Aiiseinandersetziing 
ist also, dass der MytLus, OSinn sei am Galgen als Opfer 
gehangen, erst in der Wikingerzeit durcli den Einfluss 
von Erzahlungen irisclier oder englisclier Christen liber 
Christus entstanden ist, walirend der Braueli dem OSinn 
oder Wodan Menschen am Galgen zu opfem bei den 
jSTordgennanen uralt und aclit germanisch ist. Dieser 
Branch mnsste aber in hohem Grade dazii beitragen, dass 
die Erzahlung von Christus, der als Opfer am Galgen 
hieng, von heidnischen ISTordleuten in einen Mythus von 
06inn verwandelt wurde, nnd mnsste unwilklirlich mit 
der eigenen Opfemng des Gottes am Galgen in Ver- 
bindung gebracht werden."^^ 

If, howiever, Odin sacrifices are primitive Germanic, 
the elements in the Vikar story not explained by Odin 
or Christian influence, such as the piercing with the 
cane which turned to a spear when dedicated to Odin, 
may also well be primitive.^* 

These stories make it seem probable that Baldr was 
substituted for Odin, or that Baldr was himself a sac- 
rifice to Odin. The Baldr story finds close parallel in 
the Vikar. Odin replaces Loki as the real opponent of 
the victim; StarkaSr, HoSr; and Vikar, Baldr. The 
weapons used — plants that change into spears — in them- 
selves suggest some ritual tradition. Such ritual tradi- 
tions are offered in explanation of the story by two of 
the most recent interpretations of the myth, those of 
Frazer and Kauffmann. 

2sibid., 344 f. 

24 This must recall what looks like a Christian parallel. 
Gospel of Peter, Swete 1893, 25: "Others pierced Him with a 
reed." There is no suggestion of death here, however. It is 
part of the mocking and may be due merely to the smiting on the 
head with a reed found in Matthew. 


§4. Feazer^s Explanation of the Baldr Myth. 

Frazer, in discussing the Baldr myth, selects as the 
two fundamentally important traits: (1) pulling the mis- 
tletoe, and (2) burning the god.^^ Neither of them is 
explained, it will be noticed, by the Longinus story. 

In connection with the second point, Frazer shows 
that in most parts of Europe bonfires on certain days 
of the year have been burned from time immemorial. 
He quotes Mannhardt,"® as authority for the statement 
that in the eighth century attempts were made by 
Christian synods "to put them down as heathenish rites." 
By numerous illustrations drawn from customs in Rhen- 
ish Prussia, in the Tyrol, in Swabia, in Oldenburg, in 
Aachen and other parts of Grermany; in the Highlands 
of Scotland, in Sweden, in France, in England, in Ire- 
land, in Slavonic countries, in Greece, Italy and Spain, 
he shows how common these fires were. Moreover, he 
brings out many traces of human sacrifices in these cus- 
toms. The burning of efiigies in the midsummer fires 
was not uncommon. These efiigies, from numerous in- 
dications, represented either the fertilizing tree spirit, or 
the spirit of vegetation. Frazer says: "When the god 
happens to be a deity of vegetation, there are special 
reasons why he should die by fire. For light and heat 
are necessary to vegetable growth; and, on the principle 
of sympathetic magic, by subjecting the personal repre- 
sentative of vegetation to their influence, you secure a 
supply of these necessaries for trees and crops."^^ The 

25 Golden Bough, II, 246. 

26 Baumkultus, p. 518 seq. For development of the "Johannis 
feuer" theory see Kauffmann, op. cit., p. 9. 

27 Oolden Bough, II, 276. 



fact that in Sweden these fires were known as Baldr's 
bale-fires, according to Frazer, "puts their connection with 
Baldr beyond the reach of doubt, and makes it certain that 
in former times either a living representative or an effigy 
of Baldr must have been annually burned in them.""* 

The fires are generally burned at midsummer, and it 
is customary also (among Celts and Scandinavians) to 
gather mistletoe at midsummer.''* Frazer shows that oak 
was the wood used in these fires, and so establishes con- 
nection with the mistletoe element of the legend. Baldr 
was the spirit of the oak; the mistletoe, according to 
primitive belief, was the seat of life of the oak. It is 
logical to suppose that, like the tree, Baldr could be neither 
killed nor wounded so long as the mistletoe remained un- 
injured. "The pulling of the mistletoe was thus at once 
the signal and the cause of his death." Baldr's story, 
then, if we accept Frazer's theory, is to be connected 
■with vegetation rites of the most primitive kind. 

Frazer does not, it is true, explain the blindness of HotJr. 
There is no mention of blindness in the stories which 
have to do with tree-spirit rites. Very similar, however, 
are the corn-spirit rites. In both ceremonies, the spirit 
is represented by a person, and in both its spirit has fer- 
tilizing influence. Clearly they are nearly akin. Frazer, 
in his discussion of the Baldr myth, calls attention to 
the fact that the slayers of the corn-spirit are frequently 
blindfolded. He cites instances of the custom in Ireland. 
Sometimes the corn-spirit was represented by a cock tied 
upon a man's back. Other men, blindfolded, struck at 
it ^vith branches, until it died.^° 

28lMd., II, 289-290. 

29 IMd., II, 295. J 

soiud., II, 360. 


§5. Kauffmann's Theory 

Kaiiffmann, also, bases his tlieory on a rite. He thinks 
IFrazer's study important and, to an extent, trustworthy, 
but urges the objection that only Baldr is accounted for 
by his explanation, that Ho^r, Loki, and the other gods 
are not included.^^ "]S[un scheinen die der Opferung 
Balders gleichenden Opferspiele der Gegenwart eben die 
Schlussfolgerung nahezulegen, dass ununterbrochen und 
in steter Folge am ende eines jeden Jahres ein bildlich an 
das mythische Uropf er erinnerndes Siihnopf er dargebracht 
"wurde. Frazer hat diesen Schluss gezogen und ich bin 
geneigt, mich ihm anzuschliessen. ]^ur wiirden nicht 
die Johannisfeuer, sondem die um die Jahreswende 
(alten Stils) datierten Festbrauches des Todaustragens 
ein Anrecht darauf besitzen, die Ueberbleibsel eines alt- 
germanischen Jahresopfers zu enthalten, das im Balder- 
mythus seine magische Weihe fand.'"^ And again, 
"Schliesslich vertrag*t sich Balders Opferung als 'Siin- 
denbock' aufs beste mit dem Volksbrauch, am Ende jedes 
Jahres auf einen erlesenen Opferkonig spielweise die 
Jahresschuld abzuladen und die Siihnung und Lauterung 
der Gemeinde zu bewerkstelligen." 

Kauffmann suggests also that Vali, the son of Odin 
and Rind, and the avenger of Baldr's death, may be the 
god of the new year, as distinguished from Baldr, the 
god of the old or dying year.^^ 

Ho6r as the one who makes the sacrifice, is equal with 
Baldr. ''Die beiden im Opfersakrament verbundenen 

31 Kauffmann, op. cit., pp. 12, 13. 
52 Ibid., p. 302. 
33 76td., p. 303. 


Hauptpersonen werden gerne als Briider bezeiclinet und 
gottliche Wesensgemeinschaft trifft aucli fiir Ho6r und 
Balder zu."^* HoSr, however, according to the tradition 
of such ritual, must be punished. StarkaSr, the slayer 
of Vikar as an Odin-sacrifice, had to flee; so Ho6r is 

As to the mistletoe, Kauffmann finds it impossible to 
decide which is the original form of the legend — that in 
which the sword figured, as in Saxo, or that where the 
mistletoe was used, as in the Voluspd.^^ He calls atten- 
tion to the folk idea that the soul (or the death) of a 
person may exist in a plant — as the mistletoe, or in a 
stone, or in a fish, and to the fact that the person may 
not be injured in any way whatsoever, "weil seine Seele 
nicht in ihm ist."^^ 

He likens the use of the mistletoe in the case of Baldr's 
death to that of the reyrsproti in Vikar's. In both cases 
the sacrificial weapon takes the form of a plant that be- 
comes a spear when employed in the sacrifice.'* In a 
note he calls attention to the custom among certain peo- 
ples of using in the sacrifice not knives, but reeds. He 
says: "Dem reyrteinn des Odin entspricht der mistel- 
teinn des Loki. Beide sind als biegsame zweige von den 
heiligen Baumen der Gotter geholt und als deren Opfer- 
waffen dedacht.'"^ 

34 lUd., p. 274. 

35 IMd., p. 260. Note here the equality which Kauffmann thinks 
essential in the Baldr-Loki relation as compared with the op- 
ponents in the Christian story. 

36/brc?., p. 116. 

37 Ihid., pp. 157 ff. 

38 IMd., p. 249. 

39 /bid., p. 250. Cf. Gruppe, Bericht ilber Myth, und Religions- 
geschichte, Leipzig, 1908, p. 373. "Die Mistel ist in der germa- 
nischen Welt allgemein eine Zauber-und Wunderpflanze, die in 


The blindness of HoSr, Kauffmann explains as fol- 
lows: "Die (episodische) 'Blindheit' HoSrs ist das 
S}anbol seiner (zeitweiligen) Zugehorigkeit zu Loki."*" 

Trazer, it was noted, made the important traits the 
pulling of the mistletoe and the burning of the god. 
Kauffmann emphasizes the second of these, though he 
ascribes a larger motive — the god is burned not only to 
insure fertility and consequent prosperity, but to free 
men from sin and to give new life to the people. He ac- 
cepts the suggestion of the mistletoe-soul, but — though he 
is not clear on this point — appears to apply it differ- 
ently. He makes the mistletoe the symbol of Loki, god 
of the underworld or of death — and, consequently, a death- 
bringing instrument. 

If Frazer and Kauffmann are right in making the 
burning of the god the most important trait in the Baldr 
story, then likeness to Longinus ceases. Any one of the 
explanations offered in these discussions in regard to the 
mistletoe — as the seat of the soul of the oak, and so of the 
oak spirit, as Odin-weapon, like the reyrsyroti, or as 
Loki's peculiar magic symbol — is more satisfactory than 
the view that it developed from the lance of Longinus. 
The idea that the spearman is himself not responsible for 
the deed is not particularly stressed by Frazer or Kauff- 

besonderer Beziehung zur Erregung und Loschung des Feuers zu 
stehen scheint, was wahrscheinlich mit der Verwendung der 
Mistel beim Reibefeuerzeug jusammenhangt. Aus eben diesera 
Grunde ist sie wohl in die Sage vom Feuergott Loki gekommen." 
40 Kauffmann, op. cit., p. 244. Cf. Better, Beitrdge, z. Ge- 
scMchte d. deutsch. Sprach. u. Litt., XIX, 504, who makes Odin 
the original evil spirit in the Baldr story, from the fact (1) that 
Odin, the one-eyed god of death, was probably the original blind 
god; and (2) from the mistletoe motive. Cf. the Vikar story 
where the reyrsproti was changed to a spear by StarkaSr's words: 
"Now give I thee to Odin." 


mann, thougli in both cases tlie officiating sacrificial 
priest, or spearman, would be merely the instrument of 
the opposing power. It is explained in the Odin-sacri- 
fice stories where Odin is the real opponent. Blindness 
would naturally be implied in any of these cases, from 
the very fact that the spearman is an instrument. 

§6. The Blind Speakman 

This idea of the slaying of a god by one who is blind 
is, however, widespread. A curious instance of such 
blindness, which is connected also with vegetation rites 
for the production of life, is one that comes from Silesia. 
The Whitsuntide king was selected as follows : A man of 
straw after trial was condemned to death, and fastened 
to a stake for execution. The young men, blindfolded, 
tried to pierce him with a spear. The successful one be- 
came king.*^ 

The same thing is suggested in this account of the 
Mahavrata, by A. B. Keith. After discussing the custom 
of removing the skin of the sacrificed animal, he adds: 
"More obscure is another rite mentioned in all the sources. 
To the left of the Agnldhra priest were placed twO' posts, 
on which was hung up as a target a completely round skin ; 
or , . . two skins, one for the chief archer, and the other 
for any others who were good shots. . . . The exact mean- 
ing of the ritual is by no means clear. It may be com- 
pared with the Lapp ritual; after slaying a bear . . . 
they hung its skin on a post and women, blindfolded, shot 
arrows at it."*^ 

41 Frazer, Lectures on Early Hist, of Kingship, 1905, p. 166. 

42 Transactions of the Third International Congress for the 
Hist, of Religion, II, 56, 57. 


Irish hero tales also offer parallels. Sometimes the 
suggestion is only that the hero is slain from ambush or 
hj treachery; sometimes the slayer is blind, or has some 
affliction of the eyes. 

Rhys tries to show parallelism between the sun-god 
Liig (or Cuchulainn) and Baldr. Just as HoSr (blind) 
slew Balder with the mistletoe at the instigation of Loki, 
Cuchulainn was slain by Ere or Lugaid, apparently at the 
instigation of the one-eyed daughters of Calatin. Rhys 
points out similarity in the names of the avengers of the 
two heroes, and in the way the slayers are caught — both in 
water.'** All this is far from clear as Rhys works it out, 
but the suggestion is interesting. 

Lieu,, the sun-god of the Britons, is killed by his ^vife's 
lover Grouw. The wife finds out from Lieu how he can 
be killed. "He told her that he could only die in one 
way; he could not be killed either inside or outside a 
house, either on horseback or on foot, but that if a spear 
that had been a year in the making, and which was never 
worked upon except during the sacrifice on Sunday, were 
to be cast at him as he stood beneath a roof of thatch, 
after having just bathed, with one foot upon the edge 
of the bath and the other upon a buck goat's back, it 
would cause his death." Grouw made the spear; the 
wife prepared the bath. Grouw, from ambush, flung the 
spear and struck Lieu, who turned into an eagle, from 
whose wound great pieces of carrion are continually fall- 

• 44 

Another case is found in the slaying of ]^uada by Balor 
of the Evil Eye. Balor, the most terrible of the For- 

43 Origin and Growth of Religion as Illustrated hy Celtic Hea- 
thendom, p. 529 f.; cf. Lady Gregory, Cuchulain, 1903, p. 339. 

44 Charles Squire, The Mythology of the British Isles, 1905, p. 
266; cf. ibid., p. 16. 


mors, had two eyes, but one was always kept shut, for it 
slew anyone on whom he looked. "This malignant qual- 
ity of Balor's eye was not natural to him, but was the 
result of an accident. Urged by curiosity, he once looked 
in at the window of a house where his father's sorcerers 
were preparing a magic potion, and the poisonous smoke 
from the cauldron reached his eye, infecting it with so 
much of its own deadly nature as to make it disastrous 
to others. . . . Balor was allowed to live only on con- 
dition that he kept his terrible eye shut. On days of 
battle he was placed opposite to the enemy, and the lid of 
the destroying eye was lifted up with a hook."*^ It is 
perhaps worth noting that Cumall, who is supposed to 
be ISTuada reincarnated, shared a somewhat similar fate, 
Cumall being slain by the one-eyed Aed.*® 

Cumall was slain by one who has many names, Arc 
Dubh (Black-Black) and Aed (afterwards Goll). Goll 
was wounded by Luchtet and his eye destroyed, hence 
his name became Goll. His treachery cost Cumall his 
life. Asked by the enemies of Cumall how he could be 
slain, he refused to tell until he was threatened with 
death. Then he said Cumall could be slain only by his 
own sword, and with that only when the hero was in the 
arms of his wife. Arc Dubh traitorously placed the sword 
on Cumall's neck when he was asleep, and so killed 

One wonders why the slayer of gods and heroes is so 
often made blind. We have seen that in the case of Lon- 
ginus, the legend that grew up about the piercer of the 
side of Jesus could easily be explained on the score that 
spiritual blindness was often mistakenly described as 

45 Squire, op. cit., p. 48. 

46 Henderson, Celt. Revietc, I, 204. 

47 George Henderson, Celtic Review, I (1904-05), 204, and II, 5. 


physical. Changes like this were constantly taking place. 
Such tales, as these just summarized, however, suggest an- 
other possible origin. It would not be unnatural for 
such a widespread folk idea to attach itself also to the 
slayer of Christ. Either explanation would have re- 
mained apocryphal. 

Though the tracing of the element of blindness to such 
ancient rites as the killing of the corn-spirit is entirely 
reasonable, another ancient conception may also have af- 
fected it. The slayer may simply be Death, who blindly 
slays all. This conjecture is made plausible by the cir- 
cumstance that death is frequently represented with a 
spear. In a British Museum MS (Addit. 37,049), of the 
first half of the fifteenth century, Death with a spear is 
seen piercing the right side of a man in bed. Blood runs 
from the wound just as in the crucifixion. Death says, 

"I have sought the many a day 
For to have the to my pray."48 

In MS Stowe 39, The Desert of Religion, on the last 
leaf. Death, armed with a spear, confronts a knight, a 
king, and an archbishop, with verses appropriate to each.*** 
The following lines from Chaucer also describe Death with 
a spear as his weapon : 

Ther cam a privee thief, men clepeth Death, 
That in this centre al the peple sleith, 
And with his spere he smoot his herte a-too 
And wente his wey with-outan wordes 

48 Fol. 38. Miss Louise Dudley called my attention to these 
illustrations; cf. in the same MS, fols. 19, 39b, 40b, 42a, 42b, 43a 
and 69. 

49 Cat. of Stowe MS, Brit. Mus. 1895, p. 24; cf. Cotton MS, Faust- 
ina B. 6, §2; Add. 37049, §43, fol. 46. 

50 Pardoner's Tale, 675 ff. 


Many other instances might be cited. ^^ 

A suggestion that in some confused way Longinus 
represented malign power, is shown in this queer old 
ballad, which still preserves the tradition in Wales. The 
ballad is in the form of a dialogue between Our Lady and 
the Holy Child : "Fair Mother Mary, sleepest thou ? Yes. 
my dear Son, I am dreaming. Fair mother, what seest 
thou in thy dream ? I see Thee beset, and pursued, and 
taken, and crucified, and Thy hands and feet nailed. A 
dark blind man, deceived by the Fiend,^^ is piercing 
Thee in Thy right side with the point of a spear; and 
all Thy blessed Blood is being shed."^^ Whether the 
blind piercer is Death with a spear or not, this idea and 
the fact that it was so often shown pictorially would in- 
fluence the story of Longinus and would tend to make the 
spearman a dark, evil force. 

In view of all these stories, wdiich show more or less 
similar traits — most of which obviously could not go back 
to the Longinus legend as a source — one hesitates to accept 
the Baldr myth as in any sense derived from the Christian 
legend. Whatever parallels may exist between Baldr and 
the Christian story are probably to be explained by the 
fact that the Baldr myth, going back as it does to primi- 
tive ritual customs, was, before it came in contact with 
the Christian story, made up of much the same essential 
traits, that now characterize it; though in its later stages, 
it is highly probable that the Norse tale has been some- 
what influenced by tlie Christian. 

51 Court of Love, 1.294 "Though Deth therfore me thirleth with 
his spere." Sloane MS, 1896, no. 37, fol. 45. Death with an hour- 
glass in the one hand, and a spear in the other, threateneth all 

52 Cf. Acta 8. JuUanae {Belles Lettres Juliana), p. 39. 

53 Robt. Owen, Sanctorale Catholicum, Lond., 1880, p. 142. 


The theories of Frazer and Kaiiffmann make this 
later connection with Jesus and Longinus all the more 
probable. They have shown that the story of Baldr can 
be explained by mythic rites, which have as basic ideas 
the sacrifice of a god in order to obtain renewed life, 
physical or moral, for his people. With so much in com- 
mon, it is not difficult to see how in the latest develop- 
ment of the Baldr story influence of the Christian legend 
might be suspected. That the Christian legend could 
be the source of the Baldr story in its N^orse form, it is 
hardly possible to admit, both on account of the dates 
and of such mythological resemblances as have been 
pointed out by Frazer and Kauffmann.^* 

54 Cf. Hubert Mauss, UAnnee Sociale, p. 121 ff. for explanation 
of the ordinary interpretation of the myth: "Le theme du sacrifice 
du dieu est un motif dont I'imagination mythologique a librement 
us6 ... la mort mythique du dieu rappelle le sacrifice rituel; 
elle est entouree par la l§gende, d'ailleurs obscure, mal transmise, 
Incomplete de circonstances qui permettent d'en determiner la 
veritable nature . . . I'episode des theomachies est I'une des 
formes mythologiques du sacrifice du dieu . . . I'origine des 
mythes de cette forme a et4 generalement oubliee; ils sont pre- 
sent's comme des combats meteorologiques entre les dieux de la 
lumiere et ceux des tendbres ou de I'abime." Cf. Kauffmann, 
273-4; Cf. Mogk, Paul's Grundriss. Ill, 324 ff., who sees the kernel 
of the myth of Baldr in the death of the god by the weapon In the 
hands of his enemy, Hot5r, and in the avenging of his murder by 
his brother. Baldr is the sun-god, and the myth is a year myth. 
Loki naturally is the enemy of the sun. Later other elements 
were added — the oath, the mistletoe, which is known in folk-lore 
as a protection against sorcery. It replaces the sword of the 
earlier form. 



§1. Survey of Testimony 

Tlie bleeding lance in tlie Grail romances is specifically 
identified by the writers after Crestien with the lance of 
Longinus. In Wauchier's continuation of Crestien's Per- 
ceval the lance which Gawain sees bleeding into a silver 
cup, is explained as that with which the Son of God was 
pierced in the side, and which will bleed until doomsday. 
In Manessier's continuation, Perceval is told that the lance 
is that with which Longis pierced God's side the day he 
hung on the cross. The Didot-Perceval likewise makes 
the lance the crucifixion relic; when Perceval asks con- 
cerning the lance, he is informed by his grandfather that 
with this lance Longis pierced the side of Jesus Christ. 
In the Modena-Perceval, the Fisher-King tells Perceval 
that the lance is that which Longis thrust into the side 
of Christ on the cross. Again in the Elucidation, the 
seventh part of the Grail story is referred to as tlie one 
which is to tell of the lance whereA\dth Longis pierced 
the side of the King of Holy Majesty. In the Morte 
D' Arthur, Balin, in his fight with King Pellam, makes 
use of the same spear that Longis used when he smote 
our Lord to the heart. The question is raised, how- 
ever, as to whether this Christianization is late, and due 
to the confusion of a pagan symbol with the crucifixion 
relic, or whether to the earliest users of the Grail legend, 


Crestien and Wolfram,^ the bleeding lance was tlie in- 
strument connected with Christ's passion. 

These earliest writers of the Grail romances, it is true, 
leave us in doubt as to their position in the matter. 
Crestien does not, like his continuators, explicitly tell his 
readers the origin of the lance. He describes it as "une 
blance lance" and adds: 

4376 S'en ist une goute de sane 
Del fer de la lance el somet, 
Et, jusqu'a la main au varlet 
Couloit cele goute vermelle. 

Wolfram von Eschenbach, who describes the lance as 
bloody and poisonous, and as that with which the Fisher- 
King had been wounded, fails also to give any account 
of its origin. 

To many this failure on the part of Crestien and Wol- 
fram to make definite statement as to the origin of the 

1 The present writer follows Golther, Brown and others in tak- 
ing Crestien and Wolfram as the earliest known writers who have 
made literary use of the Grail legend. Miss Mary Rh. Williams 
(Essai sur la composition du Roman Gallois de Peredur, Paris, 
1909) has attempted recently to show that the Welsh poem is in- 
dependent of Crestien and that it was probably in part written in 
the twelfth century. Celtic scholars,, however, have not accepted 
Miss Williams's conclusions. Thurneysen, Zeits. f. Celtische 
Philologie, VIII, 187, thinks the traces of earlier linguistic forms 
found in the Welsh MSS do not necessarily indicate a twelfth 
century original. These forms, he suggests, show rather the 
usage of a transition period where old and new are confused — the 
beginning of the thirteenth century. Professor Nitze, Modern 
Language Notes, XXV, 246 ff., clearly is of the opinion that Miss 
Williams has not succeeded in disproving Golther's contention 
that Peredur depends upon Crestien — the view which, as Pro- 
fessor Nitze remarks, has since 1890 found most frequent accept- 
ance among scholars. Cf. also M. Roques, Romania, XXXIX, 
383 f£.; Golther, Liter aturhlatt, 1910, cols. 286-287. 


lance is no obstacle to belief in its Christian origin. The 
general Christian coloring of the Grail Castle episode has 
led Heinzel, Wechssler, Staerk, Burdach, Golther and 
others to accept unhesitatingly the Grail lance as the 
Christian relic. Others, though somewhat less positive 
in their conclusions, also contribute valuable testimony. 
To this class belongs Birch-Hirschfeld, who says: "Es 
erschein uns im hochsten Grade warhscheinlich, dass 
Chrestien mit jener Lanze die Waffe Longins gemeint 
hat, mit der Christi Seite durch-stochen ward."^ Hertz 
derives the lance partly from Christian, partly from Cel- 
tic sources.^ Newell also admits the possibility of Chris- 
tian identification: "The bleeding lance was understood 
to be that with which Christ was wounded. Such inter- 
pretation would not be inconsistent with the ethical de- 
sign of the poem, and would be sufficiently in accord- 
ance with mediaeval conceptions and usages. On the 
other hand, it does not follow that the author intended 
such explanation."* In opposition to these, Campbell, 
Potvin, and Martin, among earlier critics, have taken 
the lance to be a Celtic talisman, and they have been fol- 
lowed by other investigators, notably by N'utt, and most 
recently by Professor A. C. L. Brown, who, supporting 
his view by new material, expresses his belief in the Cel- 
tic origin of the bleeding lance. 

Besides these two more or less generally followed the- 
ories, the Christian and the Celtic, there are several 
others. Hagen says the bleeding lance is not Longinus's 
but a "Zeichen der Kache und des Friedens."^ Wessel- 
ofsky makes the lance akin to the lance of Peleus. Pel- 

2 Sage vom Gral, p. 273. 

3 Die Sage von Parzival und dem Gralj p. 23. 

4 The Legend of the Holy Orail, p. 8. 

5 Der Gral, p. 82. 


linor was wounded and healed by the lance, as Peleus 
was wounded by Cheiron.® Miss Weston thinks the lance 
was originally "the dominant of the two Life symbols; 
taken into the story it w,as first to be Christianised; it 
always precedes the Grail."^ In Professor Nitze's some- 
what related hypothesis of the Grail mystery as a life- 
cult resembling the Greek mysteries, the lance is "the 
weapon with which the deity's strength has been impaired. 
It is the instrument of sacrifice, ... as a part of the 
ritual the lance is of prime importance, since it impairs 
life only in order to sustain it elsewhere, the process 
being imitative or rather 'sympathetic' of what occurs in 
]^ature."^ According to Professor Baist — whose theory 
concerning the source of the Grail legends is, as ]^utt 
puts it in his review, one "which treats them as happy- 
go-lucky manifestations of free artistic fancy"^ — Cres- 
tien uses the lance to bring Gawain and Perceval to- 
gether. Crestien, according to Baist, did not trouble 
about what the Grail meant. To him there was a well- 
known motive — ^the breaking of a spell by the right 
question. The second question asked in the Grail Castle, 
that concerning the bleeding of the lance. Professor Baist 
thinks superfluous to the Perceval legend.^" 

That the problem of the origin of the lance in the Grail 
stories is far from settled is made evident by the fact 
that the views here enumerated have all either been of- 
fered as new or urged afresh within the past year. 

6 "Zur Frage iiber die Heimath vom heiligen Gral," Archiv. i. 
Slav. Philologie, XXIIT, 374. 

7 Legend of Sir Perceval, II, 272. 

8 PMLA, XXIV, 404, 406. 

9 Academy, May 7, 1910. 
loparzival und der Gral, 1909, p. 42. 


§2. Pagan Color in the Grail Story 

This survey of the explanations offered as to the origin 
of the lance by the Grail writers themselves, and hj in- 
vestigators of the romances, shows an array of authority 
in favor of the Christian interpretation. ISTeverthe- 
less, the Christian explanation has seemed unsatisfactory 
to many students of the Grail problem. The objections 
urged are generally much the same. Professor Nitze 
lays stress on the fact that "the Grail romances as a 
class have a heterodox tinge, which is not superficial." 
This trait, he finds, is characteristic of even the most 
Christian forms of the story. ^^ Professor A. C. L. 
Brown's opinion is similar: "On a hypothesis of Chris- 
tian origin somebody must have paganized the Grail 
story before it reached Chretien and Wolfram, Some- 
body must have taken the most sacred legend of the 
Church and adapted it to the purposes of secular enter- 
tainment."^^ J^utt held much the same view. Comment- 
ing, in his review of Professor Brown's study, on the 
passage just quoted, he says : "This Professor Brown 
cannot believe ; hence, like myself he seeks for the origin 
of what is apparently non-Christian in non-Christian ro- 
mance and saga."^^ 

Part of this heterodox tinge, to be sure, will easily be 
explained by the introduction of the Christian relic into 
avowedly non-Christian story. Crestien, or whoever 
combined the Grail and Perceval legends, as Golther^* 

11 Op. cit., p. 371. 

12 P3ILA, XXV, 11, 12. 

^^ Acadev7y, May 7, 1910, p. 445. 

14 Parzival und der Gral, in deutscher Sage des Mittelalters und 
der Keuzeit (Walhalla IV), 1908, p. 2. 


and Burdoch^^ have botli suggested, was treating his sub- 
ject poetically, not dogmatically. His purpose was not 
religious edification. If, as has been suggested, the Per- 
ceval story has as its fundamental idea the instruction 
or training of an ideal knight,^^ what would be more 
natural than to comlbine with his education in the ordinary 
chivalric duties the higher training Avhich should initiate 
him into the greatest spiritual mystery ? 

On the other hand, it is impossible to assume that the 
presence of barbaric coloring in any mediaeval composi- 
tion marks it as non-Christian. Much of the Christian 
writing of the Middle Ages, to the modern mind, appears 
almost unmitigatedly heathen in its use of revolting 
imagery. This tendency to make the description har- 
rowing by bloody detail especially characterizes many lit- 
erary treatments of the crucifixion, and it may be added, 
of the sacrament." If pagan color in the accounts of 
the bleeding lance of the Grail romances be the chief ob- 
jection to its Christian origin, those upholding this view 
should show that the lance with barbaric properties 
would be exceptional in Christian literature. Manifestly 
such a demjonstration would be difficult. It should also be 
remarked that even when the bleeding lance of the Grail 
stories is taken in its most barbarous manifestation, as a 
symbol of destruction, it is yet also a symbol of sacrifice,^^ 
and therefore possesses to an extent mystic significance. 
Consequently it is easier to find resemblance between the 

^5 Literaturzeitung, XXIV (1903), 2821. 

16 Cf. Newell, op. cit., 15. 

17 Cf. for example, the mediaeval Sacrament Plays. 

18 Since the above was written, Nutt, Folk-Lore, XXI, 112, and 
Mr. Nitze, Mod. Lang. Notes, XXV, 248, have both called attention 
to the double nature of the function of the lance in the Grail 



Grail lance and the lance of Longinus which combines 
with its destructive characteristics others of mystic sanc- 
tity, than it is to shoAV relationship between the Grail lance 
and the purely barbarous Celtic weapon of revenge. Nutt 
must have felt something of this difficulty when, speak- 
ing of the Celtic talismans, the vessel of plenty and the 
death-dealing spear, he said: "In so far as these objects 
could, before their Christian transformation, be charged 
with mysterious and awe-inspiring potency, in so far as 
these tales of magic strife could be invested with tra- 
ditional sanctity, this was the case."^*^ 

Since the pagan coloring in the description of the bleed- 
ing lance in the Grail romances does not, therefore, in 
itself exclude connection with the Cracifixion relic, the 
real question to be considered is, how far other hypotheses 
serve to explain points not accounted for on the basis of 
Christian origin. Accordingly, it will be advisable to 
examine first of all the non-Christian interpretations 
which have been put forward. 

I. The Theory of Professor A. C. L. Brown 

§1. Celtic Marvellous Weapons and the Bleeding 


The most recent writer on the subject of Grail origins, 
begins his investigation with the bleeding lance. Pro- 
fessor Brown sees for the lance, at least as it appears in the 
romances of Crestien and Wolfram von Eschenbach, which 
he makes the earliest types of the Grail story, no possibility 
of any but a Celtic source. "That the lance of Longinus 
. . . could have given rise by any conceivable develop- 

19 Nutt, The Legends of the Holy Grail, 1902, p. 60. 



ment to the bleeding lance of Chretien and Wolfram is 
exceedingly improbable. ... A popular, originally hea- 
then, and doubtless Celtic tale has become partially Chris- 
tianized and is gradually almost wholly ecclesiasticized."'" 

To narrow this claim of heathen origin to the Celtic 
field is unfortunate. Other heathen parallels can be ad- 
duced. The Celtic feeding vessel is now recognized as 
one manifestation of the wide-spread folk vessel of 
plenty.^^ The Celtic magic weapons like the Celtic feed- 
ing vessel, are not without parallel. There are other 
marvellous heathen weapons. The Celtic other^vorld is 
also a manifestation of a wide-spread tradition; it finds 
its counterpart in Teutonic and Oriental mythology. 
Professor Brown emphasizes the similarity of the Grail 
lance and the Grail castle to the Celtic heroic weapons 
and the Celtic otherworld, however, without suggesting 
that these Celtic marvellous objects and places are not 
unique, and that such resemblance as exists may be ex- 
tended also to non-Celtic corresponding objects and places. 

Before considering these non-Celtic heathen kindred 
weapons, ^^ it will be convenient to examine the Celtic 
spears themselves. Professor Brown finds his closest 
parallel to the bleeding lance of the Grail story in the 
Luin of Celtchar, forged probably by Goibniu the smith 
of the Tuatha Da Danaan, which he makes identical 
with the marvellous spear of King Cormac, called Crimall 
or "Bloody Spear," and also with "the venomed spear 
of Pezar, King of Persia, which Lugh obtained in an- 

20 Op. cit., pp. 12, 13. 

21 Baist, Parzival und der Gral, 1909, p. 41, states that it is 
found in Celtic mythology as in every other. Cf. T. Sterzenbach, 
Ursprung u. Entwicklung der Sage von lieil. Gral, Miinster, 1908, 
p. 7. 

22 Cf. below p. 196 for non-Celtic otherworld. 


ticipation of the Second Battle of Mag Tured," the name 
of which was Slaughterer^ the blazing point of which 
"had to be kept in a great caldron of water.""^ Professor 
Brown is seeking a lance that is shining, poisonous, de- 
structive, bleeding. He fails to find one that bleeds, but 
only a venomous spear that must be dipped in blood to 
quell its fury. It may almost be said that the spear of 
Celtchar or Lugh or Cormac is too marvellous to sug- 
gest relationship with the spear of the Grail procession, 
the most marvellous property of which — its bleeding — 
the Celtic spear, gory as it is, fails to reproduce. An- 
other description of Lugh's spear, — Squire's, — gives it 
still other marvellous qualities: "He also had a magic 
spear, which unlike the rod sling, he had no need to wield 
himself; for it was alive, and thirsted so for blood that 
only by steeping its head in a sleeping draught of 
pounded poppy leaves could it be kept at rest. When 
battle was near it was dra^vn out; then it roared, and 
struggled against its thongs; fire flashed from it; and, 
once slipped from the leash, it tore through and through 
the ranks of the enemy never tired of slaying.""* In- 
deed, Professor Brown himself adds to his enumeration 
of the magic characteristics of the Celtic weapon many 
which find no counterpart in the Grail spear: "Their 
weapons expanded like a rainbow, or had demons in 
them, so that they executed slaughter by themselves or 
testified against those who swore falsely by them ; or the}- 
could foretell a battle, or relate all the former exploits 
of the spear or sword.""^ 

Even if it were granted that the spear of the Grail ro- 
mances is heathen, too many weapons with equally super- 

23 Op. cit., p. 23. 

24 Charles Squire, Myth, of the Brit. Isles, p. 62. 

25 Op. cit., p. 23. 


natural qualities exist elsewhere to make the Celtic re- 
lationship inevitable. Fitzgerald explains this wonderful 
Irish spear or lance as the belt stars of Orion. Speak- 
ing of Cuchulainn's sword which "shone in the night like 
a candle," he argues that, "as these objects, sword, elbow- 
staff, belt, alternate in different versions of the same tale, 
it is fair to conclude that generally we have to deal with 
different conceptions of the one thing." "It occurs," he 
continues "as a sword or spear, with ISTuada, Lug, Cu- 
Chulaind, Macha, Oengus, Cormac.""® These Irish 
weapons Fitzgerald likens to the marvellous spear of 
Zeus, of Hermes, of Agamemnon,"^ and other masters, 
which the Chaeroneans honored above all gods and fed 
every day. This use of the spear as a symbol of destruc- 
tive power is general. ^^ The Romans worshipped a spear 
as the image of Mars. It moved of its ovni accord.^' 
"The Scythians revered an iron sword and offered annual 
sacrifices of sheep and horses to it."^" In Samoa war- 
clubs of renowned warriors were venerated. Blood- 
stained weapons were reverenced and it was believed that 
they brought success in battle.^^ The cult of the sword 
or lance was knowni also among the Germans. The lance 
of Tiw could slay of itself. It shone like the sun.^- An- 
other remarkable weapon is Tig Altesch, "I'epee foudroy- 
ante des quarante Solimans ou monarques universels de 

26 Revue Celtique, V, 199. 

2T Cf. also Roscher, Lexicon, who refers to priests and food 
offerings to the spear. 

28 R. p. Knight, Symbolical Language of Ancient Art and Myth. 
pp. 95, 114. Cf. Pausanias's Description of Greece, Frazer, V, 

29 Roscher, Lexicon, s. v. Mars. 
so Pausanias, V, 211. 

31 J&id., V, 211. 

32 Mogk, Paul's Grundriss, III, 317. 


la terre avant la creation d'Adam."^^ In ancient Mexico 
blood was offered in sacrifice to "sacred sticks" or staffs 
iised as spears.^* Reference to the Persian poison spear of 
Pisear is made by Professor Brown. 

The qualities, then, that Professor Brown finds in his 
Celtic marvellous weapons are wide-spread. The cult of 
the spear existed not only in Ireland,^^ but everj^vhere 
among the ancients. The weapons thus regarded with 
superstitious veneration are variously shining like the 
sun, irresistible in battle, venomous, bloody. Reiffen- 
berg discussing these "armes enchantees ou impenetra- 
bles," which, as he says, were used so frequently by the 
trouveres, traces their origin to several sources: Celtic 
sagas, Scandinavian invasions from the seventh to the 
tenth centuries, Greek and Roman influence, the relations 
of Europe with the Orient before and after the Crusades, 
chivalry, and universal human conceptions.^*' 

The heathen lances just discussed — whether Celtic or 
classic — are wonderful enough, too wonderful in fact, to 
be used in the Grail romances without much modifica- 
tion. But why should Crestien, or his source, go so' far 
afield for his lance of marvellous properties? It appears 

33 Cf. Chevalier au Cygne, Reiffenberg, 1846, I, pp. cx-cxiv, for 
a long list of marvellous weapons with names and without. Cf. De 
la Warr B. Easter, A Study of the Magic Elements in the Romans 
cVAventure, Baltimore, 1906. Swords and spears are included in 
the table of contents among objects with acquired magic proper- 
ties — light, etc. Cf. also Warton's Hist, of English Poetry, I (ed. 
1871), p. 43, for marvellous weapons that expel pestilence, allay 
winds, bring fruit, etc. — the fabled dart of Procris, Abaris. Cf. 
also an article on Fabled Spears, Notes and Qtieries, ser. 2, 
VII, 89. 

31 Pausanias, V, 211, 212. 

35 D'Arbois de Jubainville, Le Cycle Myth. Irlandais, p. 188. 

36 Op. cit., p. Ixxxix. 


nmcli simpler and far more plausible that he should take 
a lance already in his time made a center for the accre- 
tian of wonderful characteristics. The history of the 
spear of Longinus from the sixth to the fourteenth cen- 
turies shows that it appropriated to itself miraculous prop- 
erties both Christian and heathen. ^^ In doing so it fol- 
lowed the natural development of stories of saints and 
relics — a method too well understood to demand illustra- 
tion here.^® 

§2. The Shining Lance and the Spear of Longinus. 

That the lance of Longinus will supply the marvellous 
qualities of the bleeding lance of the Grail romances at 
least as well as Professor Brown's Celtic spear can be 
demonstrated, I think, by the traits it shows in mediaeval 
literature outside of the Grail tradition and unaffected 
by it. Postponing for the present the consideration of 
the Grail procession as a whole, I shall here discuss only 
the characteristics of the lance, limiting myself tO' the 

S7 Cf. above p. 56 ff. 

38 Cf. H. Gunter, Legenden Studien, Koln, 1906. De la Warr 
B. Easter, op. cit., p. 32, in discussing church magic, calls atten- 
tion to its frequent appearance in the Romances, and states 
that in the Middle Ages the Church opposed to the diabolic magic 
of the heathen its own celestial magic; consequently relics — exter- 
nal symbols of the Divine, or of saints — came to have independent 
power of sanctification. It may be added that when once this 
independence was obtained the relic would develop its own story 
independently of the legend to which it was originally attached. 
The lance of Longinus illustrates this fact. Easter, p. 39, gives an 
extreme illustration of- the way marvellous properties were as- 
cribed to religious objects. In Raoul de Cam'brai, relics are 
found trembling and jumping upon fair green cloth spread upon 
the grass: 

4948 Et les reliques fremir et sauteler 

De grant merveille li poist remembrer. 


descriptions which appear in the earliest of the ro- 
mances — those for which Professor Brown offers Celtic 
parallels and interpretations. 

First to be noted is the whiteness or shining appear- 
ance of the lance described by Crestien and Wauchier. 
Several passages in which this characteristic is dwelt 
upon have already been pointed out by Professor Brown. 
He refers to the lines in Crestien's account : 

4369 Uns varies d'une cambre vint. 
Qui une hlance lance tint. 

6035 For coi cele gote de sane 

Saut par la pointe del fer &Zanc.39 

To these passages may be added still another: 

7749 Et, de cele goute de sane 

Que a la pointe del fer blane. 

In this characteristic of the Grail lance Professor Brown 
finds important evidence of its Celtic origin. "The 
whiteness of the lance," he remarks, "dwelt on by 
Chretien here, connects the object with the fairy weapons 
of the Celts;"**' and again, "The whiteness of the Bleed- 
ing Lance, on which both Chretien and Wauchier lay 
stress, (as well as the dazzling brilliancy of the grail) is, 
therefore, significant and goes far by itself to prove that 
the talismans of the Grail Castle belong with the mar- 
vellous possessions of King Arthur, and have a like 
origin in Celtic legend."*^ 

39 Op. cit., p. 7. In a foot-note Professor Brown refers also to 
Wauchier's aeeount of the Grail Castle as given in the Montpellier 
MS and MS Bib. Nat. 12576. 

■io lUd., p. 7, note 2, 

41 /bid., 32, 33. 


It is singular that Professor Brown takes this quality 
of shining to be so exclusively Celtic that it "goes far hy 
itself to prove" Celtic origin, when it is so general an 
accompaniment of Christian story. It is a common acces- 
sory in saints' legends. The angels who appear to them, 
the saints themselves, their relics, all shine.*" The cruci- 
fixion relics, as might be expected, possess this quality : 

— factum est talem signum quod omnes qui aderamus uidimus 
Magna autem coruscatio de loco inluxit ubi inuenta est sea crux 
clarior solis lumine et statim apparuerunt claui illi qui in dnico 
conflxi fuerant corpore tamquam aurum fulgens in terra Ita ut 
omnes sine dubio credentes dicerent Nunc cognoscimus in quo 
credimus Duos accipiens cum magno timore optulit uenerabili 

In the tenth century sermon of ^Ifric on the Exalta- 
tion of the Cross, in the account of Eraclius's bearing 
the cross back into JeriTsalem, whence it had been taken 
by the heathen, marvels occur: 

109 Waes eac oj^er wundor swa Jjaet wynsum braetS 

Stemde [of] >aere halgan rode pa pa, heo hamwerd waes. 

117 Fala p\i scinende rod swi]7or >onne tungla 

Maere on middan-earde micclum to Iufigenne.44 

The lance, like the cross and the nails, has the quality 
of shining. It will be remembered that the account given 
of the lance in a Breviarius de Hierosolyma (dating 
about 530) describes it as shining by night as the sun by 

42 See for full discussion and instances too numerous to cite 
here, H. Gunter, Legenden Sttidien, "Lichtglanz," pp. 4, 16, 18, 21, 
29, 31f., 53, 54, 63, 66f., 71, 73, 93, 97, 99, 134f., 155. 

43 Holder, Inventio Criccis. 

44 ^Ifric's Lives of the Saints, EET8., 94. 


day.*^ The early date of this reference to the lance and 
its marvellous qualities makes it unusually interesting. 

The same qualities moreover are found when the relics 
are described in the romances. In Rouland and Ver- 
nagu^ Constantine shows Charlemagne the holy relics: 

101 pemperour his wil dede, 

& ladde him to J?e holy stede, 
J>ere ]>q relikes ware; 
per com swiche a swete odour 
pat neuer jete so swete sauour. 

Three hundred sick people were cured. Among other 
relics there were: 

111 a parti of >e holy crosse 

119 & a spere long & smert, 

pat longys put to godes hert, 

He gaf charls J^e king; 

& a nail long & gret 

pat was y-driue fiurch godes fet 

Wi}? outen ani lesing. 

When Charles had received these gifts he prayed God 
for some proof of their authenticity, and — 

pan decended a liitnesse, 
Doun rijtes fram >e heuen blis, 
In J)at ich place, 
pat Jjai wenden alle y-wis, 
pai hadde ben in parodys, 
So ful it was of grace.46 

45 See above,' p. 57. This passage in the Jerusalem Breviary is 
not unknown to Prof. Brown, for he quotes it in a foot-note on 
page 12. But he fails to remark upon the similarity of this 
shining lance of Longinus and the lance of the Grail. Indeed, in 
this same footnote he denies that the lance of Longinus "had 
any particular resemblance to the spear of the Grail Castle." 

46EET8., e. s., 39, 40. 


Supernatural liglit, then, as an accessory of the Grail 
lance, far from making Christian origin impossible, 
greatly strengthens such probability. The description of 
the lance of Longinus — et lucet in node, sicut sol in vir- 
tute diet — recalls definitely the light accompanying the 
Grail procession: 

4404 Une si grans clartes i vint 

Que si pierdirent les candoiles 
Lor clarte, com font les estoiles 
Quant li solaus lieve ou la lune. 

§3. The Bleeding Lance and the Spear of Longinus 

How does the case stand as to the bleeding lance? 
Following again Crestien, Wauchier, and Wolfram, as 
the earliest versions, we find in Crestien: 

4376 S'en ist une goute de sane 

Del fer de la lance el somet 
Et jusqu'a la main au varlet 
Couloit cele goute vermelle. 

and again: 

7539 ... la lance dont li fers 

Sainne tos jors, ja n'ert si ters 
Del sane tout cler qui ele pleure. 
Si est escrit qu'il est une eure 
Que tous li roiaumes de Logres 
Dont jadis fu li tiere al Ogres 
Ert detruite par cele lance. 

7746 Sire, cies le roi Pesceour 

Fui une fois et vi la lance * 

Dont li fiers saine sans doutance. 

To one who knows the story of Longinus, the first of 
these citations sounds strikingly familiar. In almost 
every account of the spear-thrust, the blood runs down 
to the hand of the spearman. Of course, in the legend 


the miraculous healing of the blindness of Longinus fol- 
lows. Here only the blood on the lance is given. 

In Wauchier's continuation the Grail lance is expressly 
identified as the relic of the Crucifixion : 

20259 C'est la lance demainement 

Dont li fius diu fu volrement 
Ferus tres parmi le coste. 

These lines, however, Professor Brown regards merely as 
a gloss added by Wauchier himself, who "allowed whole 
sections of his source, which must have been nearly or quite 
pagan, to remain unaltered, side by side with his later 
Christian explanations."*^ On the other hand, the de- 
scription of the lance in Wauchier's narrative he finds to 
be "more barbaric than Chretien's." The feature which 
Professor BroA^Ti has here in mind seems to be the ex- 
cessive bloodiness of the description : 

20151 Et puis si vit, en. I. hanstier, 

Une lance forment sainier 
Dedens une cope d'argent. 
En eel vassiel fu droitment, 
Toute fu sanglente environ, 
Li sans couroit a grand randon 
Del fier jusques a I'arestuel; 
Par foi, mentir ne vos en voel. 
En eel vassiel d'argent caoit, 
Par. I. tuiel d'or en issoit 
Puis ceurt parmi. I. calemel 
D'argent, ja mais ne verez tel, 
De la mervelle s'esbahit 

Without stoj^ping to discuss the fact that the blood is 
here carried by a tube, — the consideration of which will 
come later, — we note only that in Wauchier the bleeding 
is more emphasized than in Crestien, and that the lance 
is Christian. 

47 Op. cit., p. 14. 


Wolfram's account adds little. The spear is not bleed- 
ing, but bloody. The pluotec sper is mentioned at 1.21, 
p. 807, and again at 1.30 f., p. 489 : 

Daz sper muos in die wunden sin: 
Da half ein not fiir d'andern not: 
Da wart daz sper bluotec rdt. 

iN^one of the properties of the lance of the Grail Cas- 
tle, according to- Professor Brown, "not even bleeding, 
are matched by the lance of Longinus."*® He adds, curi- 
ously, that, "some of the later Grail romances, indeed, by 
explaining that the lance of Longinus bled no more after 
the time of Joseph of Arimathea, indicate that bleeding 
was not in accordance with the tradition generally cur- 
rent concerning the relic of the crucifixion." This, on 
the contrary, seems to me clearly to imply that bleeding 
had been connected with the Christian lance. It is not 
surprising that this should be the case. Miraculous 
bleeding connected with the crucifixion is an early Chris- 
tian conception, like the quality of shining in which Pro- 
fessor Brown finds only heathen reminder. The bleed- 
ing, however, unlike the shining, is used in two appar- 
ently contrary ways : it represents on the one hand de- 
struction and judgment and is made a symbol of terror; 
on the other, it betokens new life, since the Church comes 
from the wound in the side of Christ,*® and since the 
blood, the life of Christ, becomes the regenerating food 
of men. 

The first of these symbolical uses is the one emphasized 
by Professor Bro^vn. In the bleeding lance he sees merely 

48 Op. cit., 17. 

49 See above, pp. 11, 12. 


an "extravagantly destructive" venomous implement.^'' 
And these qualities he conceives to be "altogether antago- 
nistic to the Longinus legend, but in conformity with pa- 
gan story." Accordingly he turns for the source of the 
bleeding lance to Celtic literature. In Welsh and Irish 
mythology he finds, it is true, the Luin of Celtchar=the 
Slaughterer of Lugh=the Crimall (Bloody Spear of 
Cormac, a destructive, venomous, flaming spear, which 
must be dipped in blood to quench its fury) .^^ 

Professor Brown's chief objection to the lance of Lon- 
ginus is, that it lacks the property of bleeding which 
usually belongs to the Grail lance: "]^o pseudo-gospel 
or legend of the time before Chretien mentions bleeding 
among the miraculous attributes of the Christian 
lance."^" This objection, however, applies equally to 
the Celtic spears brought forward by Professor Brown. 
The Luin of Celtchar is "held point downward over a 
caldron of blood into which it is ever and anon plunged — 
a circumstance that might develop into the idea of a 
lance bleeding into a vessel."^^ "It seems to be identi- 
cal with the marvellous spear of King Cormac, which was 
called the Crimall or 'Bloody Spear.' Perhaps therefore 
bleeding was in Irish tradition an attribute of the Luin. 
The ancient Irish indeed attributed almost every kind of 
miraculous and extraordinary property to their lances 

50 Unlike Nutt, it is to be noted, who works also on the Celtic 
hypothesis. Cf. also Folk-Lore, XXI, 112; and Nitze, Mod. Lang. 
Notes, XXV, 248. 

51 Here the dipping in blood may be the Irish way of stating 
that blood sacrifices were made to the weapons of heroes. Fitz- 
gerald, it will be remembered, compared the Irish spears with the 
weapons, famous in cult, of Agememnon and Mars, to which such 
offerings were made. 

52 Op. cit., p. 17. 

53 J&id., pp. 17, 18. 


and swords, [except — we may add on Professor Brown's 
own admission — that of bleeding]."'* Finally, Profes- 
sor Brown even proceeds to suggest reasons why the 
Irish spears did not bleed: ''If bleeding were not often 
made prominent by the ancient Irish among the prop- 
erties of their weapons, this may well have been because 
they were chiefly interested in other more exaggerated 
and more marvellous qualities. Had bleeding been made 
the main attribute of a lance in ancient Irish, we may 
be sure that it would have bled, like the lance of Wauch- 
ier, in so exaggerated a way that spout and conduit would 
be needed to carry off the blood."^^ This, it may be 
granted, is what one would expect to find if bleeding 
lances had been known to Irish tradition. The fact, 
therefore, that Professor Brown is unable to discover in 
ancient Welsh or Irish literature a single well attested 
instance of a lance which bleeds becomes the more sig- 

To return now to the lance of Christian tradition, it 
will be remembered that in the legend it is usually repre- 
sented streaming with blood. Indeed, so general is this 
representation of it in mediaeval literature, quite outside 
Grail influence, that it would be entirely natural for it 
to be called a bloody spear. The property certainly seems 
much more to belong to the lance of Longinus than to 
the Luin of Celtchar dipped in a caldron of blood. 

The following quotations are all directly connected 
with the legend of Longinus even when his name does 
not appear in the lines: 

Et de la lance vos feri el coste 

Le sane et I'eve I'eu a as poinz cole 

Guillaume D'Orange, vv. 767, 768. 

54 Ihid., p. 23. The italics are mine. 

55 Ihid., p. 24. 


Et li sans et li aigue, si com je I'ai apris 
Li coula jusqu'aus puins — La Chanson D'Antioche,5Q 
vv. 325, 326. 

Et Longis vous feri de la lance a bandon 

Li sans li vint par I'anste jusqu'aus poins, de randon 

Ibid., vv. 687, 689. 

Le sang et I'eve en fist ruceler; 
Aval la lance commenza devaler, 
Jusqu'a ses poigns ne se voulat arester 

Roman d'Aguin,o^ 11. 195 ff. 

Longins li grans le feri a bandon; 
Son blanc coste li parcha contremont, 
Et sane et eve en issi de randon 
Dus qu'a ses poins n'i fist arestison. 

Le Chevalerie Ogier,58 n. 248 ff. 

With lines 250-1 above, compare the "barbaric" descrip- 
tion found in Wauchier, 11. 20156-7: 

Li sans couroit a grand randon 
Del fier jusques a I'aresteul. 

Also compare "jusque a ses poigns'' in the above with 
Crestien, 1. 4378 : "Et jusqua la main au varlet/' 

When to the above we add a passage describing the 
wounding of Christ in the Roman de la Violette — 
which, it is to be remembered, is by Gerbert — 11. 5292 ff. : 

Desci au cuer, que li clers sans 
Fu aval la lanche coulans 
Dusc'd ses mains — 

it looks almost as if there were a more or less stereotyped 
description of the blood running down the lance to the 

56 The beginning of the twelfth century. 

57 Twelfth century; of. Grober, Grundriss, p. 542. 

58 Twelfth century; cf. Grober, Grundriss, p. 546. 


hands of Longinus. It might ahnost be conjectured that 
the Grail writer knew and used this stereotyped form. 
That the passage should be so nearly reproduced in the 
description of the Grail lance is assuredly a remarkable 
coincidence if it is nothing more. At all events the simi- 
larity between the lance of Longinus and the Grail lance 
if. here much closer than any yet pointed out between the 
Grail spear and the Luin of Celtchar. 

The lance, it is seen, is in literature generally bloody. 
Professor Golther believes that Crestien in making the 
lance bleed took this trait over from other bleeding relics. 
Crestien, though using the sacred objects commonly em- 
ployed in the Greek mass — candles, chalice, paten, lance, 
and other relics, — according to Golther, disposed them 
differently. He showed the blood of Christ dripping 
from the spear,^" used the Grail (usually the chalice, the 
holder of blood) for the host, and so found the paten 
(usually the bread plate), superfluous. The implication 
is of course that Crestien thought the blood of Christ, 
seen on the very instrument with which it was shed, 

59 Professor Golther's conjecture that Crestien made the lance 
take the place of the chalice or grail as bearer of the blood in the 
Grail procession finds support in the Dispute Between Mary and 
the Cross {EETS., 46, 136-137) where the cross itself is spoken 
of as a platter hearing sacrificial food. That the eucharist is 
meant is made evident by the reference in the next stanza to the 
eating of the flesh in "godes hous." The Cross speaks: — 

1.166 "I bar flesch for folkes feste; 
Ihesu Christ vre saueour 
He tedep hope lest and meste, 
Rested ajeyn pe sonne. 
On me lay pe lomb of loue 
I was plater his bodi a-boue, 
Til feet and hondes al-to cloue, 
Wip blood I was bi-ronne." 



would be a more potent reminder than the farther re- 
moved, less directly connected, blood in the Grail or 

Golther's suggestion is both illuminating and adequate, 
whether taken aesthetically or dogmatically. Such a 
transfer of the property of bleeding from cross to spear 
would not be difficult. The fortunes of the cross and 
the spear are more or less bound up together in mediaeval 
literature;*'" and if the lance does not bleed, it is suffi- 
ciently bloody to make a transfer of this kind from one 
passion relic to another easy. 

Bleeding was associated with the cross from early 
times. JN^ote this passage from the Christ: 

1084 Usses Dryhtnes rod onsweard stondetS, 
beacna beorhtast, blode bistemed 
Heofoncyninges, hlutran dreore 
biseon mid swate, }?aet ofer side gesceaft 
Scire scineS. 

Professor Cook in commenting on this passage says : "the 
cross towers like the mythic Ygdrasil dripping with 
blood, but flooding the whole world with a blaze like sun- 
light."" The lines from the Christ Professor Cook com- 
pares with the Dream of the Rood, 1.48 : "Eall ic waes 
mid blode bestemed, / begoten of I'aes Gimian sidan.'" 
"This conception," he remarks, "of the blood-stained 
cross is at least as early as Paulinus of ]!^ola, who writes 
{Epist. 32, cap. 14) : 

Ardua floriferae crux cingitur orbe coronae, 
Et Domini fuso tincta cruore rubet. 

60 Cf. various Complaints of Mary, Meditations on the Hours, 

61 Christ of Cynewulf, p. xliv. 


And again (cap. 17) : 

Inter floriferi Coeleste nemus Paradisi. 

Sub cruce sanguinea niveo stat Christus in agris."6i 

Among other marvels that accompanied the discovery 
of the tnie cross by Saint Helena, — 

Hit was talde of mani man 

At a licour J^er-of ranne, 

pat wi]7 betinge was bote of bale, 

And sekenes diuers to make ham hale 

A vessel Ipat hit ware noit tint, 

Stode vnder • pat licour for to hint, 

for to dele vn-to l?e vnfere, 

to sende ouer al ]>e cuntree sere.62 

§4. The Poisonotjs and Destructive Lance and the 
Spear of Longinus 

Poisonous and destructive properties have also been 
associated, at least occasionally, with the spear of the cru- 
cifixion. DegTiilleville in his Pelerinage de Vie Humaine 
represents Envy with two spears coming from her eyes. 
One of them is the spear of Longinus, which is described 
as follows : 

ei/ftid., p. 193. 

62 Cursor Mundi, 11. 21618-21626; also printed by Morris from 
Fairfax MS. 14, EETS., 46, 115. Significant is the bleeding of 
the tree from which Adam and Eve ate the apple, identified 
with the cross of the crucifixion (cf. EETS., 46, introd. by 
Morris). It bleeds when approached by the sinful (Horstmann, 
Altenglische Legenden, Heilbronn, 1881, p. 378): 

When any synfull come here-ine. 
As )?ou seyst, shyld, with me, 
For vengawnce of ]7at cursyd synne 
The blode rynneth oute of J^is tre. 


8307 De I'autre ot li roi Jhesu 

Le coste percie et fendu 
Plus mal li fist le moquement 
Que les Jui's de son tourment 
Avoient que le fer ne fist 
Que Longis u coste li mist 
Ces glaives sont enracinez 
En mon cuer parfont et plantez, 
Mes par mes iex ont (leur) issue 
Pour (moi) faire beste cornue. 
Pour moi faire venin getter 
Par les iex pour envenimer 
Mes voisins par un suel regart 
Sans laissier disme ne champart.63 

The sj^ear is mJade venomous, though expressly identified 
as the crucifixion relic. The connection, it is true, is made 
in a symbolic way, and Deguilleville was perhaps some- 
what influenced by Grail imagery.®* The significant point 
lies in the fact that Deguilleville did not feel such quali- 
ties as those here mentioned to be antagonistic to his defi- 
nitely Christian purpose, nor did Lydgate, who followed 
him. ISTot less interesting is the confusion of the flaming 
sword of the cherubim with the crucifixion relic, — due 
entirely in this instance to Lydgate : 

472 Whos swerd was bloudyd with the blood 

Off Crystys holy passyon 
When he made our Redempcion, 
Mankynd to restore a-gayn. 
The wych wey, whan I hadde seyn, 
I was a-stonyd i my syht. 
But I was coumfortyd a-noon Ryht, 
Whan I sawh the swerd mad blont 

63 Le Pelerinage de Vie Humaine. Roxburghe Club, 1893; cf. 
Lydgate's translation of this passage, Pilgrimage of the Life of 
Man, EET8., pp. 402-3. 

64 The present writer hopes soon to publish the results of an 
inquiry into the possible influence of the Grail legend on the 
Pelerinage de Tie Huviaine. 


Off cherubin, the wych was wont. 
To brenne as any flawmbe bryht. 
But now, the sharpnesse & the lyht 
Was queynte, to do no more vengaunce, 
By vertu off Crystys gret suffraunce.65 

For the present purpose this confusion makes no differ- 
ence. It has been said that the sacred spear acquired 
the marvellous qualities of other weapons. The result 
of the fusion in this case is to bring together several of 
the properties Professor Brown is seeking for the Grail 
lance. This Christian weapon here used as a reminder of 
the crucifixion, is bloody, flaming, and unquestionably an 
instrument of vengeance. 

Though Deguilleville and Lydgate are too late to be of 
value in the matter of Grail origins, these citations never- 
theless indicate that poisonous and destructive properties 
are not necessarily incompatible with the spear of Lon- 

§5. The Christian Spear a Symbol of Destruction 
AND OF Peace 

As already remarked. Professor Brown, in the opinion 
of the present writer, emphasizes too exclusively the de- 
structive significance of the lance in the Grail procession. 
It has also another meaning — it is the symbol of peace 
and new life. Indeed, Professor Brown mainly depends 
for evidence of the destructive powers of the lance upon 
a passage in the Mens MS^ which states that a blow from 
the lance will destroy the land of Logres. This unsup- 
ported passage, however, hardly seems sufficient, espe- 

^5 Pilgrimage of the Life of Man. Englisht by Jno. Lydgate, 
EET8., e. s., 77, 13; cf. 11. 63 ff. 


ciallj since the Montpellier MS reading for the same pas- 
sage is exactly the opposite : 

7358 Et messire Gauwains s'en alle 
Querre la lance dont li fers 
Sainne tos jors, ja n'ert si ters 
Del sane tout cler que ele pleure 
[Montpellier] Einsi est escrit en I'ameare 
La pes sera par ceste lance. 

Clearly here is a choice of properties which may well 
argue the existence of two traditions. If the lance re- 
ferred to is the Christian relic, the two characteristics 
do exist side by side.'^® A bit of Christian writing, 
likewise interesting on another account, illustrates the 
belief in the double nature of the crucifixion spear. In 
a fourteenth century Meditacion of ]>e fyue woundes, it 
is said of the wound in the side: 

Out of >e largeste and deppeste welle of euere-lastyng lif in 
Jie moste opene wounde in Christys blessed syde, cleech vp depp- 
est and hertyliest watir of joye and blisse withouten eende, bihold- 
yng Jjeere inwardly how Crist Iftesu god and man, to bringe J)ee to 
euerlastynge lyf, suffrede J^at harde and hydous deeth on })e cros 
and suffrede his syde to be opened and hym-self to be stonegyn to 
])e herte with ]7at grisly spere, and so with t>at deelful strook of ])e 
spere Jjeere gulchide out of Cristys syde )?at blysful floode of 
watir and blood to raunsone vs, water of his syde to wasshe vs, 
and blood of his herte to bugge vs. For loue of J^ise blessede 
woundes creep in to J>is hoot baa> of Crystys herte-blood, and 
J^eer bathe pee; ffor peer was neuer synne of man ne of womman 
Jjouit ne wroujt ^at was laft with louely sorrowe and hertly 

66 L. E. Iselin, whose study, Der morgenlandische Ursprung der 
Grallegende, 1909, I have been able to examine only since the 
completion of my own work, confirms this view. Cf. pp. 115-116. 
"Es bestand also, wie wir sehen, in der Poesie wie in der Le- 
genden-literatur eine mystische Redeweise, dass dieselbe Lanze 
totet und Leben gibt, verwundet und Heil bringt, dass eine Lanze 
des Paradies verschliesst und eine Lanze das Paradies ofEnet." 


repentaunce, J^at J?eer ne ys in }Jis welle fully remyssion to buggen 
it, and watir of lyf fully to clensen it and wasshen it.67 

Professor BroAvn devotes half of his study to the story 
of Balin and the Dolorous Stroke, which he believes ex- 
plains the cause of the wound in the thighs of the Grail 
King.®* Professor Golther takes the Grail King to be 
Christ himself wounded in the side by the spear-thrust 
of Longinus. Discussion of this point will come later. 
Suffice it to note that an account quite unrelated to the 
Grail story makes the spear grisly, and the spear-thrust 
that deprived Christ of life a deelful strook. It shows, 
too, how to the mystic mediaeval mind the deed could be 
at once both wicked and blessed, destructive and regen- 

§6. The Bleeding Lance in Art and in the Drama 

It is clear, then, that more can be accounted for by 
Christian tradition than Professor Brown has recog- 
nized. In connection with the question of the source of 
the bleeding spear used by the writers of the Grail ro- 
mlances, it will be well to recall the importance of the 
spear of the crucifixion in art. It was shown every- 
where — in manuscripts, on crosses, in churches, with the 
blood gushing from its point and running down its shaft. 
Many of these illustrations were so early that they must 
have been familiar to Crestien and his predecessors. 

Another possible influence may also be noted. As early 
as the twelfth century Longinus was seen on the stage 

67 Printed by Horstmann among works wrongly attributed to 
E. Rolle, from MS Univ. Coll. 97, R. Rolle, II, 441. 

68 This part of Prof. Brown's study can not be considered here. 
Nutt (Acad. May 7, 1910, 440) was not convinced that he had 
made his point. 

194 THE legejS'd of longinus 

in the religious drama. According to the stage direc- 
tions, and the texts of these early plays, the lance must 
have been shown as bleeding. Notice the stage directions 
in the twelfth century Anglo-l^orman play of the Resur- 
rection du Sauveur: "II prist la lance; ci I'feri al quer, 
dunt sane e ewe en issi. Si li est as mainz avale."*'® Com- 
pare with this the account in La Passione e Risurrezione : 

Et un de li cavaleri longi ke fo horn de gran statura 
Lo lao de Cristo fora cum la langa forta e agua 
Undo g ensi aigua e sango per figura, etcJO 

Similar is the stage direction in the Saint GaJIer Pas- 
sionsspiel: "Cum fixerit eum et sanguis lancea descend- 
ens tangat oculos, videbit et dicat."^^ The same direction 
is found in the Ancient Cornish Passion: "Tunc fluat 
sanguis super lancea usque ad manus longii militis et 
tunc tergit oculos et uidebit et dicit."'" It is hardly 
necessary to cite other instances. The stage directions 
are explicit and clearly indicate that, by some contriv- 
ance, blood streamed down the lance. It is to be re- 
marked that Crestien and his contemporaries probably 
saw these plays produced, and beheld the lance bleeding 
realistically before their eyes. With the Christian lance 
so obviously and suitably at hand, in literature which 
as writers of romances themselves they must have known, 
in art productions which they must have seen, and in the 
drama with which they must have been familiar, why 
should the G-rail romancers seek a bleeding lance in the 
Luin of Celtchar, which after all does not bleed ? 

Representing as they do the most extreme position of 
Celtic interpreters of the Grail problem, the views of 

69 Monmerque et Michel, Theatre Frangais au Moyen Age. 14. 

70 Thirteenth century, Studj. di Filologia, I, 260. 
Ti Mone, Schatispiele des Mittelalters, I, 121. 

72 Cf. above, p. 138. 


Professor Brown have been thus fully dealt with in order 
to show that even demands which recognize in the Grail 
spear none but apparently heathen qualities may be met 
by Christian explanation.^^ 

II. The Theories of Professor Nitze and Miss Weston 
§1. Pkofessok ISTitze and the Celtic Theory 

Professor Nitze explains the Grail rite on the basis 
of agrarian cult and illustrates by the Eleusinian mys- 
teries.^* He still clings, however, with one hand to Cel- 
tic origin for the Grail legend and wherever it is possible 
adduces Celtic parallels — his general theory being that 
such agrarian ritual customs were wide-spread and that 
the Grail story may very probably be the result of Cel- 
tic use of these conceptions. Indeed, so ready is Profes- 
sor Nitze to support the idea of Celtic mediation that in 
some cases where the Oriental usage, which he is here 
generally emphasizing, explains the matter he is discuss- 
ing, he forsakes it for the less definitely related Celtic 
illustration. For example, though in his discussion of 
the Fisher-King and his "double" he makes use of Osiris 
and Adonis, in his reference to the shape-shifting of the 
Fisher-King, he calls attention to the fact that in this re- 

73 It will not be necessary to discuss in detail the opinion 
of Hagen, who makes the Grail lance a symbol of vengeance and 
of peace, nor that of Wesselofsky, to whom it is a spear that 
wounds and heals, for the reason that neither of these views is 
opposed to the Christian spear, which, as has been shown in the 
preceding discussion, combines these antagonistic qualities. L. 
von Schroeder's study, Wurzeln der Gralsage, Vienna Sitzungs- 
hericJite, 1910, was called to my attention too late to be consid- 

74 Miss Weston first definitely considered such relationship. 
Folk-Lore, XVIII, (1907), 283-305. 


spect the Fisher-King is like Manannan mac Lir, the great 
shape-shifter of the Irish." The Irish hero, an otherworld 
being, also "supplies ale which preserves from death and 
old age." Such departure from! the Oriental illustrative 
material is unnecessary. These attributes are found in 
Oriental conceptions of the underworld ; shape-shifting is 
general,^^ and the descriptions of the place are not unlike 
those of the Celtic otherworld in that it is reached with 
difficulty, and in the palace there is to be found food of 
immortality, water of life." In one respect this Oriental 
underworld is of far more interest to the Grail student 
than is the Celtic. Though, like the Celtic, it is without 
definite name, one of its epithets significantly enough 
means "to ask." I quote Professor Jastrow's discussion 
of the name: "A third name for the netherworld which 
conveys an important addition to the views held regard- 
ing the dead, was Shualu. . . . The priests appear to 
avoid the names for the netherworld, which were of ill 
omen, and preferred to describe the place by some 
epithet, as 'land without return,' or 'dark dwelling,' or 
'great city,' and the like. . . . The stem underlying 
Shualu signifies 'to ask.' Shualu is a place of inquiry, 
and the inquiry meant is of the nature of a religious 
oracle. The name, accordingly, is an indication of the 
power accorded to the dead, to aid the living by furnish- 
ing them with answers to questions. "^'^ 

Shualu then certainly offers in this respect a closer re- 
semblance to the Grail Castle, also a place of inquiry, 

75PMLA., XXIV, 396, 397. 

"6 A. Wiedermann, Die Toten und ihre Reiche im Glauben der 
alien Agypter, p. 13. 

TT A. Jeremias, Holle und Paradies hei den Babyloniern, pp. 14, 
15, 16, 22. 

78 Religion of Babylonia and Assyria, pp. 558, 559. 


than does the Celtic otherworld. This point will be con- 
sidered more fully later. 

§2. Agrarian Rites as an Explanation of the Grail 

Professor Nitze's chief interest in this study is not, how- 
ever, with Celtic relationships. His position he states 
clearly: "The Holy Grail, by the mediaeval romancers 
often conceived in terms of a quest, is au fond an initia- 
tion, the purpose of which is to insure the life of the 
vegetation spirit, always in danger of extinction, and to 
admit the 'qualified' mortal into its mystery. I do not 
believe we can go far wrong in insisting on both its 
agrarian and its mystic features. . . . Like the Elusinia, 
the Grail rites may have been agrarian and mystic from 
the start. At all events, no positive distinction is to be 
made."^^ According to Professor Nitze's analysis, the 
"Grail theme contains three essential figures and three 
important symbols."^*' The figures are : the Fisher-King, 
the Grail knight, and the Fisher-King's father or 
"double." For the Fisher-King Mr. !N"itze finds it dif- 
ficult to obtain any one explanatory term. He calls him 
"an intermediary between the two planes of existence;" 
"the symbol of creative force in nature," especially mois- 
ture ; "the guide to the other world."^^ The Grail Knight 
is the initiate.*^ The Fisher-King's father or "double" 
is the life-god himself.®^ The three symbols are: the 
Grail, which he equates with the fcia-rr} or Holy Box of 

T9 PMLA., XXIV, 394. 
soiMd., 395. 
silUd., 395. 

82 Ibid., 398. 

83 Ibid., 398. 


the Mysteries, "the receptacle for the divine food (wafer 
or blood) by partaking of which the mortal establishes 
a blood-bond with the god ;"®* the Lance, "the weapon with 
which the Deity's strength has been impaired, . . . the 
instrument of sacrifice ;"^^ the Sword, the folk-lore Sword 
of Light.'"^ 

Admitting at the outset that the agrarian rites are 
in large measure the counterpart of the Grail rites. Miss 
Weston goes much farther, emphasizing the mystic as 
the more important features of the resemblance. "This, 
then," she summarizes, "is my view of the intricate prob- 
lem of the Grail romances. It started from the standpoint 
of instruction in the Nature, and Sources, of Life, in all 
its manifestations, the outward and popular form of 
such instructions being embodied in the rites familiar to 
scholars as connected with Vegetation. This teaching, 
which had been discouraged and displaced by Christian- 
ity boldly identified itself with its victorious rival, on 
the outward basis of the reverence paid to the Saint 

Miss Weston holds that "the 'Adonis' rites, as fitly 
represented, had a triple character; there was the exter- 
nal ritual, setting forth in objective parable the natural 
processes of Vegetation, understood and shared by all; 
and there was secret teaching, probably ritual, of a two- 
fold character. Phallic and Philosophic ; in both these in- 
stances tests were required from the aspirant, physical 
tests probably in the first case, a severe mental training 
in the second."^^ Following out this idea, she finds 

8-iibid., 400. 
S5ibid., 404. 

86 Ibid., 406. 

87 Perceval, II, 285. 
88iUd., 256. 


"there was not one vessel, but three, or rather one vessel 
in three aspects, depending upon the plane on which the 
instruction was given." She takes the middle plane, that 
of Humanity, or Actuality, to he the one on which the 
external rites were celebrated, and would represent this 
by the Feeding Vessel. The plane below is represented 
by the "Cup with its companion symbol the Lance, from 
which it received the Blood, the source of animal life." 
The plane above is represented by the " 'Holy Grail, the 
ultimate source of Spiritual, undying. Life, invisible un- 
der normal conditions — ^the vision is vouchsafed as the 
reward of severe testing."*® "Each stage," according to 
Miss Weston, "has its Guardian." The Fisher-King, she 
makes the vital principle, the Guardian of the 'Holy' 
Grail. The 'Maimed King' is the Fisher-King restrained 
and hampered by the Flesh, the Guardian of the Rich 
Grail. The "Guardian on the third, the Phallic, plane," 
she adds, "can hardly be other than the mysterious third 
brother retained only in the Perlesvaus, 'the King of the 
Chastel Morteil (the Body ?) in whom was as much of 
evil as in the other two of good."®" 

Professor l^itze, is here, it will be seen, much more 
cautious than Miss Weston. The lance in Professor 
Nitze's scheme, being the symbol of sacrifice, possesses 
far greater importance than it has for Miss Weston, who 
regards it as a phallic symbol appearing only on the 
lowest plane, the exoteric rites of the Grail. Since it is 
manifestly impossible at this point to separate the ques- 
tion of the lance of the agrarian cult from the general 
interpretation of which it is a part, specific considera- 
tion of its functions must be postponed. 

soiMd., 257, 258. 
so Ibid., 259, 260. 

200 the legend of longinus 

§3. Connection Between Early Liturgy and Rites 
OF the Mysteries 

Professor ISTitze and Miss Weston are, I think, right in 
affirming the fundamental similarity of the Grail rites and 
the agrarian cult. There may also be ground for the 
additional suggestion made by Professor ISTitze that these 
rites have passed through Celtic hands. At almost every 
point, however, the question arises, whether the particu- 
lar matter under discussion cannot as well be explained 
by Christian custom. This being the case, an interpreta- 
tion that disregards entirely the possibility of early Chris- 
tian influence cannot be accepted without question. Espe- 
cially is this the case at a time when investigators of the 
origins of Christianity, both within and without the 
Church, agree that there is close relationship between 
these early mysteries and early Christian rites. 

Professor J^itze himself recogTiizes the possible con- 
nection between the mysteries he is describing and the 
early liturgy. "I do not wish to imply," he remarks, 
"that the Eucharist and the Grail ceremony may not go 
back to similar primitive rites.'"'^ That these early mys- 
teries are related in some way to the ceremonies and be- 
lief of the early church is now very generally accepted. 
"The rise of the church," says Glover, "was accom- 
panied by the rise of mysteries." "That such ideas," 
he explains, "should emerge in the Christian commu- 
nity is natural enough, when we consider its environ- 

91 Op. cit., p. 372. Cf. Miss Weston, Perceval, II, 293, "Christi- 
anity, too, had its Mysteries, and those Mysteries were in aim 
and practice analogous to the greater Mysteries of India and 
Egypt." Cf. also Nutt, Folk-Lore, XXI, 115. 117. 


ment — a world without natural science, steeped in belief 
in every kind of magic and enchantment, and full of 
public and private religious societies, every one of which 
had its mysteries and miracles and its blood bond with 
its peculiar deity. It was from such a world and such 
societies that most of the converts came and brought with 
them the thoughts and instincts of countless generations, 
who had never conceived of a religion without rites and 

Famell calls attention to the "deep indebtedness of 
Christianity in respect of ritual, organization, and even 
religious concept to the Eleusinian Mysteries and other 
mystic societies of Greek lands. . . . The religious affini- 
ties discoverable between the earlier and later 'Mediter- 
ranean' systems," he remarks, "may be classified accord- 
ing as they appear in the legends, in nomenclature and 
terminology, in external symbols and liturgical objects, 
in hieratic institutions, and finally in the ideas, aspira- 
tions, and concepts of faith. "®^ 

Wernle's testimony is still more important for the pres- 
ent purpose. He attempts to show that Jesus himself 
established no mysterious cult, that from the very first 
he courted publicity, but he adds that the persecution of 
the Jewish Church and afterwards of the Roman gov- 
ernment "made of Christianity a sect that shunned the 
light." The rise of Gnosticism, according to Wernle, 
caused a number of small sects to appear, and these fell 
irrevocably under the influence of the mysteries, culti- 
vating as they did, in common with the mysteries, an 
esoteric doctrine. In winning the victory over Gnosti- 
cism, Wernle explains, the Christian teachers adopted in 

92 The Conflict of Religions in the Early Roman Empire, 190y, 
pp. 158, 159. 

93 The Evolution of Religion, 1905, pp. 22 ff. 


many respects the opinions of tlieir opponents. The 
sacraments show this influence of the mysteries most 
strongly. Baptism and the Lord's Supper become "mys- 
terious initiatory rites," and "sacramental apparatus be- 
comes ever more and more complicated through competi- 
tion with other sacraments." He comments on the fact 
that Ignatius with "perfect outspokenness calls the Lord's 
Supper a 'magic rite.' '"'^ 

It would be possible to adduce a gTcat deal more evi- 
dence on this point. Everyone who deals with the be- 
ginnings of religions calls attention to such resemblances. 
It is hardly necessary to note that many Christian fes- 
tivals are definitely traceable to more primitive relig- 
ions. Christmas, Easter, the Assumption of the Virgin, 
to mention only a few, apparently superseded earlier 
heathen feasts. 

Accordingly, where, as in the case of the Grail, so much 
reason appears for believing a legend to be of Christian 
origin, the presence of traces of earlier heathen ritual 
will hardly make Christian derivation impossible. To 
put such obligation out of the question, one would be 
compelled to show that these antecedent heathen customs 
were not taken over by the Church as so many similar 
customs assuredly were. This it would be difficult to do. 
The points Professor K'itze explains by analogies drawn 
from the early mysteries may in many cases be more 
satisfactorily accounted for by the early liturgy. Even 
the 'heterodox tinge' is less striking if the comparison 
be made, not with church usages of later times, but with 
those that found place in the early Church ritual when 
it was least remote from the corresponding ritualistic cus- 
toms of the Mediterranean. 

9^ P. Wernle, The Beginning of Christianity (trans, by Rev. 
G. A. Bienemann), II, 123 ff. 


§4. Elements Common to Geail Ejtes^ Mysteries^ 
AND Liturgy 

There are few elements common to the Grail rites and 
to the mysteries that do not occur also in the liturgy or 
in early Christian legend. Mr. Nitze, in defining the 
purpose of the mysteries, states that "they induce through 
a sacrificial feast the fructification of nature," and they 
"initiate the human soul into the secret of life by bring- 
ing it, as it were, into relationship with the life deity."'"' 
The second of these purposes is fundamental in all primi- 
tive rites. Brinton calls attention to the similarity of 
these to the Christian eucharist. "Traces of human sac- 
rifice are discovered in the early history of even the 
noblest religions, and the rite extended so widely that 
scarce a cult can be named in which it did not exist. 
, . . The idea of atonement in the piacular sacrifice is 
in reality that of being one with the god, that of enter- 
ing into union or communion with him. This, indeed, 
lies largely at the base of all the forms of ritualistic wor- 

Though in the Christian liturgy there is little left to 
remind one of the first of the purposes mentioned by Mr. 
Nitze — "the fructification of nature" — ^the date of the 
celebration of Easter coincides with that of the Mediter- 
ranean nature rites."^ Moreover, the idea of the death 
of vegetation as a result of the death of the Lord, does 
occur in Christian legend and must ultimately be trace- 
able to the vegetation myth. I refer to the ancient and 

95 Op. cit., p. 384. 

QQ Religions of Primitive Peoples, 1899, p. 189. 
97 Cf. Frazer, Adonis, Attis and Osiris, p. 198, for discussion of 
this coincidence. 


well-known legend of the Dry Tree, for which one may 
turn conveniently to the account given by Mandeville in 
his description of the valley of Mambre: "And there 
is a Tree of Oke, that the Sarazines clepen Dirpe, that 
is of Abrahames tyme, the whiche Men clepen the drye 
Tree — and they seye that it hathe ben there sithe the 
beginnynge of the World ; and was sumtyme grene, and 
bare Leves, unto the tyme that oure Lord dyede on the 
Cros ; and thanne it dryede ; and so dyden alle the Trees, 
that weren thanne in the World. And sunime seyn be 
here Prophecyen, that a Lord, a Prynce of the West syde 
of the World shall wynnen the Lond of Promyssioun, 
that is the Holy Lond, withe helpe of Cristene Men; 
and he schalle do s^Tige a Masse undir that drye Tree, 
and than the Tree schalle wexen grene and here bothe 
Fruyt and Leves."®* This last sentence suggests that the 
mass under the tree replaced an old vegetation ceremony 
under the tree, where the victim or his symbol was sacri- 
ficed. ®® When we remember that in the Oriental mass 
the wafer was treated in all respects like a sacrifice, 
stabbed with a lance, the suggestion becomes more sig- 

The fish, which Professor Nitze notes was the symbol 
of Adonis, and represented the life principle, early be- 
came associated with Christ. Dr. Eisler seeks "to recon- 
cile the fact that although the Eucharist was primarily 
a vegetable sacrifice intended to supersede the animal 
sacrifice of scriptural Judaism, there yet occurred in the 
Eucharistic tradition constant allusions to (1) the fish 
and (2) the lamb." He explains the fish "on the ground 

S8 The Voiage and Travaile of Sir John Maundeville, London, 
1866, pp. 68, 69. 

99 Cf. Frazer, Adonis, Attis and Osiris, p. 186. 


that Christ found at Bethsaida ... a local pagan cult 
of the widely spread fish-god, availed himself of it, and 
spiritualized it by means of an etymological coincidence 
between lehem, bread, luhm, fish, and luhm, breath or 

"The sacred procession," Mr. ISTitze tells us, "also 
brought the initiate into relationship with the deity — 
but through the avenue of sight. This was the act where- 
by the hierophant revealed to him the sacred objects. 
Apparently they were taken out of the ^teyapov, into 
which the hierophant alone could enter, and, their cov- 
ers being removed, they appeared to the mystae in bril- 
liant illumination. What they were is not known, yet 
it seems probable that among them were legendary relics, 
'such,' says Farnell, 'as would cause a religious tremor 
in the spectator.' '""' 

The sacred procession is of course paralleled in the 
liturgy. Since we do not know what relics were carried 
in the Eleusinian mysteries, the connection in this in- 
stance seems much more tangible between the Grail rites 
and those of the Church, Of the sacred objects borne in 
the Grail procession of the talismans, the Grail lance, 
plates, cross, all are found in the introitus. 

The "Holy Box" of the mysteries finds its counterpart 
as a receptacle containing the divine food in the chalice 
or paten of the mass. And the lance, which Professor 
Nitze makes an instrument of sacrifice which "impairs 
life only in order to sustain it elsewhere," is clearly not 
different from the crucifixion relic, which, as has been 
pointed out, possesses exactly these characteristics. 

100 Transactions of the Third International Congress of Re- 
ligions, II. 352. 

101 Op. cit., p. 388. 


Much that is apparently heathen in the Grail legend 
was, I do not doubt, Christian by adoption at the time 
the story took its rise. It is evident that much confusion 
exists between early Christian tradition and antecedent 
heathen custom and belief/"" It has been shown that 
the holy lance, originally a Christian relic, enriched 
itself by accretions from many sources. Somewhat the 
same thing took place in s^anbolism connected with Jesus 
himself. The Fecamp story of the sacred blood, as Pro- 
fessor ISTitze has pointed out, finds close parallel in the 
vegetation myth of Osiris.^^^ It is to be noted that the 
sycamore which, as Professor jSTitze says, was sacred to 
Osiris and from which the Egyptians carved his image, 
is also, in the Greek Physiologiis, identified with Christ. 
After the spear thrust, blood and water flow from the side 
of Christ, just as, after it is cut with the knife, sap flows 
from the sycamore. The Crucified after three days rises ; 
the sycamore three days after it is cut becomes food for all. 
Here also is a transference of vegetation symbolism to the 
life of Christ.'"* 

III. The Grail Rite 

§1. The Geail Pbocession" 

Up to this point the lance of the Grail Castle has been 
the center of interest. The lance, however, is of signifi- 

102 It has been noted in this study (pp. 72 ff.) that heathen 
ancient charms and spells against evil spirits and disease were 
adopted by the Church and slightly Christianized. It is hardly 
worth citing what has been often remarked that in art Isis and 
the young Horus formed the model for the Virgin and Child, and 
that the wounded Attis and Venus were by easy transfer made 
the Christian Pieta. 

103 Op. cit., pp. 402, 403. 

104 Lauchert, Geschichte des Physiologus, pp. 37, 38. 


cance only as one of the objects borne in the Grail pro- 
cession, and this procession again is of importance only 
as part of the rite. How much of the account of Perce- 
val's experience in the Grail Castle may be explained 
an Christian? Crestien's description of the procession 
reads as follows : 

4369 Uns varies d'une cambre vint, 

Qui une blance lance tint, 
Enpoignie par emmi leu; 
Si passa par entre le feu 
Et cil ki sor le lit seoient, 
Et tout cil ki laiens estoient 
Virent la lance est le fer blanc: 
S'en ist une goute de sane 
Del fer de la lance el somet, 
Et jusqu'a la main au varlet, 
Couloit cele goute vermelle 

4391 Atant dui varlet k lui vinrent, 

Qui candelers en lor mains tinrent 

De fin or ouvret a chisiel; 

Li varlet estoient moult biel 

Qui les candelers aportoient 

En cascun candelles ardoient 

X. candoiles a tout les mains. 

Un graal entre ses II. mains 

Une damoisiele tenoit. 

Qui avoec les varies venoit, 

Bidle, gente et acesmee; 

Quant ele fu laiens entree 

Atout le graal qu'ele tint, 

Une si grans clartes i vint 

Que si pierdirent les candoiles 

Lor clarte, com font les estoiles 

Quant li solaus lieve ou la lune: 

Apries igou en revient une 

Qui tint le tailleoir d'argent; 

Iqou vos di veraiment, 

De fin or esmeree estoit, 

Pieres pressieuses avoit 

El graal, de maintes manieres. 


Des plus rices et des plus cieres 
Qui el mont u en tiere soient; 
Totes autres pieres pasoient 
Celes du greal, sans dotance. 

As has been pointed out more than once, this Grail 
procession finds its close parallel in the Greek mass/"^ 
The candles, lance, chalice, paten, of the mass, all ap- 
pear in Crestien's description. The blood on the lance 
and the host on the grail also make evident the repro- 
duction here of the eucharistic rite. Compared with 
Crestien, Professor jS^itze's Eleusinian parallel is not im- 
pressive. He says sacred objects, — of what sort he does 
not know, but probably legendary relics, — were appar- 
ently revealed by the hierophant to the initiate. The 
Christian explanation, on the other hand, is here ade- 

^N^otwithstanding the similarity of the two processions, 
however. Professor ISTitze finds "the only possibly Chris- 
tian elements in the procession are the 'plate,' and the 
host (oiste) which sustains the life of the Pisher-King's 
father.""® Professor Brown makes not even this admis- 
sion: "Chretien could not have thought of connecting 
this procession with any part of the ritual of the Mass. 
Had he done so he would not have put the Grail into 
the hands of a lovely young maiden but of a priest or 
acolyte.'""^ ISlot even the host suggests the mass: "Chre- 
tien is certainly alluding here to some legend, . . . like 
that about Pachomius, of a saint Avho was miraculously 
sustained on a wafer a day, and not to the consecrated 

losBurdach Literaturzeitung XXIV (1903), 2821 ff.; Golther 
Parzival und der Oral, in deutscher Sage des Mittelalters und der 
Neuzeit, Munich, 1908 (Walhalla, IV), p. 2. 

106 Op. cit., pp. 414, 415. 

107 Brown, op. cit., p. 8. 


wafer. The latter meaning for 'oiste' seems excluded; 
for to the twelfth century, Chretien would have been 
guilty of gross sacrilege if he had represented the con- 
secrated wafer as carried in procession in a secular hall 
by a beautiful maiden."^"^ Similar is the position of 
Baist,^"® whom Professor Brown is apparently following in 
this part of his discussion. Golther, too, calls attention 
to the Grail maidens, but he thinks them justified on 
poetic grounds. 

Not even the maidens as participants in the adminis- 
tration of the sacrament, are, however, opposed to the 
usage of the early Church. An Oriental custom, con- 
nected with the presence of women as well as men ascetics 
in the church, it traveled from the East into Ireland, 
and was brought to Brittany by Irish missionaries. ^^^ 
Especially interesting is the existence of such a usage in 
these places, both so definitely, if also obscurely, asso- 
ciated with Grail origins. Fortunately, authentic evi- 
dence of this usage has been preserved in a letter written 
in the sixth century by three Galilean bishops, Licinius of 
Tours, Melaine of Rennes, and Eustochius of Angers, to 
the Irish priests Lovocatus and Catihemus in Brittany. 
This letter, condemning the practices of these Irish priests 
as abuses, sets forth these practices in detail, and thus 
affords convincing evidence of their existence. 

The letter reads as follows: 

Dominis Beatissimis et in Christo fratribus Lovocato et Cati- 
herno presbyteris, Licinius, Melanius et Eustocbius, episcopi. 
Viri venerabilis Sparati presbyteri relatione cognovimus quod 

io»IMd., p. 9. 

109 Parzival und der Gral, 1909, p. 41. 

110 See for full discussion of the whole matter of the Agapetae, 
H. Achelis, Hastings' Encyc. of Religion and Ethics. Duchesne, 
Revue de Bretagne, 57 (1885), 5 ff. 


gestantes quasdam tabulas per diversorum civium vestrorum 
capanas circumferre non desinatis et missas, ibidem adhibitis 
mulieribus in sacrificio divino, quas conhospitas nominastis, 
facere praesumatis, sic ut erogantibus vobis eucharistiam illae 
vobis positis calices teneant et sanguinem Christi populo 
administrare praesumant. Cujus rei novitas et inaudita super- 
stitio nos non leviter contristavit, ut tarn horrenda secta, quae 
intra Gallias numquam fuisse probatur, nostris temporibus vide- 
atur emergere, quam Patres Orientales Pepondianam vocant, pro 
60 quod Pepondius auctor hujus scismatis fuerit, et mulieres sibi 
in sacrificio consocias habere praesumpserit, praecipientes ut 
quicumque huic errori voluerit inhaerere, a communione ecclesi- 
astica reddatur extraneus. Qua de re Caritatem vestram in 
Christi amore pro ecclesiae unitate et fidei catholicae [societate] 
imprimis credidimus admonendam, obsecrantes ut cum ad vos 
nostra pervenerit pagina litterarum, repentina de praedictis rebus 
emendatio subsequatur; id est de antedictis tabulis, quas a pres- 
byteris non dubitamus, ut dictis, consecratas, et de mulieribus 
illis quas conhospitas dicitis, quae nuncupatio non sine quodam 
tremore dicitur animi vel auditur, quod clerum infamat et sancta 
in religione tam detestandum nomen pudorem incutit et horro- 
rem. Idcirco, secundum statuta Patrum, caritati vestrae praeci- 
pimus ut non solum huiuscemodi mulierculae sacramenta divina 
pro inlicita administratione non poUuant, sed etiam praeter 
matrem, aviam, sororem vel neptem intra tectum cuUulae suae 
si quis ad cohabitandum habere voluerit, canonum sententia a 
sacrosanctae liminibus ecclesiae arceatur.m 

This rebuke, with the threat of excommunication, is 
to be noted on two scores, (1) These Irish priests cele- 
brated the mass on portable altars carried from dwelling 
to dwelling, (2) Thej were assisted in the administration 
of the Eucharist by women. Both these points are of 
the highest interest to students of the Grail. 

These portable altars, Duchesne notes, were employed 
in the East and West, not only in missionary districts 
where there were no churches, but also in the great cities, 
in chapels, cemeteries and elsewhere. In Wolfram's 

111 lUd., 57, 6 ff. 


Parzifal the Grail is not a vessel as in the other ro- 
mances, but a stone. Recent criticism makes this stone 
equivalent to a small portable altar.^^^ The Grail ac- 
cording to these explanations was originally the altar on 
which — to use ISTutt's phrase — "is accomplished the per- 
petual miracle of the Eucharist, the spiritual feeding 
of the faithful." It would make little difference whether 
the altar were called Grail, or whether the specific vessel 
resting on the consecrated altar, and itself holding the 
miraculous blood, were so named ; one writer might prefer 
the altar and another might think the vessel possessed the 
greater sanctity. Dr. Iselin has compared the grail stone 
or altar to the "marvellous stone which the builders re- 
jected, but which became the cornerstone, that on which 
the foundations of the Earth are laid, the water yielding 
stone of the wilderness preserved by Joshua to become the 
gravestone of Christ."^^^ The cup of the Eucharist has, 
on the other hand, become confused with the holy dish of 
the Last Supper and with the vessel in which Joseph 
caught the blood of the slain Christ, If the Grail were 
originally the altar, it is obvious that transfer of the name 
to the vessel of the blood would be simple. 

Duchesne takes the real point of difficulty to be, not 
the use of the portable altars, but the celebration of the 
Eucharist in unconsecrated houses. He calls attention 
to the fact that in Armjorica there were churches where 
the Eucharist could be celebrated and that in persisting 
in the custom of their own country (where the absence 
of numerous churches made the going from house to 
house to administer the sacrament necessary) the Irish 

112 L. E. Iselin, Der morgenldndische Ursprung der Grallegende ; 
cf. Nutt, Academy, May 10, 1910; Sterzenbach, op. cit., p. 18 f. 

113 Cf. Iselin, op. cit., pp. 58 ff. 


priests were opposing themselves to the church in their 
community. This satisfies, it is to be noted, Profes- 
sor Brown's objection to the fact that the rite is cele- 
brated in "a secular hall." Instead of the "gross sac- 
rilege" which Professor Brown takes such a celebration 
to be,^^* it becomes a reminder of what was in the. early 
days of the church an established usage. Duchesne re- 
marks that owing to the fact that there were few churches 
in Ireland customs in that country were different: "Au 
lieu de clerges paroissiux, on avait des missionaires itine- 
rants, allant de ferme en ferme, ou encore d'une maison- 
seigneuriale a I'autre." 

The other practice complained of by the Gallican bish- 
ops — ^that of permitting women to participate in the ad- 
ministration of the Eucharist — connects itself even more 
significantly with the Grail procession, in which, according 
to the usual representation, maidens were present. This 
practice, as we have seen, was a survival of early usage 
whose origin is traceable to the Eastern church. How long 
or how widely this usage maintained itself it is impossible 
to say. Duchesne calls attention to the fact that the serv- 
ice of women at the altar was condemned by the Council 
of J^imes in 394. The letter of the bishops makes it clear 
that in the sixth century the practice was still in existence. 
The letter also indicates that after its supj^ression else- 
where this usage lingered on in Ireland and Brittany, the 
very territory in which the Grail legend first made its 
appearance. Though it is true that between the writing of 
this letter and the time of Crestien six centuries inter- 
vened, it is also true that it is impossible to say how far 
back we must go to find the germ of the Grail story. More- 
over, it is equally impossible to conjecture how long such a 

114 Brown, op. cit., p. 9. 


usage as this, or the tradition of it, may have survived. 
The mistiest tradition would of course afford basis suffi- 
cient for later poetic application. If a story itself primitive 
and recording more or less contemporary practice, had 
come down to the Grail writers, their treatment of it, at a 
time when the custom referred to was no longer under- 
stood, would beyond question be vague and perhaps frag- 
mentary. Such broken use would all the more be ex- 
pected, if instead of an old story, only shadowy tradition 
that in remote times such a usage had obtained, were all 
that was available to the Grail romancer. If, however, 
we return to the supposition that there was a story in 
which women took part in some ritualistic celebration, and 
this seems probable, it may have developed in the Orient, 
in Ireland or in Brittany, the three places where the cus- 
tom which might have given rise to such a story was 

§2. Othee Ritualistic Points 

There is, then, nothing in the Grail procession, not 
even the Grail in the hands of a maiden, which cannot 
be explained as Christian. Are there other obstacles to 
a Christian interpretation of the Grail Castle episode? 

(1) Wauchier's description. Professor Brown urges, is 
especially barbarous and opposed to Christian ideas. It 
has been shown that the blood flowing a grand randon 
finds its parallel in the Longinus legend. Moreover, 
there is no reason to regard Wauchier's express state- 
ment that the lance is that of the crucifixion as an in- 
terpolation. Besides these two indications that the pas- 
sage is Christian there is another, the carrying of the 
blood by a tube, which Professor Brown by intimation 
makes heathen. He remarks in connection with his Irish 


spears that if tliey did bleed it would be necessary, as in 
the case of the lance of Wauchier, to carry off the blood 
by "spout and conduit." 'Now the tube which is found 
in Wauchier's description is precisely one of the points 
chosen by Staerk as indicating Christian influence. He 
says : 'dass der kranke rischerkonig aus dem Gral Blut 
mittels einer Rohre fiihrung der Kelchentziehung in 
Verfolg des Transsubstantiations — dogmas, also bis zum 
12. jahrh., verbreitenten Sitte, den Wein mittelst der 
fistula eucharistica zu geniessen."^^^ 

(2) Yet another point which Professor Brown implies 
is heathen is capable of Christian explanation. He takes 
Wolfram's description of the Grail to be essentially 
heathen with some religious associations thrown around 
it. He says, "The stone received this power from a host 
or wafer that every year on Good Friday a white dove 
lays upon it. The sight of the Grail protects a man 
from death for a week and keeps him from growing 
older. "^^"^ In his note to this passage, he suggests that 
the first statement, that concerning the host, is Chris- 
tian and late, but would evidently let the latter state- 
ment stand as genuine and non-Christian. His note 
reads: "These life-giving powers of the Grail are men- 
tioned in an earlier passage, and are not like the food- 
giving properties, said to be due to the 'oblat' brought 
by the dove. May not this omission be a hint that the 
story about the dove was a late explanation loosely at- 
tached to the account of the marvellous stone ?" The 
suggestion which Professor Brown here makes supplies 
another illustration of his tendency to suspect Christian 
interpolations. In this instance, however, he has not 

115 Ueber den Vrsprung der Grallegende (1903), p. 20, note 2. 

116 Op. cit., p. 10. 


been sufficiently drastic, as the part he would leave as 
earlier is as thoroughly Christian as the part he con- 
siders a late explanation loosely attached. The life- 
giving powers of the Grail are also derived directly from 
the Eucharist. Mediaeval ideas regarding the mass are 
evident in this item drawn from the Vertewis of the 
Mass, attributed by the writer to Augustine: "Sancte 
Augustyne sais that the day that a man sal here mess 
with clen hart & gud deuocione he sal nocht de of a 
sudane ded.""^ Very similar is the statement, likewise 
made on the authority of Augustine, in the metrical text, 
The Vertue of ]>e Masse, printed by Wynkyn de Worde: 

"that daye a man deuoutly here masse, 
whyle he is present he shall not wexe olde."ii8 

An even more definite expression is found in "The Sacri- 
fice of the Mass" : 

Thyn age, at messe shall not encrease, 

nor sodeyn deth >at day shall not pe spill."ii9 

(3) Miss Weston takes the weeping women of the 
Grail story to indicate kinship with vegetation rites, 
where the death of the god was "mourned with solemn 
ritual in which women took prominent part." Perhaps 
these weeping women also may be explained by early 
Christian usage. The Christian festival of the saints, 
as Saintyves has pointed out, were the direct result of the 
demand made by the people to continue their custom 

117 Ed. J. R. Lumby from MS. Camb. Univ. Kk. I. 5., EETS., 43, 
p. 114. 

118 Quoted by Lumby, Ibid., 129. Cf. Lay.-Folks Mass-Book, 
EETS., 69, 56. Cf. N. Love, The Mirror of the Blessed Lyf of 
Jesu Christ, Ed. L. F. Powell, Oxford, 1908, p. 318. 

119 Songs, Carols from the Balliol MS 354, EETS., 101, p. 70. 


of honoring the dead. The cult of the dead was com- 
mon throughout the country surrounding the Mediter- 
ranean. These funeral feasts "were accompanied by 
lamentation and weeping. As Saintyv^es remarks in this 
connection: "La communion eucharistque en memoire 
de la morte du Seigneur est primitivement une sorte de 
banquet, mais inversement 1' agape funebre est une sorte 
de communion avec le mort."^^" 

Following this suggestion, the Grail ceremony would 
be more than the usual celebration of the mass. To all 
the ordinary mystic significance of communion with the 
dead Savior, there would be added the actual human 
presentment of the Redeemer with whom communication, 
would be possible. Significant in this connection is the 
question which awakes the dead and by which the living 
are aided. According to Professor Jastrow's suggestion, 
the inquiry "is of the nature of a religious oracle." If the 
Christian festival grew out of the Oriental death cult 
it would not be strange to have added to the ceremony the 
other rite of awaking the dead, the rite of inquiry."^^^ 

120 Les Saints Successeurs des Dieux, 1907, p. 71, note 3. 

121 Cf. above, pp. 227, 228. According to Jeremias, Holle und 
Parodies bei den Babyloniern (Eng. J. Hutchinson, p. 28), not 
much is known of this 'enquiring of the dead.' Among the various 
orders of priests, the 'enquirer of the dead' is included. The 
question asked by Isis 'whose words awake the dead' of Ra (sun- 
god, water or harvest-god, etc.) is perhaps worth noting. When 
Ra is 'weakening with years,' Isis desiring to learn his name 
in order that she might share his power went to him and said, 
"What aileth thee, what aileth thee, divine father?" (Steindorff, 
Relig. of Ancient Egyptians, 109; Budge, The Ood of the Egyp- 
tians, I. 380). Note the similarity of the question to that asked 
by Parzival in Wolfram "oeheim, waz wirret dir?" {Parzival, 
Lachmann, 1879, XVI, 1. 29, p. 374.) 


§3. The Fishee-King 

If the Grail procession is a reproduction of the pro- 
cession of the Eucharist, who is the wounded king? 
Golther believes there is some symbolical connection be- 
tween the wounded king, his father, and the young hero, 
01) the one hand, and the mass taken in the mystic sense 
oif the other. If the Fisher-King is taken as Christ, he 
remarks, then the three persons can be explained. The 
wounded king is the spear-wounded Christ, the old king 
is Christ in the grave, the young knight is the risen 
Christ. He thinks the threefold mystery of the sacrifice, 
death, and resurrection is represented symbolically by 
the three Grail keepers. 

In support of his view, he calls attention to the pour- 
ing of hot water into the wine in the Eastern church. 
This act is meant to represent symbolically the dead and 
yet living spear-wounded Savior. He is dead in one 
sense but the warm blood which flows from the wounded 
side would symbolically reproduce the reawakening at 
the same time to immortality. 

It will be recalled that Professor ISTitze's and Miss 
Weston's explanations of the Fisher-King, though they 
take him to be the vegetation god, agree in part with 
Golther's. They both consider the wounded king the 
intermediary between two states of existence; they agree 
also in making the "double" the vital principle; about 
the third they differ, since Miss Weston attempts to find 
a third representing the merely physical (the king of 
the Chastel Morteil) to complete the trilogy, and Mr. 
Nitze takes the third to be the initiate. In this last de- 
tail I agree with Mr. Nitze. Golther's explanation would 
be more satisfactory if he combined the two representa- 


tives of Christ and made tlie dead Christ also the immortal, 
constantly sustained Redeemer, the source of all spritual 

In the case of the Fisher-King, then, as well as in the 
points already considered — the lance, the grail, the 
sacred procession — the Christian explanation satis nes 
the conditions imposed by the Grail story as well as the 
Celtic or the agrarian cult parallels hitherto offered. If 
we take it that the festival was possibly connected with 
some Eastern ritual feast of the dead such as we now 
know had been adopted by the Christian church in the 
case of saints and martyrs, it may be that the questions 
that awoke the dead and served both dead and living 
were also included in the service of some Christian cult. 

A curious old ballad appears to me to offer significant 
resemblance to Grail tradition,^^^ It is clearly connected 
in some way with the Grail Castle : 

Lully, lulley, lully, lulley 

The faucon hath borne my make away 

He bare him up, he bare him down, 
He bare him into an orchard brown. 

In that orchard there was an halle 
That was hanged with purpill and pall. 

And in that hall there was a bede, 
It was hanged with gold so rede. 

And in that bede there lithe a knight 
His woundis bleding day and might 

By that bede side kneleth a may, 
And she wepeth both night and day 

And by that bede side there stondeth a stone 
Corpus Christi wreten there on.i23 

i22Dyboski (EETS., 101, p. xxvi) notes the resemblance to the 
Grail legend. 

123 The editors. Chambers and Sidgwick, (Early English 
Lyrics, p. 148) say that no other early version is known but pub- 


Parallels are here obvious — the Grail Castle vaguely 
located, the weeping maiden, the ever bleeding body on 
the bier, with the identity openly stated in the writing 
on the stone. The Corpus Christi with the accompany- 
ing suggestion of the ceaseless bleeding must inevitably 
strike one as an explicit reference to the Eucharist. ^^* I 
offer the ballad, not of course as convincing testimony, 
but as a bit of evidence which may be taken into ac- 

lish ii\a note (p. 357) a traditional version found in the middle 
of the last century. Cf. EET8., e. s., 101, p. 103; Anglia, XXVI, 
175; Flugel, Neuengl. Lesebuch, p. 142. 

1. Over yonder's a park, which is newly begun, 
All bells in Paradise I heard them a-ring ; 
Which is silver on the outside, and gold within. 
And I love sweet Jesus above all things. 

2. And in that park there stands a hall, 

Which is covered all over with purple and pall. 

3. And in that hall there stands a bed. 

Which is hung all round with silk curtains so red. 

4. And in that bed there lies a knight. 

Whose wounds they do bleed by day and by night. 

5. At that bed side there lies a stone, 

Which is our blessed virgin Mary then kneeling on 

6. At that bed's foot there lies a hound. 

Which is licking the blood as it daily runs down. 

7. At that bed's head there grows a thorn 

Which was never so blossomed since Christ was born. 

This reference to the thorn and its blossoming must recall the 
famous thorn of Glastonbury (see Skeat's note to Lyfe of Joseph 
of Arimathea, EETS., 42, 73, 74), and of course makes the Grail 
connection more probable. 

124 The ballad in its present form is apparently, especially in 
the later version, a Marian lament. If it grew originally out of 
Grail tradition, the weeping maiden would naturally suggest the 
Virgin weeping for her Son. 


count in the consideration of Professor Golther's con- 
jecture that the figure on the bier in the Grail Castle 
symbolizes the wounded Christ, and that the whole Grail 
rite is meant to explain to the initiate the sacrificial, ex- 
piatory death of the Savior, and the mystery of eternal 
spiritual existence, Christ himself being the life-princi- 
ple, and his blood, in consequence, the living food of 
redeemed man. 

Many points in this discussion are of course tenta- 
tive. Too little is as yet known about the history of the 
early church, its rites and customs, to make positive as- 
sertion in all cases possible. But where there exist so 
many similarities between conceptions current among the 
early Christians and preceding non-Christian ideas and 
usages, it is clearly not safe to assume that such Chris- 
tian coloring as is now evident in the Grail legend, be- 
cause of its apparent confusion with what we are ac- 
customed to call non-Christian feeling, is therefore su- 
perficial and a late accretion. The heathen color is as- 
suredly there, but in all probability it entered with the 
early Christian conceptions which had embodied much 
of such tradition. The contention of the present study, 
then, is simply that though parallels undoubtedly exist 
between the bleeding lance of the Grail romances and hea- 
then magic weapons, and though reflections of agrarian 
rites can definitely be pointed out in the Grail ceremony, 
since the Christian spear had by the time of Crestien ac- 
quired many of these mai*vellous properties, and since the 
Christian liturgy had most certainly taken over — in more 
or less confused and modified form, it is true — many of 
the precedent Mediterranean ritual conceptions, it seems 
unnecessary to go back of Christian tradition for adequate 
explanation of Grail imagery. 


It is to be noted, however, tliat wliat lias already been 
pointed out in the case of the bleeding spear is also true 
of the whole Grail rite. Professor Brown's heathen 
parallels account for the spear of the Grail ceremony only 
in part. He considers its power to avenge and to destroy, 
but neglects its equally manifest ability to bring peace and 
life. The heathen corresponding rites in somewhat the 
same way — though here the parallel is less close because of 
the nobility of some of the precedent ideas — fail to account 
entirely for the high degree of spiritualization found in 
the Christian Grail ceremony. The Christian customs re- 
flected in the Grail legends are traceable as we have seen, 
in the sixth century, and perhaps are even earlier. The 
conclusion to which this evidence appears to lead is, that 
the part of the Perceval story that deals with the Grail 
probably took form long before Crestien, Wolfram, or even 
Bleheris made use of it in romance. 

<, i 


T^ *«» ^ oiafif^r* 





1 17n DDD'^B a 137