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PhD thesis presented to the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, 1997.


The spear, cross and crown were not only symbols of the Holy Roman Empire’s authority, but also symbols of glorification and the millennial rule of Christ. Medieval German literature has many references to the instruments of the Passion. They had specific meaning and importance.

The first chapter of the thesis deals with the Crucifixion, the Longinus legend and the symbolism associated with the spear used to stab Christ. The aura of magic surrounding the spear was heightened by the widespread belief that Christ was alive when speared. 

The second chapter discusses the Crusades and is centred around the speech given by Pope Urban II in 1095 declaring the First Crusade. His references to the cross and to the rewards of crusading were to be repeated by poets for over two centuries. The simpler folk among the crusaders were millenarians who viewed Jerusalem, the physical city, as synonymous with the Heavenly Jerusalem. Crusaders sought an eternal reward, the crown, for their efforts in overcoming the “heathen.”

The third chapter deals with the medieval conception of the eternal life. Since an eternal crown implies eternal life, medieval man sought to explore its characteristics. In discussing the motif of glorification, one must bear in mind that glorification is figuratively compared to a mirror. particularly in thirteenth-century German literature. As well, medieval authors seized upon the idea of man as God’s handiwork (“hantgetat”) which was to undergo a change at the resurrection.

The fourth chapter has as its focus the crown of the Holy Roman Empire. The crown was a type of the eternal crown to be inherited by the glorified dead. The crom of the Holy Roman Empire is so structured as to reflect the description of the Heavenly Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation. Medieval man believed that the fourth kingdorn foreseen by Nebuchadnezzar was the Holy Roman Empire which was to be succeeded by the Kingdom of God.

The fifth chapter explores The Last Emperor legend which brings together al1 three symbols since the Last Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire travels to Jerusalem to surrender the spear, cross and crown to Christ. The legend culninates in the defeat of the usurping Antichrist and the return of Christ and the Day of Judgement in which the spear, cross and crown are used to justiiy a transfigured Christ as suprerne judge.

The conclusion drawn by the thesis is that the spear, cross and crown were not merely symbolic of the Passion of Christ but symbolized rulership and the millenniurn. They were employed by medieval poets to embody various aspects of salvation, reward and rulership.