The role of copies of antique weapons in the collection of Theodor Joseph Blell has already been mentioned in the cycle promoting the critical edition of the translation of this collection (see D. Gosk, Theodor Blell’s contacts with the Central Roman-German Museum in Mainz).
Today we will come back to this issue in order to discuss one of the four copies made of wood. It belonged to a unique group of imitations that were not made out of the materials used in the prototypes. The wooden copy of the “Holy Spear” probably has not survived to the present day.
We do not know the exact time of creation and the author of this wooden exhibit from the Blell collection, located in Section B of the Inventory, under the name Few weapons of the peoples of ancient cultures, in the section Roman Weapons, under the number № 335 with the following description: “Holy spear, copy in wood; original kept among the Crown Jewels in Vienna”.
The Holy and Cross-Bearer Imperial Lance, also known as the Spear of St. Maurice© KHM-Museumsverband
St. Lance shown on the left wing of the Winterfeld diptych, kept at the National Museum in Warsaw, Gallery of Medieval Art (photo: B. Butryn).
It is clear, therefore, that the monument stored today in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna (Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Weltliche Schatzkammer, Inv. No. WS XIII 19) was important to Blell as a type and example of a weapon and not as a symbol of the power of the Holy Roman Empire and object of worship. This may be a bit surprising, because the spear point was quite heavily transformed and in even in the 9th century it was more of a reliquary made of weapons than an example of it. Since the description in the discussed source is traditionally laconic, we do not know whether the wooden copy ordered by Blell faithfully replicated the shape of the spike – reliquary or was a copy reconstructing the original appearance of the lance, so that it would be a clear image of the form of this type of weapon.
The sacred spear is a type of Carolingian wing lance, the central part of which has been cut into a spindle shape to accommodate a decorative iron wedge, which according to tradition was to be the nail of the Holy Cross. The spearhead that forms the basis of the reliquary’s structure has been damaged in the past.Therefore, to maintain its original outline, numerous elements have been added to maintain its form, in the form of bonds and metal appliqués.
A wooden copy of the “holy spear” was kept in the Malbork Castle in the years 1894–1945. Although there is no source confirmation, we assume that it had dimensions identical to the original, i.e. 50.7 cm in length and 7.9 cm in width.
As a curiosity complementing the context and meaning of the Sancta et Crucifera Imperialis Lancae (the Holy and Carrying the Cross of the Imperial Lance), it is worth noting that it was shown in detail by an anonymous painter working in Gdańsk around 1430, who painted it on one of the plots of a diptych intended for the chapel of St. st. James in the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Gdańsk, belonging to the Winterfeld family.
(by B. Butryn)