In the medieval world, miracles were still common and religious symbolism was not symbolic. Wilsnack is today a tiny town of about 2,000, halfway between Berlin and Hamburg and yet because of reports that during a fire the Host – the holy bread used for communion – not only survived but bled, it was the fourth most popular destination for pilgrims (Rome and Jerusalem being first and second on that list).  Monasteries attracted pilgrims with claims that they items like pieces of the crown Christ wore on the cross, his baby teeth, or umbilical cord (a double relic, of both Jesus and Mary).
|The statue of St Longinus byGianlorenzo Bernini sits |
above the relic in St Peter's Basilica
These beliefs did not die quickly. To give some appreciation of the degree to which Hitler tried to turn back time, after he had invaded Austria, Hitler quickly stole the Spear of Destiny. This was the spear reportedly used to pierce Christ’s side when he was on the cross. Since the time of Charlemagne, leaders of the Holy Roman Empire had held this spear with the apparent belief that possessing it gave one power to rule. (In their defense, they presided over an empire that lasted – in various forms – for roughly 1,000 years, from 800 to 1803.) It was a relic that held magic that Hitler trusted, and this less than a century ago.