Wednesday, November 17, 2004

St. Hugh of Lincoln

Today is the feast of St Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln, both in some English calendars and in the Carthusian calendar, of which Order he was a member. The illustration above shows his cathedral in Lincoln, although it has been much altered since St Hugh's own 13th century. A long and detailed biography can be found here, courtesy of the ever-reliable old Catholic Encyclopaedia. A chattier telling of his life can be found here at the site of an Episcopal church named after him. A taste:

[St. Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln,] also refused to appoint a royal favorite to a meaningless but lucrative post. Henry [II of England] was furious, and summoned him to his presence. He came, and Henry turned away his face and would not speak, but by way of ignoring his presence took out a torn glove and began to sew it. At last Hugh said, "How like you are to your relations at Falaise." The king might have resented this allusion to the humble birth of William the Conqueror's mother, the daughter of a glove-maker, but he only laughed, and the quarrel was made up.

Riots against the Jews broke out in England at the time of the Third Crusade. In defence of the persecuted, Hugh faced armed mobs in Lincoln, Stamford and Northampton and compelled their submission. Hugh refused to raise money for the foreign wars of King Richard the Lion-Heart, calmed the king's rage with a kiss, and persisted in his refusal: this was the first clear example on record of the refusal of a money-grant demanded directly by the crown, and an important legal precedent. Richard said, "If all bishops were like my lord of Lincoln, not a prince among us could raise his head against them."

His relations with King John were less happy. John showed him an amulet, which he said was sacred and would preserve him. Hugh replied, "Do not put your trust in lifeless stone, but only in the living and heavenly stone, our Lord Jesus Christ." The following Easter he preached at length on the duties of kings, and the king slipped out partway through.