Sunday, November 17, 2013

St. Hugh of Lincoln, Carthusian and Bishop

Except that this is Sunday, today, November 17 is the feast of St Hugh of Lincoln. According to this site:

Hugh of Lincoln was the son of William, Lord of Avalon. He was born at Avalon Castle in Burgundy and was raised and educated at a convent at Villard-Benoit after his mother died when he was eight. He was professed at fifteen, ordained a deacon at nineteen, and was made prior of a monastery at Saint-Maxim. While visiting the Grande Chartreuse with his prior in 1160. It was then he decided to become a Carthusian there and was ordained. After ten years, he was named procurator and in 1175 became Abbot of the first Carthusian monastery in England. This had been built by King Henry II as part of his penance for the murder of Thomas Becket.

His reputation for holiness and sanctity spread all over England and attracted many to the monastery. He admonished Henry for keeping Sees vacant to enrich the royal coffers. Income from the vacant Sees went to the royal treasury. He was then named bishop of the eighteen year old vacant See of Lincoln in 1186 - a post he accepted only when ordered to do so by the prior of the Grande Chartreuse. Hugh quickly restored clerical discipline, labored to restore religion to the diocese, and became known for his wisdom and justice.

He was one of the leaders in denouncing the persecution of the Jews that swept England, 1190-91, repeatedly facing down armed mobs and making them release their victims. He went on a diplomatic mission to France for King John in 1199, visiting the Grande Chartreuse, Cluny, and Citeaux, and returned from the trip in poor health. A few months later, while attending a national council in London, he was stricken and died two months later at the Old Temple in London on November 16. He was canonized twenty years later, in 1220, the first Carthusian to be so honored.

The Charterhouse St. Hugh of Lincoln led was at Witham in Somerset and this site provides details of St. Hugh's founding, really of the priory, since so little had been done when he arrived:

It was probably in 1179 (fn. 83) that at the request of Henry II a few Carthusian monks, how many we do not know, left their home near Grenoble to found in England the first house of their order. Norbert (fn. 84) came as the leader of the band and the first prior of the new house and with him Aynard and one Gerard of Nevers. But no preparations had been made for them, the villein tenants did not welcome them, for they were foreigners, nor did they agree, except after compensation, to be removed from their houses and lands. For the monks themselves no shelter had been provided. So very soon Prior Norbert gave up in despair and returned to Carthusia, regarding it as impossible to establish a house there unless they had more support than the king seemed disposed to give. In succession to him another, whose name is not given, was sent forth, and he died soon after from exposure and the severity of the climate. Then it was that Henry II took up the matter with some earnestness. He was arranging a marriage for his son John with Agnes the daughter of Humbert III Count of Maurienne and he asked the latter's advice concerning the difficulties at Witham. Count Humbert mentioned Hugh of Avalon, already the foremost of the monks of Carthusia, as the man most likely to succeed, though he warned Henry how he was valued, and how difficult it would be to get him to leave his monastery and come to England. Henry nevertheless persevered and sent Reginald, Bishop of Bath, and others on the errand to the monastery to ask definitely for Hugh of Avalon. At first the prior was unwilling to part with him, (fn. 85) for he was procurator of the house and much valued, and Hugh on his part regarding himself as unfit to undertake the task, definitely refused his consent; but the Bishop of Grenoble, John de Sassenage, had been won over, probably by Bishop Reginald, and at his entreaty the prior gave way and Hugh of Avalon started for England. On his arrival, which seems to have been in 1180, he found that nothing had been done at Witham and all practically had to be begun towards the new foundation. He stipulated that the tillers of the soil, the poor villein tenants, should receive no loss in being compelled to change their abode, and he endeavoured to persuade the king to indemnify them for the houses they had built, which now had to be pulled down. Certainly he seems to have set about the work in earnest, obtaining only after constant pressure on Henry II the necessary means. He is said to have built houses for the monks and the lay brethren, and the metrical life of St. Hugh records that he built the walls of the chapel and vaulted it in stone. The existing church at Witham is generally regarded as the church of the Conversi or lay brethren. The walls seem older than the time of Hugh, and apparently had buttresses attached to them for the purpose of strengthening them to carry the weight of the stone roof.

The last prior and 12 monks surrendered Witham on the 15th of March in 1539, received their pensions--and avoided the fate of many of the Carthusians of the Charterhouse of London, and the priories at Beauvale and Axholme.

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