Sunday, November 16, 2014

Another Victim of the English Reformation

The Catholic Herald writes about the eclipse of St. Hugh of Lincoln, brought about by the English Reformation:

A leading figure in the 12th century proto-Renaissance, Hugh of Lincoln has suffered a spectacular historical decline, going from being one of the most famous saints in English history at one point to a virtual unknown today.

He was born in Avalon in southern France around 1135. His father was the local lord and a soldier, who later retired to a monastery near Grenoble. Hugh’s mother died when he was sent to boarding school, becoming a religious novice at 15 and a deacon four years later.

In 1159, Hugh was sent to a nearby Benedictine monastery in Saint-Maximin, after which he left the order to enter the Grande Chartreuse, the head monastery of the Carthusian order, just outside Grenoble.

In this famously austere environment he rose to become procurator, before being sent to Witham Charterhouse priory in Somerset, the first of the Carthusian houses in England. . . .

Then, in 1186, he was chosen as Bishop of Lincoln, a role in which he excelled. Generous and kind to his flock, he was also firm in standing up to the Crown. He also helped to improve education in the country and protected the Jews of Lincoln during the persecutions that begun during the Lionheart’s reign.

He also rebuilt Lincoln Cathedral, which had been damaged in 1186, and consecrated St Giles’s in Oxford in 1200. But he was also overworked, taking on the thankless task of being a diplomat for the new king, Richard’s appalling brother, John, and he died on November 16 1200.

Canonised 20 years later, St Hugh was very well known in the later medieval period but became less so after the Reformation.

He is the patron of sick children, shoemakers and swans.

David Farmer's 1985 biography is still probably the most reliable source. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:

A magnificent golden shrine contained his relics, and Lincoln became the most celebrated centre of pilgrimage in the north of England. It is not known what became of St. Hugh's relics at the Reformation; the shrine and its wealth were a tempting bait to Henry VIII, who confiscated all its gold, silver and precious stones, "with which all the simple people be moch deceaved and broughte into greate supersticion and idolatrye". . . . In the Carthusian Order he is second only to St. Bruno, and the great modern Charterhouse at Parkminster, in Sussex, is dedicated to him.

St. Hugh of Lincoln, pray for us!

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