St Hugh of Lincoln

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Bishop. Born at Avalon in Burgundy, in 1135, St Hugh came to England at the request of King Henry II, who wanted him to found a Carthusian monastery at Witham in Somerset as part of his reparations for the murder of St Thomas Becket. St Hugh had already been a Carthusian for 17 years. He spent seven years at Witham living a quiet prayerful life.

From time to time King Henry, who is said to have been very overbearing, would call him to the court. After a few years Hugh began to gently refuse to take orders from the King, until he had given compensation and accommodation to a number of people who had been evicted from their homes to make room for the monastery.

After meeting with his king, he would hurry back to his prayers and his pets - which included a tame swan.

In 1186 Hugh had to leave the quiet monastic life to become bishop of the largest diocese in England - Lincoln. The see had been vacant for 16 years and was very neglected.

Hugh proved to be as good a bishop as he was a monk. He fought for the common people against the king's foresters who enforced savage forest laws in the vast royal hunting grounds. At Lincoln and in Northampton he stood up to mobs rioting against the Jews. He also visited the sick, played with children and oversaw a huge rebuilding programme at Lincoln cathedral which had been damaged by an earthquake.

Hugh said he had a 'peppery' temper. His admirers said he was a 'A good man, fearless as a lion'. He calmed the anger of Richard I with a joke. He refused to pay taxes that supported a war against France.

He died at Lincoln's Inn in London in 1200. St Hugh has been been described as one of the most attractive characters of mediaeval England. John Ruskin said he was: "The most beautiful sacerdotal figure known to men in history." In 1220 he was canonised by Pope Honorius III, the first Carthusian to receive this honour. The Rose window, called the Dean's Eye, at Lincoln Cathedral records his funeral.

Many pilgrims came to his shrine at Lincoln until the Reformation, when it was destroyed. His usual iconography is his tame swan. A picture of him at the charterhouse in Paris became a centre of pilgrimage for mothers and sick children. His white linen stole survives in the charterhouse at Parkminster in West Sussex.

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