The Instant Cult of St. Hugh of Lincoln

Source: Roger of Wendover’s Flowers of History, Comprising the History of England from the Descent of the Saxons to A.D. 1235, trans. J. A. Giles, 2 vols. (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1849), vol. II, pp. 198-199
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[Note: Hugh of Avalon, French-born bishop of Lincoln, was renowned for his personal sanctity. He died at London on 16 November 1200; was buried Lincoln on 23 November 1200; and was canonized by Pope Honorius III in 1220.]

[A.D. 1200]

How the body of St. Hugh was carried to Lincoln to be buried.

On the 21st of November, John king of the English and William king of Scots met in conference together with all the nobility, both clergy and laity of both kingdoms. In opposition to the advice of many, king John entered the city (Lincoln) boldly, which none of his predecessors had dared to attempt, and, on arriving at the cathedral church, he offered a golden cup on the altar of St. John the Baptist, which was in the new building erected from the foundation by the before-mentioned St. Hugh. On the same day, he and the king of Scots met on a hill outside the city, and there, in sight of all the people, William king of Scots did homage to king John for all his right, and afterwards, in the presence of all the nobles of the kingdom, swore fealty to him, on the cross of Hubert archbishop of Canterbury, for life, for limb, and earthly honour, against all men. On this same day the body of the most holy bishop Hugh was brought there to be buried; and the said two kings went out to meet it, accompanied by three archbishops, namely, Hubert of Canterbury, Geoffrey of York, and Bernard of Ragua,* thirteen bishops, earls, barons, and priests without end, and received his most sacred body; and the kings themselves, with the earls and other nobles, carried it on their shoulders to the hall of the cathedral church. But at the door of the church, the above-named archbishops and bishops received it, and by these priests it was carried into the choir, where it was honourably laid out for the night. This bishop was accustomed in his life-time so diligently to perform the duties of humanity in burying the dead, that he never neglected any dead body whose burial he thought it his duty to attend to; for which reason the Lord, who knows how to reward the merits of the just by a fitting recompence, allowed him such a distinguished burial, that he might seem to be recompensing him by the honour of it for his above-mentioned merit. Before the burial, however, of this man of God, whilst the funeral ceremonies for him were being performed, and he himself was, as was the custom with high priests, lying with his face uncovered, wearing the mitre on his head, gloves on his hands, and a ring on his finger, with other pontifical ornaments, a certain soldier, well known to the canons of the church, whose arm was eaten away by a cancer till the bone appeared deprived of flesh, placed his arm over the body of the bishop, and frequently wetted his face with his tears to heal his diseased limb, and immediately the flesh and skin of his arm were compassionately restored by the Lord, through the merits of his saint; for which the soldier returned thanks to God and to the holy prelate, and often showed himself to the deacon of the church, and other credible persons. At the same time a certain woman, who had been for seven years blind of one eye, in the sight and to the wonder of all, recovered her sight. At the same time, a certain cut-purse, in the press and crowd of people which was assembled around this servant of God, cut away a woman’s purse; but, by the merits of the blessed bishop, who showed that he was not dead but alive, both hands of the wicked thief were so contracted, and his fingers became so firmly fixed to the palms of his hands, that not being able to hold the property he had stolen, he threw it down on the pavement of the church, and, looking like a madman, he became an object of derision to the people; and so, after he had been disturbed by an evil spirit for a length of time, he came to himself, and stood motionless: at length he began to weep bitterly, and in the hearing of all, he then confessed his most base crime to all who would listen to him. At length, when he had no other means of escape, he turned to a priest, saying, “Pity me, pity me, ye friends of God; for I renounce Satan and his works, to whom I have till now been a slave; and pray to the Lord for me, that he may not confound me in my penitence, but may rather deal compassionately with me.” And immediately, after a prayer had been uttered on his behalf to God, the chains of Satan, by which his hands had been bound, were loosed, and, becoming sound, he returned thanks to God and the blessed bishop.

* It is not known who is here meant. [Martha Carlin notes: This is Bernard, Archbishop of Ragusa (modern Dubrovnik), who came to England in 1198. King John granted him the revenues of the vacant see of Carlisle in June 1200, and effectively appointed him Bishop of Carlisle in January 1204 at Pope Innocent III’s request. He died in 1214. See Henry Summerson, ‘Bernard (d. 1214)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Oct 2008; online edn, May 2009 [, accessed 15 Nov 2011.]