Tuesday 17th November at 6pm. CBS Mass for the Feast of St Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln (1200). All are welcome at this Plainsong Mass with Propers and Hymns for the day.
Hugh was born about the year 1135 at the castle of Avalon in Burgundy. His father, William, Lord of Avalon, belonged to one of the noblest of Burgundian houses; of his mother, Anna, very little is known. After his wife’s death, William retired from the world to the Augustinian monastery of Villard-Benoît, near Grenoble, and took his son Hugh, with him. Hugh became a religious and was ordained deacon at the age of nineteen.
In 1180 Hugh became prior of Witham, the first Carthusian house in England; situated in Somerset, it had been founded by Henry II in compensation for his having failed to go on crusade as a penance for the murder of St. Thomas of Canterbury. In May 1186, Henry summoned a council of bishops and barons at Eynsham Abbey to discuss the state of the Church and the filling of vacant bishoprics. Hugh was consecrated Bishop of Lincoln on 21 September 1186 at Westminster.
Lincoln Cathedral had been badly damaged by an earthquake in 1185, and Hugh set about rebuilding and greatly enlarging it in the new Gothic style; however, he only lived to see the choir well begun. In 1194, he expanded St Mary Magdalen’s Church, Oxford, and consecrated St Giles’ Church, Oxford, in 1200 (the September St Giles’ Fair continues to this day).
As one of the premier bishops of England, Hugh more than once took on the role of diplomat to France for King Richard and then for King John. While attending a national council in London, he was stricken with illness and died on 16 November 1200. He was buried in Lincoln Cathedral.
Hugh was canonised by Pope Honorius III on 17 February 1220, and is the patron saint of sick children, sick people, shoemakers and swans. Hugh’s primary emblem is a white swan, in reference to the story of the swan of Stowe which had a deep and lasting friendship with the saint, even guarding him while he slept. The swan would follow him about, and was his constant companion while he was at Lincoln.
Lincoln is one of my favourite Cathedrals from summer weeks spent there in the late ’80s singing on RSCM courses for adult men and talented teenage girl choristers. (RB)
St Michael and All Angels’ Church, Dinham Road, Mount Dinham, Exeter, EX4 4EB