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ST HUGH

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Originally appearing in Volume V13, Page 857 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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ST HUGH. ST HUGH OF AVALON (c. 1140–1200), bishop of Lincoln, who must be distinguished from Hugh of Wells, and also from St Hugh of Lincoln (see below), was born of a noble family at Avalon in Burgundy. At the age of eight he entered along with his widowed father the neighbouring priory of canons regular at Villard-Benoit, where he was ordained deacon at nineteen. Appointed not long after prior of a dependent cell, Hugh was attracted from that position by the holy reputation of the monks of the Grande Chartreuse, whose house he finally entered despite an oath to the contrary which he had given his superior. There he remained about ten years, receiving priest's orders, and rising to the important office of procurator, which brought him into contact with the outer world. The wide reputation for energy and tact which Hugh speedily attained penetrated to the ears of Henry II. of England, and induced that monarch to request the procurator's assistance in establishing at Witham in Somersetshire the first English Carthusian monastery. Hugh reluctantly consented to go to England,where in a short time he succeeded in overcoming every obstacle, and in erecting and organizing the convent, of which he was appointed first prior. He speedily became prime favourite with Henry, who in 1186 procured his election to the see of Lincoln. He took little part in political matters, maintaining as one of his chief principles that a churchman should hold no secular office. A sturdy upholder of what he believed to be right, he let neither royal nor ecclesiastical influence interfere with his conduct, but fearlessly resisted whatever seemed to him an infringement of the rights of his church or diocese. But with all his bluff firmness Hugh had a calm judgment and a ready tact, which almost invariably left him a better friend than before of those whom he opposed; and the astute Henry, the impetuous Richard, and the cunning John, so different in other points, agreed in respecting the bishop of Lincoln. Hugh's manners were a little rigid and harsh; but, though an ascetic to himself, he was distinguished by a broad kindliness to others, so that even the Jews of Lincoln wept at his funeral. He had great skill in taming birds, and for some years had a pet swan, which occupies a prominent place in all histories and representations of the saint. In 1200 Bishop Hugh revisited his native country and his first convents, and on the return journey was seized with an illness, of which he died at London on the 16th of November 1200. He was canonized by Honorius III. on the 17th of February 1220. His feast day is kept on the 17th of November in the Roman Church. The chief life of St Hugh, the Magna vita S. Hugonis, probably written by Adam, afterwards abbot of Eynsham, the bishop's chaplain, was edited by J. F. Dimock in Rer. Britan. med. aevi script, No. xxxvii. (London, 1864). MSS. of this are in the Bodleian Library (Digby, 165 of the 13th century) and in Paris (Bib. Nat. 5575, Fonds Latin); the Paris MS. fortunately makes good the portions lacking in the Oxford one. Mr Dimock also edited a Metrical Life of St Hugh of Avalon (London, 1860), from two MSS. in the British Museum and the Bodleian Library. The best modern source for information as to St Hugh and his time is the Vie de St Hugues, eveque de Lincoln (1140-1200) par un religieux de la Grande Chartreuse (Montreuil, 1890), Eng. trans. edited by H. Thurston, S.J., with valuable appendices and notes (London, 1898). A complete bibliography is given in U. Chevalier, Bio-bibliographie (Paris, 1905, 2206-2207) ; see also A. Potthast, Bibliotheca med. aev., 1380.
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