Feast Day : November 16
Hugh was born in a castle at Avalon in Burgundy, France. His father, William, was a knight and lord of Burgundy. Hugh was eight when his mother died. His father joined the Canons Regular of St. Augustine and took Hugh with him. Hugh, however, was more attracted to the contemplative Carthusian order, and joined them at age 23. At age 33 he was ordained a priest and made procurator of the Grand Chartreuse. In 1179, King Henry II made him prior of Witham, a Carthusian monastery the king had built as penance for his role in the murder of St. Thomas Becket. The monastery was in decline, and Hugh worked to improve it and attract new recruits. His work impressed the king, and in 1181 Henry named him bishop of Lincoln, the largest diocese in England. Hugh expanded and restored the grand cathedral there, which was the highest structure in Europe until the building of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Hugh was able to maintain the respect of Henry, his son Richard I (the Lion-Heart) and Richard’s brother, John Lackland, though he often disagreed with them. Hugh also defended the Jews against angry mobs, visited lepers and gave funerals for the abandoned dead. In 1200 Hugh visited his home castle at Avalon and the Grand Chartreuse while traveling in France as ambassador of King John. He returned to England seriously ill, and died in London on November 16, 1200. He was embalmed and his body was taken to Lincoln where he was given a grand burial attended by many officials of church and state. His coffin was carried by three kings and three archbishops. His relics were translated to a shrine on October 6, 1280. His body was found to be incorrupt, and his Carthusian habit, in which he had died, was in excellent condition. When the archbishop of Canterbury laid his hand on the saint’s head, it separated from the shoulder, leaving the neck fresh and red as if death had been recent. This was taken as a miracle, for the new reliquary was not long enough for both body and head. When the body was taken out, observers saw that a pure, clear oil, or manna, had collected at the bottom of the tomb. The body and head were washed and dried. The next day, the head exuded a flow of fresh oil when handled. The flow ceased when the head was placed on a silver dish to be carried through the crowd in a procession to the new shrine. Hugh’s relics were encased in a coffer of gold, silver and gems, and the shrine itself was embellished with the same. The coffer was placed beside the altar of St. John the Baptist in the church not far from John’s shrine. In 1364 vandals stole the head and other treasures from the shrine and abandoned the head in a field. According to lore, a raven watched over it until it was found and returned to the church. The vandals gave themselves up and were hanged. In 1540 King Henry VIII, in his closure of churches and monasteries, ordered the shrine dismantled and the valuables—some 2,621 ounces of gold and 4,215 ounces of silver, plus jewels—transported to the Tower of London. Hugh’s relics were destroyed. A legend holds that somehow the relics were saved and hidden away, but no evidence exists to support the story. The only relic remaining is a fragment of bone kept at the Grande Chartreuse.