Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

St Hugh of Lincoln

Today is the feast of St Hugh of Lincoln, Carthusian saint and Bishop of Lincoln 1186-1200. There is a biography here.

Saint Hugh of Lincoln with his swan,
Altarpiece from the Carthusian monastery of Saint-Honoré, Thuison, near Abbeville, France, ca 1490-1500
Art Institute of Chicago

St Hugh's holds one of his attributes, the Christ Child rising from the chalice, alluding to a vision he had. There are other recorded examples of such visions at his time, suggesting a concern for the reality of the Real Presence and Transubstantiation.

His other, better known attribute is the swan. This was a fierce swan which lived at the episcopal manor at Stow in Lindsey but which was a docile pet to the saint, followed him around and watched over him when he was asleep.

St Hugh's stole is preserved at the Carthusian house at Parkminster in Sussex. It was on display at Lincoln in 1986 as part of the octocentenary celebrations. His body is thought to still lie somewhere within the cathedral at Lincoln, where a curious bronze superstructure has been added in recent years to the remains of the base of the shrine of St Hugh's Head in the Angel Choir.

St Hugh was the principal saint of Lincoln cathedral and seen as role model for his successors. This can be seen in their referenc eto him bu adding his arms to their monuments in the cathedral. In the case of Bishop Fleming - "my bishop" - the fact that Fleming developed close links with the Carthusian order whilst Bishop of Lincoln, and that John Stone, the Carthusian of Sheen when he wrote his Metrificatio around Fleming's own tomb verses went so far as to ascribe Fleming's failure to be translated to the see of York in 1424-5 as being due to the intervention of St Hugh.

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