Windows of St Bede’s – St Hugh of Lincoln
He was born at the château of Avalon, at the border of the Dauphiné with Savoy , the son of William, seigneur of Avalon. His mother Anna died when he was 8, and his father retired to a monastery at Villard-Benoit near Grenoble , taking his young son with him.
Hugh did very well, and was suited to the monastic religious life, becoming deacon at the age of nineteen. About 1159 he was sent to be prior of the monastery nearby at Saint-Maxim, then entered the Grande Chartreuse, at the height of its reputation for the rigid austerity of its rules and the earnest piety of its members. There he rose to become procurator, until he was sent in 1179 to become prior of Witham in Somerset , the first English Carthusian house.
Henry II of England, as part of his penance for the murder of Thomas Becket, in lieu of going on crusade as he had promised in his first remorse, had established a Carthusian monastery or “Charterhouse” before 1179 settled by monks brought from the Grande Chartreuse. There were difficulties in advancing the building works, however, and the first prior was retired and a second soon died. Henry learned of Hugh, and sent an influential embassy to demand his services. Most reluctantly, the convent let him go.
Hugh found the monks in great straits, living in log huts and no plans yet advanced for the more permanent monastery building. Hugh interceded with the king for Royal patronage and at last, probably on January 6 , 1182 , Henry issued a charter of foundation and endowment for Witham Charterhouse. Hugh presided over the new house till 1186, and attracted many to the monastery. Among the frequent visitors was King Henry, for the Charterhouse lay near the borders of the king’s chase in Selwood Forest , a favorite hunting ground. Hugh admonished Henry for keeping dioceses vacant in order to keep their income for the royal chancellery.
This was not a good plan. In May, 1180, Henry summoned a council of bishops and barons at Eynsham Abbey to deliberate on the state of the Church of England and the filling of vacant bishoprics; among others, the canons of Lincoln, who had been without a bishop for about sixteen years, were ordered to hold an election. Hugh was elected but insisted on a second, private election by the chapter, securely in their Chapterhouse at Lincoln rather than in the King’s chapel.
Hugh was consecrated Bishop of Lincoln, and enthroned at Lincoln on September 21, 1181. Almost immediately he established his independence of the King, excommunicating a royal forester and refusing to seat one of Henry’s courtly nominees as a prebendary of Lincoln , but softened the king’s anger by his diplomatic address and tactful charm. As a bishop he was exemplary, constantly in residence, generous with his charity, scrupulous in the appointments he made. He raised the quality of education at the cathedral school. Hugh was also prominent in trying to protect the Jews, great numbers of whom lived in Lincoln , in the persecution they suffered at the beginning of Richard I’s reign, and he put down popular violence against them in several places.
- Anthony Hugh Covernton died October 25th in 1918 andPhilippa Mary Covernton died September 14th 1920. This window is in memorial of them.