Hugh of Lincoln

(1246—1255) supposed victim of crucifixion

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(d. 1255),

‘martyr’. He was a boy of only nine years old who met a violent death at the hands of persons unknown; his body was discovered in a well and buried in the cathedral near the tomb of Grosseteste. But the story circulated and became immensely popular that his death was due to ritual murder practised by the strong and wealthy Jewish community in Lincoln. It was asserted that the Jew Koppin enticed the boy into his house on 31 July and kept him there until 27 August, when he was scourged, crowned with thorns, and finally crucified. They tried to bury the body, but the earth refused to receive it and it was thrown down a well. Koppin is supposed to have confessed: he and eighteen other Jews were executed, while others were imprisoned in London and released by the intervention of the Friars and fined heavily. It is likely that the cult of ‘Little St Hugh’ was the expression of anti-Semitic envy and that the story had little, if any, foundation in fact. The general charge of ritual murder on the part of the Jews has many times been refuted by Christian as well as Jewish writers. But the calumny stuck in the Middle Ages, perhaps because it was what people wanted to believe, and the Legend of ‘Little St Hugh’ is best known through the Prioress's Tale in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. The cult was never official, although miracles were claimed at his intercession. Feast: 27 August.

H. R. Luard (ed.), Matthew Paris, Chronica Majora (R.S., 1880), v. 516–19; B. T. A., iii. 421–2; G. Longmuir in Speculum, xlvii (1972), 459–82.

Subjects: Literature — Christianity.

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