Homeward Bound
After a brief visit to the Priory of St. Domninus Hugh made for Villarbenoit, his old school and college in one; but first he went to Avalon Castle, where his stout backers and brothers, William and Peter, ruled over their broad lands, who always had heartened and encouraged him in his battles for the liberties of the Church. Here "nobles, middle-class men, and the lowest people" received him with delight, and he spent two days at this his birthplace, and so on to Villarbenoit, and a fine dance his coming made for them all. He gave the Church a noble Bible worth ten silver marks, and passed to the cell of St. Maximin. Here aged hobblers and white-haired seniors, bowed mothers and women advanced in years, walled round him in happy throng. The bright-eyed lady of his unrest, possibly, was among these last, and they all bore witness to his early holiness, and prophesied his future niche in the calendar. After one more night at Avalon he set out for England.

At Bellay the incautious canons allowed him to undo a sacred little bundle which held three fingers of St. John Baptist, which they trusted him to kiss, although for many years no one had even looked upon such awful articulations. After confession, absolution, and prayer the bones were bared, and he touched "the joints which had touched God's holy head," kissed them, and signed the prostrate worshippers with them with the holy sign. Then he cut off a good piece of the ancient red cloth which had covered them and handed it to Adam. Thence he visited three more Charterhouses. In one of these, Arvieres, he met a man of his own age, Arthault by name, who had resigned his bishopric and was ending his days as a holy monk. In full chapter the bishop and the ex-bishop met. Arthault, knowing Hugh had been at the peace-making between France and England, asked him to tell them the terms of the peace; but the latter smiled and said, "My lord father, to hear and carry tales is allowable to bishops, but not to monks. Tales must not come to cells or cloister. We must not leave towns and carry tales to solitude." So he turned the talk to spiritual themes. Perhaps he saw that it is easier to resign a bishopric than to forsake the world altogether.

The next important place was Clugny, where they read him a chapter from St. Gregory's "Pastoral Care," and extorted the compliment from him that their well-ordained house would have made him a Clugniac if he had not been a Carthusian. Thence he went to Citeaux and said Mass for the Assumption (August 15th), and passed on to Clairvaux. Here he met John, the ex-Archbishop of Lyons, who was meditating away the last days of his life. Hugh asked him what scriptures most helped his thoughts, and the reply must have struck an answering chord in the questioner, "To meditate entirely upon the Psalms has now usurped my whole inward being. Inexhaustible refreshment always comes new from these. Such is fresh daily, and always delicious to the taste of the inner man." Hugh's devotion to the Psalms is evidenced by many passages in his life, and not least by the fact that he divided the whole Psalter among the members of the Chapter so that it should be recited throughout every day. His own share included three Psalms, i., ii., and iii., and if the reader tries to look at these through the saint's eyes he will see much in them that he has not hitherto suspected to be there.

He stopped a couple of days at Rheims, and was astonished at the good store of books the library owned. He "blamed the slothful carelessness of modern times, which not only failed to imitate the literary activity of the Fathers in making and writing books, but neither read nor reverently treated the sacred manuscripts the care of the Fathers had provided." His own conduct in this respect, both at Witham and Lincoln, was far otherwise. He took pains about the library at each place. His gifts to Lincoln were -- (1) Two great volumes of sermons by the Catholic doctors for the whole year. (2) A little book of the Father's Life with a red covering. (3) A Psalter with a large gloss.{27} (4) A Homeliary in stag's leather, beginning "Erunt signa." And (5) A Martyrology with the text of the four Gospels. At Rheims, too, he also saw and worshipped the vessel of holy oil, which was used for anointing the kings of France. Then he made his way to the northern coast to St. Omer's Camp. He would not put to sea at once lest he should fail of his Mass on Our Lady's birthday. He had been unwell for some days with quartan fever, and tried bleeding, but it did him no good. He could not eat, but was obliged to go and lie down upon his small bed. He broke into violent sweats, and for three days hardly tasted food. On the 7th of September he would travel ten miles to Clercmaretz Abbey to keep the feast. He slept in the infirmary, where two monks waited on him, but could get him to eat nothing. He said there his last Mass but one, and still fasting went back to St. Omers. He felt a good deal better after this, and went on to Wissant, where he made the usual invocations to Our Lady and St. Ann, and had a safe, swift passage, and immediately upon landing said his last Mass, probably at St. Margaret's Church, in Dover. He never missed a chance of saying Mass if he could, though it was not said daily in his time. But he would not allow his chaplain to celebrate if he had been lately bled, reproved him for the practice, and when he did it again very sharply rebuked him.

From Dover he went to Canterbury, and prayed long and earnestly, first at the Saviour altar and then at the tombs of the holy dead,{28} and especially at the mausoleum of St. Thomas. The monastic flock (still sub judice) led him forth with deep respect. The news spread that he was ill, and the royal justiciaries and barons visited him and expressed their sympathy and affection in crowds, which must have considerably heightened his temperature. He explained to them with placid face that the scourge of the Lord was sweet to His servants, and what he said he enacted. "But He, the head Father of the Family, who had put forth His hand to cut him down, withdrew not the sickle from reaping the stalk, which he had now seen white to the harvest." One of the signs of this was the growing dimness of his eyes, much tried by the dust and heat of travel. But he would not have them doctored. "These eyes will be good enough for us as long as we are obliged to use them," he said. He crawled painfully on to London, part of the way on horseback and part by water, and in a high fever took to his bed in his own house, praying to be allowed to reach his anxious family at Lincoln. "I shall never be able to keep away from spiritual presence with our dearest Sons in Christ, whether I be present or absent in the body. But concerning health or my bodily presence, yea, and concerning my whole self, may the will be done of the holy Father which is in Heaven." He had ceased to wish to live, he told his chaplain, for he saw the lamentable things about to come upon the Church of England. "So it is better for us to die than to live and see the evil things for this people and the saints which are ahead. For doubtless upon the family of King Henry the scripture must needs be fulfilled which says there shall not be 'deep rooting from bastard slips' and the 'seed of an unrighteous bed shall be rooted out.' So the modern King of the French will avenge his holy father Lewis upon the offspring of wickedness, to wit, of her who rejected a stainless bed with him and impudently was joined with his rival, the king of the English. For this, that French Philip will destroy the stock royal of the English, like as an ox is wont to lick up the grass to its roots. Already three of her sons have been cut off by the French, two kings that is, and one prince. The fourth, the survivor, will have short peace at their hands." The next day, St. Matthew's, was his episcopal birthday, and he kept it up by having, for the first time in his life, the anointing of the sick. He first made a most searching confession to his chaplain, and then to the Dean of Lincoln, the Precentor, and the Archdeacon of Northampton.{29} He hesitated not to confess sins often before confessed to many, and made so straight, keen, and full a story of what he had left undone and what he had done that they never heard the like; and he often repeated, "The evildoing is mine, truly, solely, and wholely. The good, if there is any, is not so. It is mixed with evil; it is everywhere gross with it. So it is neither truly nor purely good." The Sacrament was brought him at nine o'clock the next day, and he flung himself from his bed, clad in his hair shirt and cowl, with naked feet, knelt, worshipped, and prayed long before it, recalling the infinite benefits of the Saviour to the children of men, commending his sinfulness to Christ's mercy, asking for help to the end and imploring with tears never to be left. Then he was houselled and anointed. He said, "Now let our doctors and our diseases meet, as far as may be. In our heart there will be less trouble about them both. I have committed myself to Him, received Him, shall hold Him, stick to Him, to whom it is good to stick, Whom to hold is blessed. If a man receives Him and commits himself to Him he is strong and safe." He was then told to make his will, and said it was a tiresome new custom, for all he had was not his, but belonged to the church he ruled; but lest the civil officer should take all, he made his will. "If any temporal goods should remain after my death in the bishopric, now here all which I seem to possess I hand over to the Lord Jesus Christ, to be bestowed upon the poor." The executors were the dean and the two archdeacons. After this simple but not surprising will he called for his stole and anathematized all who should knavishly keep back, or violently carry off, any of his goods, or otherwise frustrate his executors.

He grew worse. He confessed daily the lightest thought or word of impatience against his nurses. He was much in prayer, and he had the offices said at the right times however ill he was. He sang with the psalm-singers while he could. If they read or sang carelessly or hurriedly, he chastened them with a terrible voice and insisted upon clear pronunciation and perfect time. He made every one stand and sit by turns, so that while one set were resting the other were reverencing the divine and angelic presences. He had always been punctilious about the times of prayer and used always to withdraw from the bench to say his offices when they were due.

King John came in one day, but the bishop, who could sit up for his food, neither rose nor sat to greet him. The king said that he and his friends would do all they could for him. Then he sent out the courtiers and sat long and talked much and blandly; but Hugh answered very little, but shortly asked him to see to his and other bishops' wills and commended Lincoln to his protection; but he despaired of John and would not waste his beautiful words upon him. After the king, the archbishop came several times, and promised also to do what he could for him. The last time he came he hinted that Hugh must not forget to ask pardon from any he had unjustly hurt or provoked by word or deed. No answer from the bed! Then he became a little more explicit and said that he, Hugh's spiritual father and primate, had often been most bitterly provoked, and that really his forgiveness was most indispensible. The reply he got was more bracing than grateful. Archbishops rarely hear such naked verities. "It is quite true, and I see it well when I ponder all the hidden things of our conscience, that I have often provoked you to angers. But I do not find a single reason for repenting of it; but I know this, that I must grieve that I did not do it oftener and harder. But if my life should have to be passed longer with you I most firmly determine, under the eyes of all-seeing God, to do it much oftener than before. I can remember how, to comply with you, I have often and often been coward enough to keep back things which I ought to have spoken out to you, and which you would not well have brooked to hear, and so by my own fault I have avoided offence to you rather than to the Father which is in Heaven. On this count, therefore, it is that I have not only transgressed against God heavily and unbishoply, but against your fatherhood or primacy. And I humbly ask pardon for this." Exit the archbishop!

Now his faithful Boswell gives elaborate details of Hugh's long dying, not knowing that his work would speak to a generation which measures a man's favour with God by the oily slipperiness with which he shuffles off his clay coil. It was a case of hard dying, redoubled paroxysms, fierce fever, and bloody flux, and dreadful details. He would wear his sackcloth, and rarely change it, though it caked into knots which chafed him fiercely. But, though the rule allowed, he would not go soft to his end, however much his friends might entreat him to put off the rasping hair. "No, no, God forbid that I should. This raiment does not scrape, but soothe; does not hurt, but help," he answered sternly. He gave exact details of how he was to be laid on ashes on the bare earth at the last with no extra sackcloth. No bishops or abbots being at hand to commend him at the end, the monks of Westminster were to send seven or eight of their number and the Dean of St. Paul's a good number of singing clerks. His body was to be washed with the greatest care, to fit it for being taken to the holy chapel of the Baptist at Lincoln, and laid out by three named persons and no others. When it reached Lincoln it was to be arrayed in the plain vestments of his consecration, which he had kept for this. One little light gold ring, with a cheap water sapphire in it, he selected from all that had been given him. He had worn it for functions, and would bear it in death, and have nothing about him else to tempt folk to sacrilege. The hearers understood, foolishly, from this that he knew his body would be translated after its first sepulture, and for this reason he had it cased in lead and solid stone that no one should seize or even see his ornaments when he was moved. "You will place me," he said, "before the altar of my aforesaid patron, the Lord's forerunner, where there seems fitting room near some wall, in such wise that the tomb shall not inconveniently block the floor, as we see in many churches, and cause incomers to trip or fall." Then he had his beard and nails trimmed for death. Some of his ejaculations in his agonies are preserved. "O kind God, grant us rest. O good Lord and true God, give us rest at last." When they tried to cheer him by saying that the paroxysm was over he said, "How really blessed are those to whom even the last judgment day will bring unshaken rest." They told him his judgment day would be the day when he laid by the burden of the flesh. But he would not have it. "The day when I die will not be a judgment day, but a day of grace and mercy," he said. He astonished his physicians by the robust way in which he would move, and his manly voice bated nothing of its old power, though he spoke a little submissively. The last lection he heard was the story of Lazarus and Martha, and when they reached the words, "Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died," he bade them stop there. The funeral took up the tale where the reader left off, "I am the Resurrection and the Life."

They reminded him that he had not confessed any miscarriages of justice of which he had been guilty through private love or hate. He answered boldly, "I never remember that I knowingly wrested the truth in a judicial sentence either from hate or love, no, nor from hope or fear of any person or thing whatsoever. If I have gone awry in judgments it was a fault either of my own ignorance or assuredly of my assistants."

The leeches hoped much from meat, and, though the Order forbade it, his obedience was transferred to Canterbury. His friends posted off and got not only a permit, but a straight order enjoining this diet upon him. He said that neither for taste nor for medicine could he be prevailed upon to eat flesh. "But to avoid offending so many reverend men, and, too, lest, even in the state of death, we should fail to follow in the footsteps of Him who became obedient even unto death, let flesh be given to us. Now at the last we will freely eat it, sauced with brotherly love." When he was asked what he would like he said that he had read that the sick fathers had been given pig's trotters. But he made small headway with these unseasonable viands or with the poor "little birds" they next gave him. On the 16th of November, at sunset, the monks and clerks arrived. Hugh had strength to lay his hand upon Adam's head and bless him and the rest. They said to him, "Pray the Lord to provide a profitable pastor for your church," but their voices were dim in his ears, and only when they had asked it thrice he said, "God grant it!" The third election brought in great Grosseteste.

The company then withdrew for compline, and as they ended the xci. Psalm, "I will deliver him and bring him to honour," he was laid upon the oratory floor on the ashes, for he had given the sign; and while they chaunted Nunc Dimittis with a quiet face he breathed out his gallant soul, passing, as he had hoped, at Martinmas-tide "from God's camp to His palace, from His hope to His sight," in the time of that saint whom he greatly admired and closely resembled.

They washed his white, brave body, sang over it, watched it all night in St. Mary's Church, ringed it with candles, sang solemn Masses over it, embalmed it with odours, and buried the bowels near the altar in a leaden vessel. All London flocked, priests with crosses and candles, people weeping silently and aloud, every man triumphant if he could even touch the bier. Then they carried him in the wind and the rain, with lads on horseback holding torches (which never all went out at once), back to his own children. They started on Saturday{30} for Hertford, and by twilight next day they had reached Biggleswade on the Ivell, where he had a house, wherein the company slept. The mourning crowds actually blocked the way to the church. The bier was left in the church that Sunday night.

By Monday they got to Buckden, and on the Tuesday they had got as far as Stamford, but the crowds were so great here that hardly could they fight their way through till the very dead of the night. The body, of course, was taken into the church; and a pious cobbler prayed to die, and lo! die he did, having only just time for confession, shrift, and his will; and way was made for him in death, though he could not get near the bier in life. The story recalled to Adam's mind a saying of his late master when people mourned too immoderately for the dead -- "What are you about? What are you about? By Saint Nut" (that was his innocent oath), "by Saint Nut, it would indeed be a great misfortune for us if we were never allowed to die." He would praise the miraculous raising of the dead, but he thought that sometimes a miraculous granting of death is still more to be admired. At Stamford they bought horn lanterns instead of wax torches, for these last guttered so in the weather that the riders got wax all over their hands and clothes. Then they made for Ancaster, and on Thursday they came to Lincoln. Here were assembled all the great men of the realm, who came out to meet the bier. The kings of England and Scotland, the archbishops, bishops, abbots, and barons were all there. No man so great but he thought himself happy to help carry that bier up the hill. Shoulders were relieved by countless hands, these by other hands. The greatest men struggled for this honour. The rains had filled the streets with mud above the ankles, sometimes up to men's knees. All the bells of the town tolled and every church sang hymns and spiritual songs. Those who could not touch the bier tossed coins upon the hearse which held the body. Even the Jews came out and wept and did what service they could.

The body was taken to a bye place off the cathedral{31} and dressed as he had ordered -- with ring, gloves, staff, and the plain robes. They wiped the balsam from his face, and found it first white, but then the cheeks grew pink. The cathedral was blocked with crowds, each man bearing a candle. They came in streams to kiss his hands and feet and to offer gold and silver, and more than forty marks were given that day. John of Leicester laid a distich at his feet, much admired then, but "bald as his crown" to our ears:

"Staff to the bishops, to the monks a measure true, Counsel for schools, kings' hammer -- such behold was Hugh!"

The next day at the funeral his cheap vestments were torn in pieces by the relic-hunting, which it must be confessed he had done nothing to check; and he was buried near the wall not far from the altar of St. John Baptist, and, as seemed more suitable for the crowds who came there, on the northern side of the building itself.{32}

This tremendous funeral long lived in men's memory, and there is a far prettier verse about it than the old distich of John --

"A' the bells o' merrie Lincoln
Without men's hands were rung,
And a' the books o' merrie Lincoln
Were read without man's tongue;
And ne'er was such a burial
Sin' Adam's days begun."

Passing by the shower of gold rings, necklaces, and bezants which were given at his shrine, it is certain that the coals of enthusiasm were blown by the report of miracles, never for very long together kept at bay by mediaeval writers. While wishing to avoid the affirmatio falsi and to give no heed to lying fables, we must not risk being guilty of a suppressio veri. The miracles at the tomb come in such convenient numbers that their weight, though it possibly made the guardians of the shrine, yet breaks the tottering faith of the candid reader. But some are more robust, and for them there is a lively total which makes Giraldus's lament for the fewness of miracles in his day seem rather ungrateful. "Four quinsies" -- well, strong emotion will do much for quinsies. "One slow oozing" -- the disease being doubtful, we need not dispute the remedy. "Three paralytics" -- in the name of Lourdes, let them pass. "Three withered, two dumb, two hunchbacks, one boy dead" -- here we falter. "One jaundice case" sounds likelier; "one barren woman" need not detain us. "Four dropsies, four blind, and nine lunatics" -- and now we know the worst of it. It would have been a great deal easier to accept the whole in a venture (or forlorn hope) of faith if Hugh had witnessed and some one else performed these miracles, for he had a scrupulously veracious mind. He was so afraid of even the shadow of a lie that he used to attemper what he said with words of caution whenever he repeated what he had done or heard: "that is only as far as I recollect." He would not clap his seal to any letter which contained any questionable statement. "We remember to have cited you elsewhere," a common legal phrase, would damn a document if he did not remember, literally and personally, to have done so. His influence, too, can be discerned in the candid Adam, whose honest tale often furnishes us with an antidote to his impossible surmises. But veracity, unfortunately, is not highly infectious, and it is a little difficult not to believe that the high and serene virtues of the great man gone were promptly exploited for the small men left. One miracle there seems no reason to doubt. John, in an almost maudlin fit of emotional repentance, made peace at the funeral with his Cistercian enemies and founded them a home at Beaulieu in the New Forest. Indeed, these were the true miracles which recommended Hugh to the English people, so that they regarded him as a saint indeed, and clamoured for him to be called one formally -- the miracles wrought upon character, the callous made charitable, liars truthful, and the lechers chaste; the miracles of justice, of weak right made strong against proud might, and poor honesty made proof against rich rascality; the miracle of England made the sweeter and the handsomer for this humble and heavenly stranger.

The later history need not detain us long. His body was moved, says Thomas Wykes in the Annales Monastici, in the year 1219. Perhaps -- and this is a mere guess -- the place where his body lay was injured at the time of the battle and capture of Lincoln two years before; and for better protection the coffin was simply placed unopened in that curious position two-thirds into the wall of the apse foundation, where it was found in our day. In 1220 he was canonized by Pope Honorius III., who was then at Viterbo organising a crusade, after a report vouching for the miracles drawn up by the great Archbishop Stephen Langton and John of Fountains, a just and learned man, afterwards Treasurer of England.

Sixty years later, that is to say, in 1280, John Peckham, the pious friar archbishop, Oliver Sutton, the cloister-building Bishop of Lincoln, and others, among them King Edward I. and his good wife Eleanor, opened the tomb and lifted out the body into a shrine adorned with gold and jewels and placed it upon a marble pedestal in the Angel Choir, either where the modern tomb of Queen Eleanor now stands or just opposite. The head came away and sweated wonder-working oils, and was casketted and placed at the end of the present Burghersh tombs, as a shrine of which the broken pedestal and the knee-worn pavement are still to be seen. The body was placed in a shrine cased with plates of gold and silver, crusted with gems, and at the last protected by a grille of curious wrought iron. A tooth, closed in beryl with silver and gilt, appears as a separate item in the Reformation riflings. The history of both shrines and of the bones they held is a tale by itself, like most true tales ending in mystery. Perhaps, as King Henry VIII. had not much veneration for holy bones, but, like our enlightened age, much preferred gold, silver, and jewels, his destroying angels may have left the relics of Hugh's forsaken mortality to the lovely cathedral, where his memory, after seven centuries, is still pathetically and tenderly dear.


{27} Which alone still survives.

{28} Dunstan, Alphege, Lanfranc, Anselm, and others presumably.

{29} Roger de Roldeston, William de Blois, and Richard of Kent.

{30} November 18, 1200.

{31} Possibly on the site where St. Hugh's chapel now stands in desolation.

{32} A boreali ipsius aedis regione, not of the cathedral, but of the new honeycomb apse, please.

The Gresham Press

chapter ix under king john
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