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Hugh Of Lincoln, Saint

HUGH OF LINCOLN, SAINT (1246-27 August 1255), a native of Lincoln, England, also known as "Little Saint Hugh of Lincoln", was a child of about ten years old when he was found dead in a well, allegedly with wounds as those of Christ crucified - hands and feet pierced, etc. An enormous controversy erupted, with extravagant accusations being hurled on all sides. Great and general indignation was aroused, with several parties appearing to seek gain from the circumstances.

Various versions of the story exist, along similar themes, though the "case" of who murdered Hugh, or if indeed he was murdered at all, appears never to have been entirely resolved - and likely never will, the mists of time having descended upon the murky story.

It was said, and the story was generally believed, that the boy had been scourged and ritually murdered in a contemptuous ritual imitation of the death of Jesus Christ - and the Jews were accused of his murder, in a highly spurious charge now thought by many to be pure racial persecution: In those days, fabricated tales of the murder of Christian children by Jews, perhaps used as a form of "Crusade propaganda", were rife and cost many Jews their lives.

However, there was a further angle to the story. Just six months prior, King Henry III had sold the rights to tax Jews to his brother, Richard, Earl of Cornwall. It's said that in an ingenious stroke of cunning, he realized that he could seize their property if they were convicted of crime. Ninety Jews were arrested and eighteen were hanged, accounts stating either that they had confessed under torture or that they had refused to participate in the trial, convinced that they would be "as lambs to the slaughter" before a Christian jury.

The property of the eighteen was taken over by Henry, and the rest were pardoned - possibly after some intervention from Richard of Cornwall (who also had financial interests to look after!), possibly after the payment of a large sum of money.

News of these terrible events spread throughout the Christian world, and Hugh began to be seen as a Christian martyr. Miraculous tales, likely gradually embellished, began to be attributed to him. Hugh was pronounced a saint soon after his death but the Vatican never officially canonized him. His legend however has endured as a popular folk tale in various forms: The incident is referred to by Chaucer in the Prioresses Tale and by Marlowe in the Jew of Malta.

Places associated with his life became places of pilgrimage, even up to the early 20th century.

Additional source: Wikipedia, Little Saint Hugh of Lincoln

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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