Hugh of Lincoln°

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HUGH OF LINCOLN ° (c. 1246–1255), alleged victim of ritual murder. His body was found in a well in the Jewish quarter of *Lincoln by his mother, about Passover time 1255, near the house of a Jew named Copin. Under torture, Copin stated that he had killed the child for the fulfillment of the Jewish paschal rites. Henry iii went to Lincoln to take charge of the proceedings. Copin was barbarously executed and some 90 Jews, including R. *Benedict of Lincoln (Berechiah of Nicole), were tried in London. Eighteen of them were put to death and the others pardoned through the influence of the king's brother, Richard of Cornwall. The child Hugh came to be regarded as a saint, and it was said that miracles were performed by his corpse which was buried under a magnificent tomb in the cathedral. His birthday (August 27) was celebrated, though with diminishing importance, until the Reformation; the story is reverently mentioned by *Chaucer in The Prioress's Tale, and the alleged martyrdom was commemorated in many English and French ballads. The beatification was informal, however, and was not recognized officially by the Roman Catholic Church. For centuries a shrine to Hugh of Lincoln existed at Lincoln Cathedral. In 1955 this was replaced by a plaque declaring the story of his ritual murder to be "fiction." Little St. Hugh is to be distinguished from st. hugh of lincoln, i.e., Hugh of Avalon, bishop of Lincoln 1186–1200, who was officially canonized in 1220. His treatment of the Jews was kindly, and Jews are stated, together with the rest of the population, to have mourned his death.


Jacobs, in: jhset, 1 (1893–94), 89–135; idem, Jewish Ideals and Other Essays (1896); J.W.F. Hill, Medieval Lincoln (1948), 224–32; A. Hume, Sir Hugh of Lincoln (1849); F. Michel, Hugues de Lincoln (1834); Roth, England3, 56–57. add. bibliography: odnb online.

[Cecil Roth]