Saint Hugh of Lincoln, born at Avalon Castle in Burgundy, was the son of William, Lord of Avalon. His early years were shaped by tragedy and devotion; following his mother’s death when he was eight, he was brought up in the convent at Villard-Benoit. Embracing religious life early, he was professed at fifteen and became a deacon at nineteen. His spiritual journey led him to the Grande Chartreuse during a visit in 1160, where he chose to become a Carthusian monk and later, ordained.
Hugh’s religious fervor and leadership skills soon saw him rise through the ranks. In 1175, he achieved a significant milestone by becoming the Abbot of England’s first Carthusian monastery, established by King Henry II as atonement for Thomas Becket’s murder. His tenure there was marked by his reputation for holiness and sanctity, drawing many to the monastery and extending his influence across England.
Notably, Hugh was unafraid to challenge authority for moral reasons. He criticized King Henry II for benefiting financially from keeping church Sees vacant. His integrity and reputation for wisdom led to his reluctant acceptance of the position of Bishop of Lincoln in 1186, a role he embraced only under direct orders from the prior of the Grande Chartreuse. As bishop, Hugh revitalized clerical discipline and religious practice in the diocese, becoming known for his wisdom and justice.
Hugh’s commitment to justice extended beyond the church. He was a vocal opponent of the persecution of Jews in England between 1190-91. Courageously, he confronted armed mobs, demanding the release of Jewish victims, exemplifying his commitment to protecting all under his spiritual care.
His later years saw him engage in diplomatic missions, including a significant journey to France on behalf of King John in 1199. This trip, which included visits to the Grande Chartreuse, Cluny, and Citeaux, took a toll on his health. Returning to England in declining health, Hugh continued his duties until his death in London on November 16, following a national council.
Hugh of Lincoln’s life, marked by devotion, courage, and a commitment to justice, led to his canonization in 1220, making him the first Carthusian to receive this honor. His legacy remains a testament to the impact of spiritual dedication and moral courage.