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St. Hugh

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(Called LITTLE SAINT HUGH OF LINCOLN.)

St. Hugh was the son of a poor woman of Lincoln named Beatrice; born about 1246; died in 1255. The Jews of Lincoln are said to have crucified him, his body, bearing the marks of crucifixion, being found some days after his death, at the bottom of a well belonging to a Jew named Copin. Copin was accused of having enticed the child into his house. A large number of Jews were gathered together, and they are said to have tortured the child, to have scourged and crowned him with thorns, and crucified him in mockery of Christ's death. The story goes on to say that the earth refusing to cover Hugh's body, it was cast into a well. Some time after the child had been missed, his playfellows told his mother how they had seen him follow the Jew. On going to Copin's house, she discovered the body. Copin was accused of murder, confessed the crime when threatened with death, and stated that it was a Jewish custom to crucify a boy once a year. Miracles were said to have been wrought at the child's tomb, and the canons of Lincoln translated the body from the church of the parish to which Hugh belonged, and buried it in great state in the cathedral. Copin was put to a cruel death and eighteen Jews were hanged at Lincoln, while about ninety were imprisoned in London. These were found guilty and condemned to death, but they were released on the payment of a large fine.

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The martyrdom of St. Hugh became a very popular subject for the ballad poetry of the Middle Ages, and we find a reference to it in Chaucer's "Prioresses Tale". Whether there was any basis of truth in the accusation against the Jews there is now no means of ascertaining. There seems to be little doubt that such accusations were sometimes made for the purpose of extorting money. A discussion of the question will be found in the article on St. William of Norwich. The feast of "Little Hugh" was held on 27 July.


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