Hugh of Lincoln: the Hammer of Kings

Described by John Ruskin as “the most beautiful sacerdotal figure known to me in history,” the heroic bishop triumphantly upheld his office against two proud and strong-willed English sovereigns.

“BISHOPS ARE ALWAYS  TIMID” was a popular, if misleading, medieval adage until a Carthusian monk became Bishop of Lincoln. In the twelfth century, when kings, feudal lords and ecclesiastics were bickering over their respective jurisdictions, a Carthusian named Hugh of Avalon was summoned to England by King Henry II. After the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in 1170, Henry was doing his best to appease Rome and his equally horrified subjects by founding new English monasteries; and he requested Hugh, who had been born in 1140 and had become widely known as an efficient builder and treasurer at the secluded Carthusian monastery of the Grande Chartreuse, to establish the first English Charterhouse on his own royal estate near Witham in Somerset.

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