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Lincoln Cathedral, tomb of St Hugh f.115

Lincoln Cathedral, tomb of St Hugh f.115

Artist: Grimm, Samuel Hieronymus

Medium: Ink wash on paper

Date: 1791

Shelfmark: Additional MS 15541

Item number: f.115

Genre: Manuscript

A view in ink of the skeleton of 'Little St Hugh' in his stone coffin and lead wrapper, in the south aisle of the choir of Lincoln Cathedral. Hugh was a nine-year-old boy living with his widowed mother in the Dernstall area of Lincoln. He disappeared during the summer of 1255 and his body was eventually found at the bottom of a well in the basement of a house now known as Jews Court. As the last people Hugh had been seen with were Jewish children, the authorities began to arrest local Jews, eventually hanging 18 of them and subjecting one (the putative ringleader) to a public mutilation, dragging him around the city from a horse. No effort was made to discover whether anyone else could have murdered Hugh, or whether his death could have been a tragic accident. The men were accused of ritually torturing and crucifying the boy, and were themselves tortured until they confessed having done so.

After Hugh's body was taken home, a large crowd collected at his house, and stories of miraculous cures began circulating. One concerned a blind woman who recovered her sight after touching the corpse. Lincoln Cathedral authorities took possession of the body and buried it in the cathedral. Hugh was never formally canonised by the Church of Rome.

Geoffrey Chaucer refers to the legend of Little St Hugh in his Prioresses Tale, while Christopher Marlowe mentions it in the Jew of Malta.

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