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History of the Christian Church, Volume V: The Middle Ages. A.D. 1049-1294.
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§ 129. Two English Bishops.


For Hugh of Lincoln: The magna vita, by his chaplain, Adam, ed. by Dimock, Lond., 1864;—a metrical Life, ed. by Dimock, Lond., 1860,—G. G. Perry: St. Hugh of Avalon, Lond., 1879.—H. Thurston (Rom. Cath.): St Hugh of Lincoln, Lond., 1898, transl. from the French, with copious additions.—J. A. Froude: A Bishop of the Twelfth Century, in Short Studies on Great Subjects, 2d series, pp. 54–86.

For Grosseteste: His Epistolae, ed. by Luard, Lond., 1861; Monumenta Franc., ed. by Brewer.—M. Paris, Luard’s ed.—Lives of Grosseteste, by Pegge, Lond., 1793.—Lechler, in his Life of Wiclif, transl. by Lorimer, pp. 20–40.—G. G. Perry, Lond., 1871.—Felten, Freib., 1887.—F. S. Stevenson, Lond., 1899.—M. Creighton: in Hist. Lectt. and Addresses, Lond., 1903.—C. Bigg, in Wayside Sketches in Eccles. Hist., Lond., 1906. — Dict. of Nat’l Biog.


Most prominent among the English ecclesiastics of the period, as faithful administrators of their sees, are Hugh and Robert Grosseteste, both bishops of Lincoln.19921992    Stubbs, Const. Hist., II.313, in pronouncing the thirteenth century "the golden age of English churchmanship," has reference more particularly to the influence the bishops had upon the formation of the English constitution.

Hugh of Lincoln, or Hugh of Avalon, as he is also called, 1140–1200, was pronounced by Ruskin the most attractive sacerdotal figure known to him in history;19931993    Praeterita III. 1. clay, whose story should be familiar to every English boy."

Born near Grenoble, France, he was taken in his ninth year, on his mother’s death, to a convent; afterwards he entered the Grande Chartreuse, and followed an invitation from Henry II., about 1180, to take charge of the Carthusian monastery of St. Witham, which the king had founded a few years before. In 1186 he was chosen bishop of Lincoln, the most extensive diocese in England.19941994    Cencio’s register gave the number of households owing Peter’s Pence, as 10,080 for Lincoln, 4160 for Winchester, 3960 for London, and 1896 for Canterbury.

Hugh’s friendship with Henry did not prevent him from resisting the king’s interference in the affairs of his diocese. When the king attempted to force a courtier into one of the prebends of Lincoln, the bishop sent the reply, "Tell the king that hereafter ecclesiastical benefices are to be bestowed not upon courtiers but upon ecclesiastics." He excommunicated the grand forester for encroaching upon the rights of the people. The king was enraged, but the bishop remained firm. The forests were strictly guarded so as to protect the game, and also, as is probable, to prevent Saxons from taking refuge in their recesses. The foresters and rangers were hated officials. The loss of the eyes and other brutal mutilations were the penalties for encroachment.

Towards Richard and John, Hugh showed the same independent spirit as towards Henry. At the council of Oxford, 1197, he dared to refuse consent to Richard’s demands for money, an almost unheard-of thing.19951995    Stubbs, ed. of Hoveden, IV. p. xcii, calls this a "landmark of English constitutional history, the first clear case of a refusal of a money grant demanded directly by the crown."is castle on the rock of Andely. This was the famous castle built in a single year, of which Philip said, "I would take it if it were iron." To which Richard replied, "I would hold it if it were butter." Upon Hugh’s departure, Richard is reported to have said, "If all prelates were like the bishop of Lincoln, not a prince among us could lift his head against them."

Hugh’s enlightened treatment of the Jews has already been referred to. He showed his interest in the lepers, built them a house, cared for them with his own hands, and called them "the flowers of Paradise, and jewels in the crown of heaven." The Third Lateran had ordered separate churches and burial grounds for lepers. His treatment of the tomb of Fair Rosamonde was more in consonance with the canons of that age than agreeable to the spirit of our own. When, on a visit to Gadstow, he found her buried in the convent church, with lamps kept constantly burning over her body, he ordered the body removed, saying that her life was scandalous, and that such treatment would be a lesson to others to lead chaste lives. In his last moments Hugh was laid on a cross of ashes. John, who was holding a council at Lincoln, helped to carry the body to its resting-place. The archbishop of Canterbury and many bishops took part in the burial ceremonies. The Jews shed tears. Hugh was canonized in 1220, and his shrine became a place of pilgrimage.

One of the striking stories told of Hugh, the story of the swan, is attested by his chaplain and by Giraldus Cambrensis, who witnessed the swan’s movements. The swan, which had its nest at Stow, one of the bishop’s manors, was savage and unmanageable till Hugh first saw it. The bird at once became docile, and learned to follow the bishop’s voice, eat from his hand, and to put his bill up his sleeve. It seemed to know instinctively when the bishop was coming on a visit, and for several days before would fly up and down the lake flapping its wings. It kept guard over him when he slept.

Robert Grosseteste, 1175–1253, had a wider range of influence than Hugh, and was probably the most noteworthy Englishman of his generation.19961996    His name is spelt Grossetete, Grosthead, Greathead, etc. The Latin forms, Grossum Caput and Capito, were also used. Fuller, with more quaintness than authority, says he got his name from the bigness of his head, "having large stowage to receive and store of brains to fill it." Stevenson, p. 337, adduces three lines along which Grosseteste did conspicuous service; namely, as an ecclesiastical reformer, a friend of learning, and a statesman.r of abuses, and a forerunner of Wyclif in his use of the Scriptures. Roger Bacon, his ardent admirer, said that no one really knew the sciences but Robert of Lincoln.19971997    Solus ... novit scientias. Bridges’ ed., I. 67. Gower, in his confessio amantis, praises the "grete clerke Grosseteste." as Lincolniensis, "he of Lincoln."

Born in England, and of humble origin, a fact which was made by the monks of Lincoln an occasion of derision, he pursued his studies in Oxford and Paris, and subsequently became chancellor of Oxford. He was acquainted with Greek, and knew some Hebrew. He was a prolific writer, and was closely associated with Adam Marsh.19981998    The Mon. Francisc. gives sixty of Marsh’s letters to Grosseteste.

No one welcomed the advent of the Mendicant Friars to England with more enthusiasm than did Grosseteste. He regarded their coming as the dawn of a new era, and delivered the first lectures in their school at Oxford, and left. them his, library, though he never took the gray cowl himself, as did Adam Marsh.

On being raised to the see of Lincoln, 1235, Grosseteste set out in the work of reforming monastic and clerical abuses, which brought him uninterrupted trouble till the close of his career. He set himself against drinking bouts, games in the churches and churchyards, and parish parades at episcopal visitations. The thoroughness of his episcopal oversight was a novelty. He came down like a hammer upon the monks, reports Matthew Paris, and the first year be removed seven abbots and four priors. At Ramsey he examined the very beds, and broke open the monks’ coffers like "a burglar," destroying their silver utensils and ornaments.19991999    M. Paris, V. 226. The methods the bishop resorted to for determining the fidelity of the nuns to their vows is also recorded by M. Paris.e? Has he the requisite experience? Is he willing to take them into fitting pastures in the morning, to defend them against thieves and wild beasts, to watch over them at night? And are not your souls of more value than many swine?"

The most protracted contest of his life was with his dean and chapter over the right of episcopal visitation.20002000    Letter 127. See Luard’s Introd., p. 114.er’s flocks. He was finally sustained by the pope.

In no way did the great bishop win a more sure place in history than by his vigorous resistance to the appointment of unworthy Italians to English livings and to other papal measures. In 1252, he opposed the collection of a tenth for a crusade which had the pope’s sanction. He declined to execute the king’s mandate legitimatizing children born before wedlock. His most famous refusal to instal an Italian, was the case of the pope’s nephew, Frederick of Lavagna. The pope issued a letter threatening with excommunication any one who might venture to oppose the young man’s induction. Grosseteste, then seventy-five years old, replied, declaring, "I disobey, resist, and rebel."20012001    Ep. 128. Adam Marsh referred to the letter "as that fearless answer written with so much prudence, eloquence, and vigor, which will, with God’s aid, benefit all ages to come." See Stevenson, p. 312. M. Paris, V. 257, states that Grosseteste declared he would be acting like the devil if he were to deliver the cure of souls over to the Romans, "whom he hated like poison."ing to describe the scene in the papal household when the letter was received, relates that Innocent IV., raved away at the deaf and foolish dotard who had so audaciously dared to sit in judgment upon his actions." Notwithstanding this attitude to the appointment of unworthy Italians, the bishop recognized the principle that to the pope belongs the right of appointing to all the benefices of the church.20022002    De omnibus beneficiis eccles. libere potest ordinare. Ep., 49, Luard’s ed., p. 145.

On his visit to Lyons, 1250, Grosseteste’s memorandum against the abuses of the clergy was read in the pope’s presence. "Not in dispensing the mass but in teaching the living truth" does the work of the pastor consist, so it declared. "The lives of the clergy are the book of the laity." Adam Marsh, who was standing by, compared the arraignment to the arraignments of Elijah, John the Baptist, Paul, Athanasius, and Augustine of Hippo.

According to Matthew Paris, on the night of Grosseteste’s death strange bells were heard. Miracles were reported performed at his tomb, and the rumor ran that, when Innocent was proposing to have the bishop’s body removed from its resting-place in the cathedral, Grosseteste appeared to the pope in a dream, gave him a sound reprimand, and left him half dead. The popular veneration was shown in the legend that on the night of Innocent IV’s death the bishop appeared to him with the words, "Aryse, wretch, and come to thy dome."

In the earlier part of his life, Grosseteste preached in Latin; in the latter he often used the vernacular. He was the greatest English preacher of his age. He was not above the superstitions of his time, and one of his famous sermons was preached before Henry III. at the reception of the reputed blood of Christ.20032003    M. Paris, IV. 643 sqq., VI. 138-144. Scriptures at the university, and the dedication of the morning hours to it, and emphasized their authority.20042004    ·Ep. 2. auctoritas irrefragabilis scripturae.20052005    Bishop Hall quoted Grosseteste for his scriptural views, and Field, Of the Church, IV. 384 sqq., quoted him against the pope’s claim to supreme authority, but wrongly.

Of Grosseteste’s writings the best known was probably his de cessatione legalium, the End of the Law, a book intended to convince the Jews. With the aid of John of Basingstoke, he translated the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, which Basingstoke had found in Constantinople.20062006    Pegge devotes twenty-five closely filled pages with the list of the bishop’s books.scribed, as penance, a cupfull of the best wine. After the medicine had been taken, Grosseteste said, "Dear brother, if you would frequently do such penance, you would have a better ordered conscience."20072007    Mon. Franc., p. 64.

Matthew Paris (V. 407) summed up the bishop’s career in these words:—

"He was an open confuter of both popes and kings, the corrector of monks, the director of priests, the instructor of clerks, the supporter of scholars, a preacher to the people, a persecutor of the incontinent, the unwearied student of the Scriptures, a crusher and despiser of the Romans. At the table of bodily meat, he was hospitable, eloquent, courteous, and affable; at the spiritual table, devout, tearful, and contrite. In the episcopal office he was sedulous, dignified, and indefatigable."




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