Matthew Paris’ Version of the story of Young Hugh of Lincoln, 1255

 

Of the cruel treatment of the Jews for having crucified a boy

 

In this same year [1255], about the time of the festival of the apostles Peter and Paul, the Jews of Lincoln stole a boy of eight years of age whose name was Hugh; and, having shut him up in a room quite out of the way, where they fed him on milk and other childish nourishment, they sent to almost all the cities of England where the Jews lived, and summoned some of their sect from each city to be present at a sacrifice to take place at Lincoln; for they had, as they stated, a boy hidden for the purpose of being crucified. In accordance with the summons, a great many of them came to Lincoln, and on assembling, they at once appointed a Jew of Lincoln as judge to take the place of Pilate, by whose sentence, and with the concurrence of' all, the boy was subjected to divers tortures They beat him till blood flowed and he was quite livid, they crowned him with thorns, derided him and spat upon him. Moreover, he was pierced by each of them with a wood knife, was made to drink gall, was overwhelmed with approaches and blasphemies, and was repeatedly called Jesus the false prophet by his tormentors, who surrounded him, grinding and gnashing their teeth. After tormenting him in divers ways, they crucified him, and pierced him to the heart with a lance. After the boy had expired, they took his body down from the cross and disembowelled it; for what reason we do not know, but it was asserted to be for the purpose of practising magical opera­tions. The boy's mother had been for some days diligently seeking after her absent son, and having been told by the neighbours that they had last seen him playing with some Jewish boys of his own age, and entering the house of one of that sect, she suddenly made her way into that house, and saw the body of the child in a well into which it had been thrown. The bailiffs of the city having then been cautiously assembled, the body was found and withdrawn from the well, and then an extraordinary sight was presented to the people, whilst the mother of the child by her cries and lamentations, excited the grief and compassion of all the citizens who had flocked together to that place. There was present at this scene one John of Lexington, a man of learning, prudent and discreet, and he thus addressed the people: " We, have already learned," said he, "that the Jews have not hesitated to attempt such proceedings as a reproach and taunt to our lord Jesus Christ, who was crucified;" then addressing a Jew who had been seized upon, and the one whose house the boy had gone into whilst at play, and who was therefore an object of greater suspicion than the others, he said to him : "Wretched man, do you not know that a speedy death awaits you? Not all the gold of England will avail to ransom you, and save you from your fate. However, I will tell you, undeserving as you are, how you may preserve your life and prevent your limbs from being mutilated. Both of these I will guarantee to you, if you will without fear or hesitation disclose to me, without any falsehood, all that has happened on this occasion." The Jew, whose name was Copin, thinking he had found a means of escape, then said, "'My lord John, if by your deeds you will repay me for my statements, I will reveal wonderful things to you." Then, being urged on and encouraged by the eloquence of John to do so, he continued: "What the Christians say is true for almost every year the Jews crucify a boy as an insult to the name of Jesus. But one is not found every year, for they only carry on these proceedings privately, and in out of the way places. This boy Hugh, however, our Jews crucified without mercy, and after he was dead, and when they wished to hide his corpse, considering the body of a child useless to draw an [140] under the ground as they wished to do; for in the morning, when they thought it was hidden from sight, the earth vomited it forth, and the corpse appeared unburied above ground; which circumstance, struck the Jew with horror. Finally, it was thrown into a well but even there, it could not be kept from sight, for the mother of the child, searching into all these misdeeds, discovered the body of the child and informed the bailiffs,"    After hearing those disclosures, John detained the Jew in close confinement. When these Circumstances came to the knowledge of the canons

of the cathedral church of Lincoln, they asked for the body of the child, which was given to them; and after it had been shown as a sight to an immense number of people, it was honourably buried in the church of Lincoln as if it had been the corpse of a precious martyr. It should be known that the Jews had kept the boy for ten days, feeding him on milk all that time, so that during life he endured many kinds of torments. When the king, on his return from the north of England, was informed of this occurrence, he reproached John for having promised life and limb to such a wicked being; which he had no right to do; for a blasphemer and murderer like him deserved to die many times over. When the guilty man saw that unavoidable punishment was impending over him, he said, "My death is imminent, nor can John aid or save me from perishing; now I will tell all of you the truth. Almost all the Jews of England agreed to the murder of this boy, of which they (the Jews) are accused, and from almost every city of England in which Jews dwell some of that sect were selected and summoned to be present at the sacrifice of him, as at a paschal offering," After he had given utterance to these words and to other ravings, he was tied to a horse's tail and dragged to the gallows, where he, was delivered over body and soul to the evil spirits of the air. The rest of the Jews who had participated in the crime, to the number of ninety-one, were carried to London in carts, and consigned to close imprisonment; and if they were perchance pitied by any Christians, they did not excite any tears of compassion amongst the Caursins, their rivals.

 

How eighteen Jews were dragged to the gallows and hung.

 

Afterwards, on an inquisition made by the king's justicia­ries, it was discovered and decided that the Jews of England had by common consent crucified and put to death an innocent boy, after having flagellated him for several days; but for this offence, on the mother of the aforesaid boy making an appeal to the king against them for the said murder, God, the Lord of vengeance, visited them with retribution according to their deserts. For on St. Clement’s Day, eighteen of the richer and higher order of Jews of the city of Lincoln were dragged to the new gibbets, erected specially for the purpose, and were hung up, an offering to the winds. More than eighty others also were kept in close confinement in the Tower of London, awaiting a similar fate.

 

Matthew Paris’s English History, tr. J.A. Giles (Bohn’s Library: 3 vols., London 1852-4), ii. 138-41,
from Mathaei Parisiensis Chronica Majora, ed. H.R. Luard (Rolls Series: 7 vols., London, 1872-83), v. 516-9.  
Cf. Gavin Langmuir, Toward a Definition of Antisemitism, chap. 10 “The Knight’s Tale of Young Hugh of Lincoln”, 237-62.