Dates for assembly

11th November 2005 at 00:00
November 13 St Hugh of Lincoln

Bishop Hugh of Lincoln was something of a rarity: a shrewd but likable administrator. After his death in 1200, he was revered for his holiness.

Outline script

When Lincoln cathedral was severely damaged by an earthquake in 1185, King Henry II appointed a monk called Hugh to be its new bishop and to oversee the rebuilding. At first reluctant, Hugh accepted the job. He arranged for stone to be quarried, stonemasons, carpenters and glaziers to be employed - and, it is said, he also helped to carry wood and stone to where it was needed.

Hugh lived at Stow, near Lincoln. Around his house was a moat on which lived a wild swan. When Hugh arrived, his servants warned him that the swan was fierce. Hugh's answer was to leave his door open. Eventually, with a great flapping of white wings, in walked the swan. Hugh held out a piece of bread. It stretched out its neck and gently took the bread. From then on, Hugh and the swan were friends.

Hugh often had to travel on church business. When he was away, the swan stayed on the moat with another, smaller, swan. Strangely, the big swan seemed to know when Hugh was returning. It would swim up and down in agitation, but when Hugh appeared, it would come quietly up to him. Hugh hid bread for it up his sleeve, and the swan would push its beak softly up the sleeve looking for it.

Meanwhile, the rebuilding of Lincoln cathedral continued and Hugh was also busy building hospitals. One time when he was away, the swan became listless. Its wings floated limply and its head drooped. People thought it might be dying but, at that precise time in London, Bishop Hugh was dying.

Thousands attended his funeral to give thanks for the man who had rebuilt the cathedral, helped the sick and treated people fairly. The swan eventually recovered and lived with the smaller swan on the moat for many more years.

Follow-up

* Encourage pupils to talk about their relationships with pets and any unexpected animal behaviour.

* Talk about special relationships between humans and animals in history and literature, such as Androcles and the lion; St Francis, the patron saint of animals, or Billy in A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hinds.

* Discuss what animals give us and our obligations to them.

* There is a simple biography of Hugh at www.sthughs.co.ukWhoHugh.htm

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