Lincoln is an ancient English city stretching back to the Celts and Romans. But it was in the Viking and medieval eras that Lincoln came into its own. And the connection with the Knights Templar was strong!
Lincoln – a Templar city!
I first went to Lincoln as a child in the 1970s. And the cathedral just blew my little mind away. For most of the Middle Ages, it was the tallest building in the world after the Great Pyramid. Contradict me if you know better. I’m happy to find out that somewhere in Mexico or China just didn’t get the recognition it deserved!
That record was only broken in 1548 when the central spire of the cathedral collapsed. To get an idea of how tall the cathedral spire was then look at the image below (courtesy Aidan McRae Thomson). When the Knights Templar came into being, work on the cathedral was already in its third or fourth decade, having started in the late 11th century.
Bishop Hugh of Lincoln – like the Knights Templar – protective towards the Jews
The most prominent bishop of Lincoln during the Knight Templar period was Hugh of Lincoln. He came from Avalon in France – not to be confused with the Avalon in England of Arthurian fame. The English Avalon is of course associated with the Knights Templar through the Holy Grail and King Arthur stories I detail elsewhere on this blog.
Hugh, like the Norman and Angevin rulers of England, came over from France. He assumed the bishopric of Lincoln and like his contemporary Thomas Becket – Archbishop of Canterbury – had a stormy relationship with King Henry II. Only unlike Thomas, he didn’t end up being murdered by the kings’ knights. Hugh knew when to pull back in his rows with the king.
While Hugh was bishop of Lincoln, there was a growing tide of anti-Semitism. The Jewish community bore the brunt of popular bigotry against outsiders that accompanied the beginning of the Crusades. Hugh intervened to stop mass lynchings but with mixed results. It’s often claimed that the Knights Templar were also instrumental in trying to protect Jews in Lincoln and elsewhere.
After Hugh’s death, a hysteria broke out decades later across the city over the alleged killing of a boy – coincidentally called Hugh of Lincoln. It was alleged that he’d been killed as part of a bloody ritual enacted by the Jewish community. This was rubbish and part of the so-called ‘blood libel’ myth aimed at Jewish people during the medieval era.
But the blood libel myth spread like wild fire during the 13th century and a bishop of Lincoln called Henry of Lexington stoked the fire to encourage pilgrims to visit the cathedral. That bishop’s brother – John of Lexington – personally tortured a Jewish man called ‘Copin’ to extract a confession to the murder of the boy Hugh. His body broken, Copin made wild claims about his fellow Jews sacrificing a Christian child once a year.
If Copin was hoping for immunity after this confession – fat chance. He and other members of the community were gruesomely executed. And the boy Hugh was given a saint’s funeral inside the cathedral.
Knights Templar in Lincoln and the county of Lincolnshire
There’s an interesting news article HERE from the Scunthorpe Telegraph about the Templars in Lincolnshire.
It name checks Bottesford Preceptory, one of several Templar estates in the county. A Preceptory, by the way, was a Templar manor and would include farms, mills, workshops, living quarters, a great hall and a chapel. There was a vast network of Preceptories across Europe stretching from Wales to the Holy Land.
Templar preceptories in Lincolnshire included Witham and Aslackby as well as Great Limber and Temple Bruer. It must be said that today’s remains give little away – in some cases, there’s nothing left. Temple Bruer, for example, was used for military exercises but you’ll only find a farmyard there now.
If you are planning a visit to Lincolnshire, you do have the splendid medieval cathedral at Lincoln and nearby medieval buildings to sate your interest in this period of history.
If you have any further information about the Knights Templar in Lincolnshire – do share!