Canterbury, UK - Canterbury Cathedral and Hugh of Jervaulx
The Canterbury Cathedral is a beautiful church located in the United Kingdom. Canterbury is the home of the stained glass windows that are better known as the “Miracle windows."
It all started in 1170 when Thomas Becket was murdered by King Henry II’s knights while he was praying in the Cathedral. A goldsmith and a few monks put his brains into a basin and his body was brought to the crypt. The doors to the crypt were closed for three months and were later opened to the public. Archbishop Becket was soon known as Saint Thomas and people from near and far would visit his tomb. They believed that he could cure any issues that someone had. There was an estimate of 100,000 visitors after his death. Becket's miracles first took place at his tomb “then through the whole crypt, then the whole church, then all of Canterbury, then England, then France, Normandy, Germany, [and the] whole world” (“The Miracles of St Thomas Becket").
A few years after Saint Thomas’s death, the Canterbury Cathedral had to be rebuilt after it was damaged by a fire. Along with the rebuilding of the Cathedral, three stained glass windows were put into the Cathedral that could, “depict miracles believed to be wrought by the saint” (Preston).
These windows tell the stories of Saint Thomas’s miracles. The miracles that are presented in the windows were documented by two monks named Benedict of Peterborough and William of Canterbury. These two monks were appointed to keep a book to document the 703 miracles that happened when the visitors visited Thomas Becket’s tomb before the Cathedral was rebuilt. The miracles are documented now on the stained glass windows in the Cathedral. The stories range from the cure of leprosy to paralysis, blindness, and epilepsy. Each window shows the before and after of the events that are depicted in each story. One person in particular who is depicted in one of these windows as being a part of Saint Thomas’s miracle stories is Hugh of Jervaulx.
Hugh of Jervaulx was a cellerar. Cellerars would supervise the monastery's food, ale, and wines. His story is depicted as a teardrop shape. This theme shows how the physician is not successful in attending Hugh. As he lies in bed, Abbot of Jervaulx observes his behaviors. In this case, the surgeons and physicians show that they are ineffective. This ineffectiveness is a theme in Saint Thomas’s miracles. The next scene is at the top of the stained glass window, in which the Abbot steps in and blesses Hugh by having him drink the holy water of Saint Thomas.
The third scene of this window shows blood pouring down Hugh's nose. The blood is shown as a long red ribbon that flows onto the floor. The blood that flows down from his nose was the “treatment" he received. Some people may have wondered if the bleeding would worsen or cure the disease that Hugh had. However, Hugh was actually healed from this bleeding, confirming another miracle by Saint Thomas.
The treatment that was given to Hugh of Jervaulx is very different from what we see in today's treatment for people who are disabled or diseased. In the miracle stories that are depicted on the stained glass windows, the physicians always tend to fail to help or cure their patients. This leads to healing through God and Saint Thomas.
“Disability in the Medieval Period 1050-1485.” Historic England, historicengland.org.uk/research/inclusive-heritage/disability-history/1050-1485/.
Preston, Cheryl. “The Miracles at Canterbury.” The Getty Iris, 25 July 2018, blogs.getty.edu/iris/the-miracles-at-canterbury/.
“The Miracles of St Thomas Becket.” Historic UK, www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofEngland/Miracles-Of-St-Thomas-Becket/.