Evesham, Hugh of
- Faye Getz
Evesham, Hugh of (d. 1287), physician and cardinal, was born, and possibly educated, at Evesham, before first making his name at Oxford University, where he distinguished himself as a peacemaker in various university disputes between 1267 and 1274. However, he sided with the Dominicans against the Franciscans in their battle over evangelical poverty in 1269. In 1275 he was granted licence, as archdeacon of Worcester, to study abroad for a year. Archbishop John Pecham (d. 1292) referred in correspondence to acquaintance with Hugh 'vel in curia vel in scholis' ('both at the curia and in school'; Martin, 1.219). The men were near contemporaries and it is likely that they knew each other at Oxford and at Paris and, later on, at the papal court, probably before 1279.
By the early 1270s Hugh was styled king's clerk, serving Edward I and his mother, Eleanor of Provence, probably as a medical adviser. By 1279 he was being referred to in English documents as a famous physician. Hugh enjoyed numerous royal and ecclesiastical incomes and honours, especially in the diocese of York, where he was presented to the rectories of Hemingbrough and Spofforth, and became prebendary of Bugthorpe in 1279. In the same year, his friend William de Wickwane (d. 1285) was chosen ahead of Hugh as archbishop of York and in 1282 asked him to mediate at Rome in William's disputes with the archbishop of Canterbury and the bishop of Durham.
Hugh, like many church officials, found the vogue for alchemical medicine at the papal court during the latter part of the thirteenth century an excellent road to papal patronage. Either Nicholas III (r. 1277–80) or Martin IV (r. 1281–5) commissioned him to find a cure for a fever raging around Rome, and it is possible that he became a medical adviser to Martin in 1280. The pope created him cardinal-priest of San Lorenzo in Lucina on 23 March 1281, a position he held until his death at Rome on 27 July 1287. He was buried in his own church of San Lorenzo. Rumour persisted that Hugh died by poisoning, but such stories were common explanations for sudden death from any unknown cause. He had remained archdeacon of Worcester until his death, and in his will he made a bequest to at least one of his Worcestershire kinsmen.
Early bibliographers record several works by Hugh, including Super opere febrium Isaac, a commentary on the book on fevers of Isaac Israeli, beginning 'Quoniam de filii bonitate sicut' (Thorndike and Kibre, col. 1270), but this has been lost. A sermon for Septuagesima Sunday by him survives in a Bodleian Library manuscript (Bodl. Oxf., MS Bodley 50, fols. 299v ff.). Most interesting are his surviving medical writings, all but one of which appear in company with those of the English Cistercian, Cardinal John of Toledo. John, who died in 1275 and was also a papal physician, was sometimes called the white cardinal, and his association with Hugh, once an advocate of the Dominicans, perhaps explains the name atratus ('black'), sometimes attached to Hugh's name. Gloucester Cathedral, MS 18, folio 273v, contains a recipe 'secundum magistrum H. de Eveham contra phisum' ('a recipe against consumption'). Manuscript 1246 in the Biblioteca Riccardiana at Florence has a panacea attributed to (dominus Ugo cardinalis) contained in Liber de sanitate conservanda a Johanne de Toleto compositus (fol. 32v). The two men are mentioned again in a collection of medical/alchemical recipes found in Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, MS 405 (fol. 102). A treatise on medical alchemy found in Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, MS Lat. 7817, fol. 54, contains a recipe for aurum potabile (a medical/alchemical concoction). In it, both Hugh and John affirm the usefulness of the preparation, which is said to have been a secret ingredient used in the food of all the cardinals, to liven them up and improve their memories.
- A. P. Bagliani, Medicina e scienze della natura alle corte dei papi nel duecento (1991)
- C. H. Talbot and E. A. Hammond, The medical practitioners in medieval England: a biographical register (1965)
- F. M. Getz, ‘The faculty of medicine before 1500’, Hist. U. Oxf. 2: Late med. Oxf., 373–405
- F. Getz, ‘Medical practitioners in medieval England’, Social History of Medicine, 3 (1990), 245–83
- L. Thorndike and P. Kibre, A catalogue of incipits of mediaeval scientific writings in Latin, rev. edn (1963)
- Registrum epistolarum fratris Johannis Peckham, archiepiscopi Cantuariensis, ed. C. T. Martin, 3 vols., Rolls Series, 77 (1882–5)
- J. W. W. Bund, ed., Register of Bishop Godfrey Giffard, September 23rd, 1268, to August 15th, 1301, 2 vols., Worcestershire Historical Society, 15 (1898–1902)
- Gloucester Cathedral, MS 18, fol. 273v
- ‘Liber de sanitate conservanda a Johanne de Toleto compositus’, Bibliotheca Riccardiana, Florence, MS 1246, fol. 32v
- Bodl. Oxf., sermon, MS Bodley 50, fols. 299v ff.
- Gloucester Cathedral, MS 18, fol. 273v
- Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich, MS 405, fol. 102
- Biblioteca Riccardiana, Florence, MS 1246, fol. 32v
- Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, MS Lat. 7817, fol. 54