Saint Gertrude of Nivelles Folklore and Prayer

Saint Gertrude of Nivelles, the patron saint of cats, lived from 626 to 659 in Belgium.

Seafarers who were on a journey to sea while on trade for Gertrude’s priory were trapped in a vicious storm and exposed by a large sea animal who they dreaded would upturn their boat.

After one of the seamen pled to God for pity because they were doing the trade for Saint Gertrude of Nivelles, they said that the storm amazingly stopped right away and went back to the sea swimming away from them.

Feast Day: 17th March

Patron Saint of Cats, growers, explorers, and widows.

Life History of Saint Gertrude

Christianity was not at all prevalent in Gertrude’s place and time.

Life History of Saint Gertrude
Life History of St. Gertrude

It was only the growth of cities and the enterprise of bishops that led to a vast drive of evangelism, and a peak of abbeys in the 7th and 8th centuries.

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Gertrude’s Vita labels how Bishop Amand came to Itta’s house, “preaching the word of God. At the Lord’s bidding, he asked whether she would build a monastery for herself and Christ’s handmaid, Gertrude.”

Itta created Nivelles, a double monastery, one for men, the other for women.

However, after they arrived the spiritual life, Gertrude and her mother grieved, “no small opposition” from the imperial clan.

During this era, trials for the family are stated linking the usurper Otto’s bid to replace the Pippinids at the side of the king.

There is some example for Saint Gertrude and Itta’s move to the monastery at Nivelles.

According to Wemple, “during the second half of the seventh century, women in Neustrian-Burgundian families concentrated on the creation of a network of monasteries rather than on the conclusion of politically advantageous unions.

While families whose holdings were in the northeastern parts of the kingdom, centering around the city of Metz, were more concerned with the acquisition of power through carefully arranged marriages.”

Itta’s move to start a monastery was thus not totally out of the normal and may have been the rule for a widowed noblewoman.

Upon Itta’s death at about the age of 60 in the year 652, 12 years after the death of her husband Pippin, Gertrude took over the monastery.

At this time, Gertrude took the “whole burden of governing upon herself alone,” placing affairs of the family in the hand of “good and faithful administrators from the brothers.”

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Some have claimed that this suggests that Saint Gertrude ran the monastery with an abbot.

Saint Gertrude Becomes a Nun

Saint Gertrude was born in a noble family in Belgium who lived at King Dagobert’s court. Her dad attended as mayor of Dagobert’s fortress.

Saint Gertrude Becomes a Nun
St. Gertrude Becomes a Nun

To have an apolitical alliance, King Dagobert arranged her marriage with the son of an Austrasian duke when she was just 10 years old.

However, this marriage proposal was rejected by her as she wanted to become a nun in the church. Her excuse for this was that she would only marry Jesus Christ.

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Saint Gertrude did become a nun, and she operated with her mom to start a friary at Nivelles, Belgium. Gertrude and her mom both helped as co-leaders there.

She took care of locals in need such as orphans or widows along with other travellers who needed guidance.

She also built many new hospitals and churches to help society. Saint Gertrude spent a lot of time in prayer vigils.

Why is Saint Gertrude the patron saint of cats?

Saint Gertrude is called the patron saints of cats because of the great mouse exodus. She is often portrayed with a cat near her or with mice running up her staff.

Why is Saint Gertrude the patron saint of cats
Why is St. Gertrude the patron saint of cats?

The mice in her icons are said to signify souls stuck in Purgatory, whom she thoroughly prayed for.

A Prayer to Saint Gertrude, Patron Saint of Cats

Here’s a prayer to St. Gertrude that I wrote a few days ago:

St. Gertrude of Nivelles, ask you I pray

Safeguard my kitties this and each day.

Defend them from those who might wish them harm.

Keep them at home safe from danger and storm.

Instil in my wisdom to care for them well.

Pray, fill me with strength never to yell.

And Gertrude, the last thing I beseech from thee,

Protect my sofa from claws and my carpets from pee.


Saint Gertrude is popular for always helping others and offering hospitality to everyone including animals and humans.

She was very kind and considerate to the cats that hung around the monastery and she would often feed them with food and a lot of love & affection.

She is associated with cats because she often prayed for the souls of people in agony, and artists of the time signified those souls as mice, which cats like to hunt.

Therefore, Gertrude came to be related with both cats and mice and now aids as the patron saint of cats.

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Miracles associated with Saint Gertrude

The 2 miracles that are often heard and praised about Gertrude of Nivelles are;

  1. The Marvelous vision
  2. The Redemption of the sailors
Miracles associated with Saint Gertrude
Miracles associated with St. Gertrude

1. The Marvelous Vision

The 1st wonder credited to Gertrude in the Vita takes place at the altar of Pope Sixtus II the Martyr as Gertrude was upright in prayer.

“She saw descending above her a flaming pellucid sphere such that the whole basilica was illuminated by its brightness.”

The vision continued for about half an hour and later was out to some of the sisters at the monastery. The secret author of the Vita trusts that this vision signifies a “visitation of the True Light.”

2. The Redemption of the sailors

The 2nd wonder credited to Gertrude in the Vita took place as the secret author and his friend were gently cruising over the sea on the monastery’s trade.

This version is felt by some to specify that the author was an Irish monk.

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In the version, an implausible storm appears as well as a sea giant, causing great misery as “the sailors turned to their idols,” sign of the tenacity of paganism at the time.

In fear, the author’s friend calls out to Gertrude to save himself and his friends from the storm and monster. Instantly the storm diminishes and the giant dives back into the deep sea.

Death of Gertrude

Gertrude is depicted as leading an earnest life until her death. It was likely that after taking the veil in ca. 640, she never left the monastery abbey, thus evading policy and local matters.

Death of Gertrude
Death of Gertrude

She is labelled as “exhausted by a life of charity, fasting and prayer” at the end of her short life.

The Cambridge Medieval History says that “because of too much abstinence and keeping of vigils. Her body was sorrily exhausted with serious illness.”

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Gertrude’s Vita labels her, after resigning her role as abbess, outlay her time pleading strongly and covertly tiring a hair shirt.

According to her writer, Gertrude felt the time of her death imminent and asked a traveller from the Fosses monastery when she would die.

This pilgrim is usually alleged to be Ultan, Foillan’s brother. Fouracre and Gerberding clash that Ultan was Abbot of Fosses, but there is some rumour.

Ultan predicted that Gertrude would die on 17th March, the very next day, and also the feast day of Saint Patrick.

She died in scarcity, 17th March 659, at the age, we are told, of 33 years.

Also, Ultan foretold that “she may pass joyously because blessed Bishop Patrick with the chosen angels of God is prepared to receive her.”

The next day, as per the prediction, St. Gertrude died after taking communion and praying all night.

Soon after her demise, the monk Rinchinus, as well as the writer of the Vita, saw a pleasing scent in a cell with her body.

Just afore her death in 659, Gertrude taught the nuns at Nivelles to bury her in an old veil left behind by a roving tourist and Gertrude’s hair shirt.

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Gertrude of Nivelles, O.S.B. (also spelt Geretrude, Geretrudis, Gertrud; c. 628 – 17th March 659) was a 7th-century abbess who, with her mother Itta, created Abbey of Nivelles placed in current-day Belgium.

Because of the great mouse exodus, people referred to her as the patroness of cat lovers.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

How did Saint Gertrude of Nivelles die?

Saint Gertrude of Nivelles died a natural death on 17th March 659 AD, at the age, we are told, of 33 years.

Why is Gertrude the patron saint of cats?

Since the great mouse exodus, people referred to her as the patroness of cat lovers. She is often portrayed with a cat near her or with mice running up her staff. The mice in her images are said to signify souls stuck in Purgatory, whom she attentively pled for.

Who is Gertrude in the Bible?

Gertrude the Great. Gertrude the Great (or Saint Gertrude of Helfta; Italian: Santa Gertrude; January 6, 1256 – c. 1302) was a German Benedictine nun, mystic, and theologian.

How old is the name Gertrude?

It means “spear of strength”, derived from the Germanic elements ger “spear” and thrud “strength”. Saint Gertrude the Great was a 13th-century nun and mystic writer. It was probably introduced to England by settlers from the Low Countries in the 15th century.