Saturday, March 18, 2017
Saint Gertrude patron saint of cats...
Who Was St Gertrude?
Most of what’s known about Gertrude comes from her Vita Sanctae, the official Catholic biography produced to justify her veneration. She was born around 626 in what’s now Belgium. Her father was Pippin of Landen, a powerful Frankish nobleman and political operator at the court of King Dagobert I. Aged ten, Gertrude feistily refused a marriage proposal from the son of a duke, “saying that she would have neither him nor any earthly spouse but Christ the Lord.”
When her father died – although sources disagree, Gertrude was probably about 14 – her mother Itta shaved her head into a monkish tonsure to deter would-be suitors from marrying into her wealthy family by force. Itta and Gertrude established the monastery of Nivelles and retired to a religious life – historically, this has been one of women’s few options to preserve their intellectual, economic and sexual autonomy. When her mother died in 650, the now 24-year-old Gertrude took on sole governance of the monastery, and was known for her hospitality to pilgrims.
She died in 659 – worn out in her early thirties, says the Cambridge Medieval History, “because of too much abstinence and keeping of vigils”. A visiting Irish monk, whose brother Gertrude had sheltered, predicted she would die on St Patrick’s Day, and that “blessed Bishop Patrick with the chosen angels of God… are prepared to receive her”. Begorrah, it was so.