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Saint Gertrude of Nivelles

Saint Gertrude of Nivelles

I wish I had known about Saint Gertrude of Nivelles in Belgium (626-659) last week. It is National Women’s History Month and Saint Gertrude with her cats could have shared the stage with St. Patrick and his snakes on March 17.

At the age of 10 Gertrude stated she would have no other bridegroom but Christ. In 639, after her father died, her mother established a double monastery, one for men and one for women at Nivelles.  She made the very young Gertrude abbess,  and lived as a nun in the abbey, where she could give Gertrude the benefit of her advice.

As you might guess from this painting, Saint Gertrude is the patron of cats – and those who love them.  Perhaps she allowed her nuns the companionship of cats.  Also, water from her well, and bread baked with that water was said to repel rodents – and later many prayed to Saint Gertrude to protect them from mice and rats. St. Patrick is sometimes shown with the snakes he sent from Ireland; St. Gertrude is sometimes shown with mice running up her staff. That doesn’t sound repellent, but  . . . .

She is also the patron of the insane and of gardeners.  Maybe she is particularly sympathetic to insane gardeners, of whom I know quite a few.  Alas, her reliquary was destroyed in 1940

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