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Saint Gertrude of Nivelles Day – March 17, 2023

Saint Gertrude of Nivelles Day is observed on March 17. Saint Gertrude was an abbess who, along with her mother Itta, founded the Abbey of Nivelles. She was born around the year 626. Her birthplace is present-day Belgium. She is widely considered the Patron Saint of travelers, gardeners, widows, recently deceased souls, souls in purgatory, rodents, and, most recently, cats. Most of the information about her is mentioned in an old French book called “Vita,” written by an unknown author. The full title of the book is “Vita Sanctae Geretrudis and the Additamentum Nivialense de Fuilano.”

History of Saint Gertrude of Nivelles Day

Saint Gertrude of Nivelles is the patron saint of the towns of ‘Geertruidenberg,’ ‘Breda,’ and ‘Bergen-op-Zoom’ in North Brabant. Gertrude was born around the year 626 in present-day Belgium into a wealthy and political family. Gertrude’s father is the ‘Pepin of Landen’ and he was instrumental in installing Dagobert, the first, as the king of Austrasia. The period was such that Christianity was not as common as it is today. Amandus, the bishop of Maastricht, was an important historical figure in the lives of Gertrude and her mother, Itta of Metz. There are very few historical records about Gertrude’s early life. It is clear that her father died somewhere between the years 640 and 650, and her mother had to build a monastery and choose religious life. This helped Gertrude avoid further suitors who were after her family’s fortune and political power.

Itta died around 652 and Gertrude took over the monastery, becoming the abbess. She concentrated much of her time on the care of the sick, elderly, widows, and children. She showed charisma, maturity beyond her age, scholarly aptitude, and an attitude of charity. Her reputation and power grew during her short time as an abbess. The book “Vita” attributes two miracles to the divine nature of Gertrude. The first miracle is a vision that lasted for an hour in which Gertrude saw a flaming pellucid sphere descending above her. A second miracle is an event where some sailors escape from a storm and a giant sea monster by crying out to Gertrude.

Her life of charity and fasting soon caught up with her at a very young age. She exhausted her body through regular fasting, abstinence, and keeping vigils. After her death, a pleasant odor filled the room. Her holy life and the fragrance from her dead body helped in the immediate canonization of Gertrude of Nivelles, and she was recognized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church.

Saint Gertrude of Nivelles Day timeline

656 A.D.
The Resignation as Abbess

Gertrude resigns from the position of the abbess and appoints her niece Wulfetrud as the new abbess.

663 – 670
The Book ‘Vita Sanctae Geretrudis’

The book “Vita Sanctae Gertrudis” — which tells the story of St. Gertrude of Nivelles — is written by an unknown author.

1677
The Canonization Into Sainthood

Pope Clement XII canonizes St. Gertrude of Nivelles.

The 1980s
The Patron Saint of Cats

People start associating St. Gertrude with cats and they label her the Patron Saint of Cats.

Saint Gertrude of Nivelles Day FAQs

What is Saint Gertrude of Nivelles known for?

Gertrude is known as the patron saint of travelers, gardeners, and the recently deceased. Recently, she has also been associated with rodents and cats.

Who canonized St Gertrude of Nivelles?

In 1677, Pope Clement XII declared March 17 as the universal feast day for St. Gertrude.

Where is the burial place of St Gertrude of Nivelles

The Saint is buried in the heart of Ireland.

How to Observe Saint Gertrude of Nivelles Day

  1. Visit the abbey of Nivelles

    We can spend the day visiting the abbey of Nivelles, where St. Gertrude once lived most of her life. It is located in the Walloon Brabant province of Belgium.

  2. Buy and read “Vita”

    Buy and read “Vita Sanctae Geretrudis.” The book chronicles the major incidents that happened in the life of St. Gertrude of Nivelles.

  3. Pray to St. Gertrude of Nivelles

    We can spend the day in prayers, abstinence, and fasting. Try to do something for the sick, poor, and children in need.

5 Intriguing Facts About Gertrude Of Nivelles

  1. Her death was predicted

    Ultan — commonly believed to have been a pilgrim — predicted that Gertrude would die on March 17 and he was right.

  2. Her day coincides with another major holiday

    The feast day for St. Gertrude of Nivelles coincides with Saint Patrick's Day.

  3. The experiential-based book

    The book "Vita" is written as if the author was present during the death of St. Gertrude.

  4. A bomb destroyed some of her relics

    In 1940, a German bomb devastated the original reliquary of St. Gertrude in 337 fragments but it was later rebuilt.

  5. She got a new identification

    St. Gertrude is often portrayed as a patron saint of cats, which is a recent development because the church never associated her with cats.

Why Saint Gertrude of Nivelles Day is Important

  1. She was into charity and services

    St Gertrude was an icon of humanity and humility. She lived a simple life and dedicated herself to helping those in need.

  2. She rejected nobility

    She rejected the marriage proposal from the son of a duke in front of a king. It was an action that showed her courage, her power to choose, and a depiction of the conditions of marital choices for women of her time.

  3. The new association with cats

    Cats are one of the most popular animals on earth. A day to celebrate the Patron Saint of cats is an important event, even if the title is not official.

Saint Gertrude of Nivelles Day dates

YearDateDay
2023March 17Friday
2024March 17Sunday
2025March 17Monday
2026March 17Tuesday
2027March 17Wednesday

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