Saint Gertrudis of Nivelles

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Gertrudis van Nijvel, abdis van Nijvel

Also Known As: "Garitrudis", "Gertruda", "Gertrude of Nivelles"
Birthplace: Landen, Flemish Region, Belgium
Death: March 17, 659 (32-33)
Nivelles, Walloon Brabant, Walloon Region, Belgium
Place of Burial: Nivelles, Région Wallonne, Belgique
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Pepin of Landen and Saint Itta of Nivelles
Sister of Saint Beggue of Austrasia; Grimoald I, Mayor of the Palace of Austrasia and Saint Bavo of Ghent

Occupation: Abbess Of Nivell, Saint, Abbess of the Benedictine monastery of Nivelles, in present-day Belgium, First Abbess of Nivelles, Abbess of Andenne, Saint Bavo, and Grimoald I, Sainte Garitrudis, (Gertrude), Abbesse de Nivelles(Gertrude (Pippinide))
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Saint Gertrudis of Nivelles

Gertrudis (Gertrude), 1at Abbess of Nivelles, daughter of Pepin of Landen and Bl. Iduberge. The Bollandists (Acta 88, 8 Mai. Ii. 307) date her birth to about 592.

Gertrudis van Nijvel (626 - 17 maart 659), ook Geertrui of Gertrud, was een vroeg-middeleeuwse heilige en abdis.

Zij werd geboren als dochter van Pepijn van Landen, hofmeier van de koningin van Austrasië. Haar moeder was de heilige Ida van Nijvel, en ze is een zuster van de heilige Begga en de heilige Allowin van Haspengouw.

A Saint with a Feast Day of March 17.

Patron Saint:

Of Pilgrims and Travelers

Of Cats

Against rats and mice, particularly field mice

Against fevers

For good quarters on a journey

For crops planted on her feast day

(Wikipedia says also against mental illness)

From the English Wikipedia page on Gertrude of Nivelles (Kilde):

Saint Gertrude of Nivelles (626 – March 17, 659) was abbess of the Benedictine monastery of Nivelles, in present-day Belgium.

She was a daughter of Pepin I of Landen, and a younger sister of Saint Begga, Abbess of Andenne, Saint Bavo and Grimoald I.

One day, when she was about ten years of age, her father invited Dagobert I and some noblemen to a banquet. When on this occasion she was asked to marry the son of the Duke of Austrasia she indignantly replied that she would marry neither him nor any other man, but that Jesus Christ alone would be her bridegroom.

After the death of her father in 640, her mother Itta, following the advice of Saint Amand, Bishop of Maestricht, erected a double monastery at Nivelles. She appointed her daughter Gertrude as its first abbess, while she herself lived there as a nun, assisting the young abbess by her advice.

Among the numerous pilgrims that visited the monastery of Nivelles, there were the two brothers St. Foillan and St. Ultan, both of whom were Irish monks who had lived c.633-651 in East Anglia, and were now on their way from Rome to Peronne, where their brother St. Furseus, lay buried. Gertrude and her mother gave them a tract of land called Fosse on which they built a monastery. Ultan was made superior of the new house, while Follian remained at Nivelles, instructing the monks and nuns in Holy Scripture, and was later murdered there by bandits.

After the death of Itta in 652, Gertrude entrusted the interior management of her monastery to a few pious nuns, and appointed some capable monks to attend to the outer affairs, in order that she might gain more time for the study of Holy Scripture, which she almost knew by heart. The large property left by her mother she used for building churches, monasteries and hospices.

At the age of 32 she became so weak through her continuous abstinence from food and sleep that she found it necessary to resign her office. After taking the advice of her monks and nuns, she appointed her niece, Wulfetrude, as her successor, in December, 658. A day before her death she sent one of the monks to St. Ultan at Fosse to ask whether God had made known to him the hour of her death. The saint answered that she would die the following day during Holy Mass. The prophecy was verified. She was venerated as a saint immediately after her death, and a church was erected in her honour by Agnes, the third Abbess of Nivelles.

The towns of Beverst (Belgium), Geertruidenberg (Breda) and Bergen-op-Zoom in North Brabant honour her as patron. She is also patron of travellers, and is invoked against fever, rats, and mice, particularly field-mice. There is a legend that one day she sent some of her subjects to a distant country, promising that no misfortune would befall them on the journey. When they were on the ocean, a large sea-monster threatened to capsize their ship, but disappeared upon the invocation of St. Gertrude. In memory of this occurrence travellers during the Middle Ages drank the so-called "Sinte Geerts Minne" or "Gertrudenminte" before setting out on their journey. St. Gertrude is generally represented as an abbess, with rats and mice at her feet or running up her cloak or pastoral staff.


This article incorporates text from the entry St. Gertrude of Nivelles in Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913, a publication now in the public domain.


From the Dictionary of Saintly Women page:

St. Gertrude (5), or GERTRUY, V., Abbess of Nivelle. O.S.B. -f c. 658 or 664. Patron of Nivelle, Gertruydenberg, Landau, Breda, Bergen-on-Zoom ; of pilgrims and travellers; of cats; against rats, mice, and particularly field

mice; against fever; invoked for good quarters on a journey. With St. Joseph (March 19) she protects seeds that are sown on her day. Fine weather on her day is of good omen for the gardens and fields.

Represented as an abbess, with rats and mice running up her pastoral staff and her cloak, or at her feet. These are sometimes to be seen in the pictures of another Benedictine abbess, ST. GERTRUDE (13) the Great (13th century), but they have been transferred, by mistake, to her from St. Gertrude, of Nivelle, whose proper attribute they are.

Pepin, of Landen, the first of the three famous Pepins, was mayor of the palace to three kings in succession Clothaire II. (613) and Dagobert I. (628), kings of France; and Sigebert II. (638), king of Austrasia only. Pepin is conspicuous among the men of his time for his ability and integrity. His wife was ST. IDA (3), a lady of rank and virtue equal to his own. They had three children Grimoald, afterwards mayor of the palace, ST. BEGGA, and ST. GERTRUDE.

Landen was in Brabant, in the kingdom of Austrasia, over which Pepin ruled, in the king s name. Nivelle was part of his estate, and belonged, after his death, to his widow and younger daughter.

Gertrude was a child, old enough to have learnt some lessons of piety, and young enough to have learnt little else, when Pepin, the duke, invited Dagobert, the king, to dine. A goodly company assembled to feast with the duke and his royal guest, and among them two of the king s courtiers, father and son, whose wealth and power placed them on an equality with the lord of Landen.

During the feast the elder of these two asked the king and the duke to give the youngest daughter of the latter in marriage to his son. Dagobert thought it a good match in a worldly aspect; and willing to be gracious, he requested Pepin to send for the young lady and her mother. Presently the duchess appeared leading her little daughter.

The king took upon himself to make his friend's proposal to Gertrude. Showing her the boy who aspired to her hand, he said, "Look at this fine fellow, dressed in silk and covered with gold: will you have him for your husband?"

The child, instead of being pleased or flattered, appeared to be filled with rage and indignation, and declared with an oath that she would neither marry the youth in question nor any other mortal man, but that her Lord Jesus Christ should be her only Love and Master. The young man was much discomfited, but from that hour her parents knew by Whom she was beloved and Who had chosen her.

A few years after this occurrence Pepin died. Ida was inconsolable. Her son and elder daughter were provided for, but she knew not what to do with herself and Gertrude, who was now a beautiful girl with a large estate.

She consulted St. Amaudus, who advised her to build a double monastery at Nivelle, and there devote herself, her daughter, and her worldly goods to the service of God. She followed his advice.

Before the monastery was quite ready for their reception, haunted by the fear that the world and its votaries would take possession of Gertrude in spite of her care, she took a knife and cut off her beautiful long hair, shaving her head after the pattern of a crown. Gertrude rejoiced that she should bo found worthy to wear a crown for her Lord's sake on earth, as a token that she should receive an immortal crown from Him in heaven.

As soon as all was duly arranged, Ida installed her daughter as first abbess, she herself being one of the nuns, and assisting Gertrude with her advice. Gertrude delighted to entertain pilgrims and pious travellers, and by this means often received sacred books or relics from Rome, or information and instruction in religious matters from those who were able to give it.

The Irish hagiographers say that she had Celtic monks to teach her community to sing psalms. Two Irish monks, Saints Foillan and Ultan ( May 1 ), visited her on their way from Rome to Peronne, where their brother, St. Fursey (Jan. 10), was buried. Gertrude and Ida gave them a piece of land called Fosse, or "St. Mors des Fossez," to build a monastery for a perpetual place of entertainment for pilgrims coming from or going to distant places. St. Ultan was set over the new house, and St. Foillan returned to Nivelle to instruct Gertrude's nuns, particularly in singing the psalms and offices of the Church, and otherwise make himself useful to them.

One day Foillan left home to pay a visit to his brother, taking three of Gertrude's monks with him. On the way they were all murdered by robbers, and no one was left to bring the sad news; but St. Ultan saw in a vision a dove of dazzling whiteness with stains of blood on its wings. He thought it was his brother's soul, but knew not what had befallen him.

Meantime, Gertrude could not sleep ; she felt uneasy and depressed, and when the time had passed that Foillan was to have returned, she sent a message to Ultan to know whether all was well. The messenger came back in haste and grief to tell that the four monks had never been seen since they left Nivelle, and that Ultan had seen, in a dream, a snow-white dove with blood on its wings.

Gertrude next ordered a fast of three days, at the end of which an angel appeared to her, and showed her the place in the forest of Soignies where the murder had been committed, and over the body of St. Foillan was a pillar of fire extending up to heaven. She described the place to some of the monks, who went and found the four bodies, that of Foillan with the head cut off, the other three stabbed in the mouth. They brought the bodies to Nivelle, and Gertrude would have had her friend buried in her own church, but his brother claimed him, and many of his friends and brethren testified that it had been his own wish to be buried at Fosse, so to Fosse they took him.

About 10 years after the death of Pepin, Ida died. It seems to have been on the occasion of her mother's burial that Gertrude translated her father's body from Landen to Nivelle.

After her mother's death, having the whole management and responsibility on her own shoulders, she employed the most capable and trustworthy of the monks to attend to the outer affairs of the double community, and appointed some of the elder nuns to the management in the house, that so she might reserve more of her own time for devotion and the study of the Holy Scriptures, which she already knew nearly by heart.

A few years later, although only about 30 years old, she was so worn out with asceticism, and particularly with her incredible abstinence from food and sleep, that she found herself unequal to the fatigue of her office, and resigned it to her niece ST. WULFETRUDE, who was only 20, but who, having been brought up by Gertrude, was in all respects worthy to succeed her. The holy abbess now devoted herself exclusively to preparation for death, increasing her austerities. When she found herself very near the great change, she was afraid on account of her unworthiness.

She sent one of hor monks to Fosse to tell St. Ultan of her fears, and to ask whether God had revealed to him the time of her death. He answered, "This is the 16th of March, and tomorrow during the saying of mass, she will die; but tell her not to be afraid but to go boldly, for St. Patrick and many saints and angels with great glory are waiting to receive her soul."

The monk asked whether this was a direct revelation from God or not, and St. Ultan replied, "Go, quick, brother; do not I tell you her death is to be tomorrow. You have no time to lose in asking questions. Make haste and take her my message."

He went, and when Gertrude heard the message, her face was lit up with joy, and awaking as if from sleep, she called all the nuns and made them pray with her all night; and next day, during the singing of the mass, she died, being about 33 years of age.

At the moment of her death she appeared to ST. MODESTA, abbess of Treves. She was buried, by her own desire, without any linen or woolen robes or sheets, merely in the cilicium she had long worn, her head wrapped in a shabby old veil which had been given her by a nun who stayed at the monastery for a short time on a journey.

Many years afterwards, when St. Begga, the sister of Gertrude, obtained from Nivelle a few nuns well qualified to establish the new community at Anden, in the holy rule and practices observed by them, she received also the present of a piece of the saint's bed, which was placed in the new church as a holy relic, and resorted to for miraculous cures. It was soon covered with gold and set in a band of precious stones by its grateful votaries.

According to Grattan, History of the Netherlands, the monastery was transferred, in the 12th century, to canonesses, and was occupied in the 18th by a double chapter of canons and canonesses. It was so rich in the 10th century as to have 14,000 families of vassals.

St. Gertrude was held in veneration from very early times. She seems to have been worshipped immediately after her death, and a church was dedicated in her name by a woman she had brought up, namely, Agnes, the third abbess. ST. GUDULA is said to have been her relation and pupil.

In histories and chronicles where her contemporaries are called by their worldly titles or simply by their names, Begga, Pepin, Itta, Arnulf, etc., Gertrude is never mentioned without some epithet of respect, such as saint, servant of God, virgin of Christ, most blessed woman, holy abbess, etc.

Many churches are dedicated in her name in Brabant and Hainault. Her worship and the fame of her sanctity and miracles were early spread over Germany. Her name is in the true Martyrology of Bede, and also in the metrical one attributed to him, and in that of Menard. It is not in the Martyrology of Ado, which is the Vetus Romanum, but it is in the additamenta to Ado, and in the present Roman Martyrology on March 17.

In an Anglo-Saxon Missal, formerly belonging to the Abbey of Jumieges, and now in the public library of Rouen, her name is added to those in the canon of the mass. She is the most famous of eleven holy women of the same name honored by the Benedictines as belonging to their order.

Her contemporary biographer relates two anecdotes concerning her, the first of which she told him herself. One day when she was praying before the altar of St. Sixtus in her own church, a globe of fire appeared and hung over her head, to her great consternation, lighting up the whole place for about half an hour, and then returning whence it came.

The second anecdote was told him by one of the persons saved by her miraculous assistance. Some monks were at sea on business connected with the affairs of her monastery, when their lives were endangered by a sudden storm, and still further by the approach of an enormous whale. They were giving themselves up for lost, when the narrator called out three times in an agony of terror, "Gertrude, help us." At the third mention of the abbess name, the monster dived to the bottom of the sea, leaving the ship safely afloat, and the travelers all arrived happily in port the same night.

Baring-Gould, in his Curious Myths of the Middle Ages, tells that from being the patron saint of travellers on earth, Gertrude was next supposed to entertain departed spirits at their first halt on their three days journey to Paradise; the second resting-place was with one of the archangels; and the third day brought them to the gates. As patron of souls, rats and mice became her emblems in German imagery, having from the most ancient times been regarded as typifying human souls.

All the stories of St. Gertrude are founded on the Life by a contemporary monk, who had some of his information from herself, and the rest from eyewitnesses of the events he records. This life is given in full by Mabillon, Sec. ii. 464, and in part by Bouquet, iii. 517, De Dagoberto. She is also mentioned in almost all the biographies and chronicles of her time and country, which appear in the collections of Bouquet, Pertz, Duchesne, and Bollandus, particularly in the Life of B. Pepin, the duke, Bouquet, ii. 603, and AA.SS., Feb. 21, and that of St. Ultan, May 1, AA.SS.

Modern authorities: Baronus. Pertz, Merovingischen Hausmeyer. Butler, Baillet. Lanigan. McLaughlin, Irish Saints.

When, at age 10, Gertrude was asked to marry the son of the Duke of Austrasia, she replied that Jesus Christ alone would be her bridegroom. Later in her life, her mother appointed her as the abbess of the Monastery at Nivelles. Gertrude and her mother gave to St. Foillan and St. Ultan (Irish monks) a tract of land, on which they build a monastery. After her mother died, Gertrude, left the management of the monestary to other nuns so that she would be able to study The Sacred Scriptures. She used the property left by her mother to build other monasteries, churches, and hospices. When she was thirty-two, she became weakened by continually abstaining from food and sleep. She died during Holy Mass and was immediately venerated as a saint. She is a patron of travellers and is invoked against fever, rats, and mice (particularly field mice.)

My cat "Hawkfood" is sick and not eating; so I looked up which saint is the patron of cats. Wouldn't you know, It's St. Gertrude of Nivelles, our own relative. St. Gertrude, please pray for Hawkfood to get well. Thank you! (Therese Bilodeau, January 28, 2008)

była przeoryszą klasztoru w Nivelles, jest świętą patronką miasta Landen.

In 640 stichtte haar moeder, die inmiddels weduwe geworden was, de abdij van Nijvel, waar Gertrudis intrad en op 20-jarige leeftijd abdis werd.

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Saint Gertrudis of Nivelles's Timeline

Landen, Flemish Region, Belgium
March 17, 659
Age 33
Nivelles, Walloon Brabant, Walloon Region, Belgium
February 25, 1933
Age 33
February 25, 1933
Age 33
March 2, 1933
Age 33
March 2, 1933
Age 33
Nivelles, Région Wallonne, Belgique (Belgium)