St. Gertrude of Nivelles — a note on advancing the role of women

One additional possibility, with regard to advancing the role of women in the church, is to lift up more forcefully the women who are our heritage. So here is a toast to St. Gertrude of Nivelles (+ 659), patron saint of travelers, gardeners, and cats.  She easily gets forgotten at least in the United States, because her feast day in the liturgical calendar is also that of St. Patrick. The two saints’ days are not entirely unrelated, though: When Gertrude was close to dying, a pilgrim prophesied that she would die on March 17, and that St. Patrick himself would accompany her to heaven.



  1. Here is an unofficial translation of her entry in the 2004 Roman Martyrology:

    4. At Nivelles in Brabant, St. Gertrude, a virgin. Though of noble birth, she took the sacred veil of virgins from the bishop Saint Amando, and wisely led a monastery built by her mother; assiduous in the reading of Sacred Scripture, assiduous too in vigils and fasts, she was finally worn out by austerity.

    For the text of the Martyrology for the days of Lent, see

    1. @Martin Wallace OP – comment #2:
      Thank you for posting this. It made me realize that rather than describing Gertrude only as the patron saint of travelers, gardeners, and cats, I should have described her as one of the most learned monastics of her time. She read, lived, breathed, and interpreted the Scriptures; and she even had books from Rome brought to Nivelles for her monastic library.

  2. Saint Gertrude was an Aunt of Charlemagne. In her Abbey Church in the midst of downtown Nivelles one can find in the crypt the bones of the first wife of Charlemagne — who must have been almost as tall as he was. The people of Nivelles each year have a procession on the feast of Saint Gertrude with her relics on a large cart — “beating the bonds of the city” — and asking for her continued help and protection for the coming year.

  3. I’m glad you like “worn out.” I admit that I was ambivalent in translating it thus. The Latin is “ieiunii austeritae consumpta”. One thinks of the old name for TB: “consumption.” One could say, “destroyed by the austerity of fasting” but that seemed a bit strong. Lewis and Short give as the meanings of “consumo” – “to take wholly or completely”, either literally, “to eat” or figuratively, “to consume, devour, waste, squander, annihilate, destroy, bring to naught, kill.” I’m afraid what I wrote is more of a “Comme le prévoit” than a “Liturgiam authenticam” translation!

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