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Saint Gertrude of Nivelles Day

March 15 2021

Did you know that March 17th is Saint Gertrude of Nivelles Day? If not, you’re not alone. If you’re not sure who Saint Gertrude is, she is the patron saint of cats. A local vet goes over her story below.

H  istory

Gertrude of Nivelles lived from 628 to 658, in what we now know as Belgium. Her family was quite wealthy. When she was just ten, her father invited the king to a banquet. At this feast, the king asked Gertrude if she wanted to marry an archduke. In what was at the time an extremely brave and unusual reply, Gertrude angrily declined, apparently using some not-very-saintly language. Eventually, she and her mother went on to found the Abbey of Nivelles, which stands today. 


There have been two miracles attributed to Gertrude. One might expect them to have something to do with cats. Did she actually manage to get cats to listen to her, or even obey commands? No. Did kitties travel for miles to sleep in her lap? No. Did she save a kitty from certain death, only to find that the cat was some form of supreme being? Nope. Is the Abbey of Nivelles overflowing with cats? It doesn’t seem to be, though hopefully at least a few kitties live there.

Actually, the first miracle was a vision of a flaming sphere. In the second, a sailor who was battling a fierce storm and a sea monster called out for Gertrude, who had a vision of it. After her name was invoked, both the storm and the monster just … went away. This tale became so well-known that it led to the creation of a special drink, the Gertrudenminte or Sinte Geerts Minne . Travelers imbibed it before setting off. This also led to Gertrude being named the official patron saint of travelers.

But What About Fluffy?

So, one might be wondering where the kitties are in this story. That’s where things get a bit fuzzy. There actually is no mention of cats in the historical records of Gertrude. References to Gertrude being a patron of cats seems to have started a long time ago … in the 1980’s. There are a few references of Gertude being associated with cats and mouse hunters in older texts. However, she also could have somehow got mixed up with Frigg, a Nordic goddess who was said to ride a great feline. 

In any case, the cat seems to have someone’s tongue on this one.

Do you have questions about your cat’s health or care? Contact us, your local veterinary clinic, today!

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