History of St. Gertrude: The Patron Saint of Cats
St. Gertrude of Nivelles’ patronage was never made official by the Vatican, but her association with whisking away mice and rats made her, by default, the saint that all cat lovers venerated. While modern media has associated her with cats in most portrayals, there’s a lot more to the patron saint of cats than just being deemed the cat lady of the Catholic church.
According to history records, St. Gertrude was born in the city of Nivelles in 626, which we now know as modern-day Belgium. As the youngest child of four, St. Gertrude was meant to follow in the footsteps of her eldest sister Pepin when it came to agreeing to an arranged marriage. Devoted to her faith and with the help of her mother, St. Gertrude escaped the bindings of having to agree to an arrangement by opening a separate female-only monastery. Here, she devoted herself to her faith until she left the monastery to tend to those in need.
Most claim her association with cats stems from a feline’s predatory instinct to catch and chase away rodents. During her time serving in her city, St. Gertrude was frequently summoned by the townsfolk to ward off illness and rodent infestations. People swore by her energy to chase away anything disease-ridden, and ultimately this is why she was canonized after she passed away on March 17 at age 33. Many churches were built in her memory, and many claims of miracles have happened at her hands.
In remembrance of her, many Catholic people also celebrate St. Gertrude’s feast day on March 17 alongside St. Patrick’s Day. Each fall, Nivelles holds Le Tour Sainte-Gertrude, a parade around the city that draws many pilgrims and features a mass in honor of St. Gertrude. When you’re donning your favorite green gear for the lucky holiday, give your furry friend an extra pet in honor of our favorite cat lady!