March 17th is Saint Gertrude of Nivelles Day. Gertrude is the official patron saint of cats. Of course, many of you may have never heard of her, or her association with our feline friends. A local vet goes over some basics of her story below.
Gertrude of Nivelles was born in 628 to a wealthy family in what is now known as Belgium. When she was 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 flat-out declined, apparently using some not-very-saintly language. Eventually, she and her mother went on to found the Abbey of Nivelles. In case you were wondering, there do not seem to be any kitties involved in this story.
There are two miracles attributed to Gertrude. Did she actually manage to get cats to listen to her? No. Did cats 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? No. Is the Abbey of Nivelles overflowing with cats? It doesn’t appear to be, though one would hope that at least a few kitties live there.
Gertrude’s first miracle was a vision of a flaming sphere. In the second, a sailor who was battling both a fierce storm and a sea monster called out to Gertrude, who had a vision of it. After her name was invoked, both the storm and the monster went away, and the sailor’s day probably improved considerably. This tale became so well-known that it led to the creation of a special drink, the Gertrudenminte or Sinte Geerts Minne , which travelers imbibed before setting off. This also led to Gertrude being named the official patron saint of travelers. No cats in these tales, either.
So where are the cats in this story? That’s where things get a bit … complicated. There actually is no mention of kitties in the historical records. References to Gertrude being a patron of cats seems to have started long, long ago … back in the 1980’s. There are a few anecdotal references of Gertude being associated with cats and mouse hunters in older texts. However, there also is the distinct possibility that she 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. Just chalk this curious tale up to another curious thing about cats!
Do you have questions about your cat’s health or care? Contact us, your local veterinary clinic, today!