Saints and Holy People

Find out about their lives and how they changed the world

Saint Gertrude the Great (1256–1301)

Saint Gertrude the Great (1256–1301)

Patron of the West Indies and of the Holy Souls in Purgatory

Feast day: November 16

Saint Gertrude was born at Eisleben, Saxony, now in Germany, in 1256. She was entrusted to the care of Benedictine monastery at Helfta (possibly nuns who followed the rule of Saint Benedict with Cistercian observances) about the age of five. When she grew up, she became a nun herself.

Gertrude received a very good education and was creative and poetic. She loved academic studies and they occupied her for several years. Then her priorities shifted to the study of Scripture and theology. Her spirituality became known as "nuptial spirituality," as she saw herself, and others who loved and followed Jesus, as "the Bride of Christ."

Her most accomplished mystical writing is The Messenger of Divine Loving-Kindness (or, The Herald of Divine Love). Gertrude was rebellious for her time and adapted the writings of Scripture to be more applicable to her female audience. For instance, instead of the prodigal son, she referred to the prodigal daughter.

Gertrude had a great devotion to the Sacred Humanity of Our Lord in His Passion. Her devotion to the Heart of Christ is an early precursor to the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus which we know today.  She was devoted to the Blessed Eucharist and was sympathetic toward the souls in Purgatory. She also had a strong love for the Blessed Virgin Mary.

With the invention of the printing press, the writings and spirituality of Saint Gertrude spread throughout the Church.  Pope Benedict XIV gave her the title "the Great" to recognize her spiritual and theological insight.

(Image by Miguel Cabrera, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)