St Gertrude’s Day

Happy St Gertrude’s Day! March 17th is also the feast day of St Gertrude of Nivelles, an abbess who lived in the seventh century in what is now Belgium.


Painting by Carolee Clark (2015).*

When I adopted Willow in mid-July 2015, the vet told me she was four months’ old, which means she was likely born in mid-March. By happy serendipity, Willow’s presumptive birthday falls near St Gertrude of Nivelles’s feast day, who is the patron saint of cats.

Granted, St Gertrude’s association with cats is a modern addition based on stories about how her cooking repelled mice and rats and of her friendliness to the abbey’s felines. As with most saints, she has several areas of expertise, including being the patron saint of gardeners, travelers, and those with mental illness. She shares a feast day with St Patrick because that is the day she died, having been told the day before that St Patrick would welcome her into heaven. (Her death was most likely the result of years of fasting and keeping vigils, essentially death by exhaustion and starvation. She was only 33 when she died. I find this terribly sad.)

And so Willow’s birthday is observed on St Gertrude’s Day. Today she is two! I was going to take her for an extra-long walk today but my injured foot interferes with that plan. Instead, I will give her lots of love and cuddles and playtime, and extra treats in her puzzle feeders.


* The best images of St Gertrude of Nivelles that I’ve found are paintings by Carolee Clark of ‘King of Mice’ studios: she painted St Gertrude in 2008, 20092012, 2013, 2014 (also a print on her Etsy store), and 2015. (Many of the results from a Google image search for St Gertrude are Clark’s work and it took me a bit of digging to find the images’ source. As a librarian-in-training, it frustrates me to see an artist’s work spread widely across the Internet without being attributed to them.)

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