March 17th is Saint Gertrude of Nivelles Day. If you’re not sure who Saint Gertrude is–or why we’re writing about her–your kitty may clue you in. Saint Gertrude is Fluffy’s patron saint. A local vet goes over some basics of her story below.
Gertrude of Nivelles lived in what is now known as Belgium from 628 to 658. Her family was quite wealthy. When she was ten years old, her father invited the king to a banquet. At this feast, the king asked Gertrude if she would marry an archduke. In what was at the time an extremely brave and unusual reply, Gertrude flat-out declined. Eventually, she and her mother went on to found the Abbey of Nivelles.
But what does that have to do with cats? Read on!
There are two miracles ‘officially’ attributed to Gertrude. Did she actually manage to get cats to listen to her? No. Did kitties travel for miles to sleep in her lap or bring her dead mice? No. Did she save a cat from certain death, only to find that the furball was some form of supreme being? Not that we know of. Is the Abbey of Nivelles overflowing with cats? It doesn’t seem to be, though one would hope that 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 to Gertrude, who had a vision of the scene. After her name was invoked, both the storm and the monster went away. (Presumably, the sailor’s day improved significantly at this point.) 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 patron saint of travelers.
So you may be wondering … where are the cats in this story? That’s where things get a bit fuzzy. There actually is no mention of Fluffy in the historical records. References to Gertrude being a patron of cats seems to have started, oddly enough, in the 1980’s. There are some more anecdotal references of Gertude being associated with kitties and mouse hunters in older texts. However, there also is the 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.
Do you have questions about your cat’s health or care? Contact us, your local veterinary clinic, today!