ST. GERTRUDE, VIRGIN, ABBESS OF NIVELLE
SHE was daughter of Pepin of Landen, mayor of the
palace to the French kings of Austrasia, and younger sister to St.
Begga. She was born in 626. Her father’s virtuous palace was
the sanctuary of her innocence, and the school of her tender piety.
Being pressed to marry, she declared in presence of king Dagobert: “I
have chosen for my spouse him from whose eternal beauty all creatures
derive their glory, whose riches are immense, and whom the angels
adore.” The king admired her gravity and wisdom in so tender an
age, and would not suffer her to be any more disturbed on that
account. Her mother, the blessed Itta, employed St. Amand to direct
the building of a great nunnery at Nivelle, in Brabant, for Gertrude.
It is now a double chapter of canons and canonesses. The virgin was
appointed abbess when only twenty years of age. Her mother, the
blessed Itta, lived five years under her conduct, and died in the
twelfth year of her widowhood, in 652. She is honored in the Belgic
Martyrologies on the 8th of May. Gertrude governed her monastery with
a prudence, zeal, and virtue, that astonished the most advanced in
years and experience. She loved extreme holy poverty in her person
and house; but enriched the poor. By assiduous prayer and holy
meditation she obtained wonderful lights from heaven. At thirty years
of age, she resigned her abbey to her niece Wilfetrude, and spent the
three years which she survived, in preparing her soul for her passage
to eternity, which happened on the 17th of March, in 659. Her
festival is a holyday at Louvain, and throughout the duchy of
Brabant. It is mentioned in the true Martyrology of Bede, &c. See
her life, written by one who was present at her funeral, and an
eye-witness to the miracles, of which there is an account in
Mabillon, and the Acts of the Saints. See also Rivet, Hist. Littér.
t. 4, p. 39. An anonymous author much enlarged this life in the tenth
century, but the additions are of small authority. This work was
printed by Ryckel, abbot of St. Gertrude’s, at Louvain, in
1632. See Hist. Littér. t. 6, p. 292. Also La Vie de S.
Gertrude, abbesse de Nivelle, par Gul. Descœuvres, in 12mo. at
Paris, Ann. 1612. Consult likewise Dom Bouquet, Recueil des Hist. de
France, t. 2, p. 603, &c.