March 17 is celebrated as St. Patrick’s Day, the feast day of the priest who converted Ireland to Christianity. The feast day of a saint is often on the date of that person’s death, particularly those dating back before birth dates of non-famous people were well documented. Patrick died on March 17, 461. But March 17 is also the death date and feast day of a lesser-known saint of the seventh century, Gertrude of Nivelles.
Gertrude was born around the year 628 in the Kingdom of Austrasia. Having a prominent family, she was considered to be a good marriage match for various royalty, but Gertrude refused all offers. After her father died, her mother Itta of Metz founded an abbey so that Gertrude could live under protection from an arranged marriage. Gertrude took over the administration of the Abbey of Nivelles in what is now Belgium after her mother’s death.
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Gertrude died at the age of 33 the day after receiving a premonition from an Irish priest that she would die on St. Patrick’s Day. And she did, in the year 659. St. Gertrude is the patron saint of several places in the region of the abbey, and the patron saint of travelers. She is also known as the patron saint of gardeners, as she was an avid gardener and was particularly successful in protecting the abbey’s gardens from rats and mice. Gertrude’s talent in that area led her to become known as the patron saint of cats in the modern era, starting around 1980 and propagated by the internet. -via She Who Seeks