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Gertrude of Nivelles (626–659)

Gertrude of Nivelles (626–659)

Frankish princess and abbess. Name variations: Saint Gertrude of Nivelles. Born in 626 in present-day Belgium; died in 659; daughter of Pepin I of Landen, mayor of Austrasia (d. 640), and Ida of Nivelles (597–652); sister of Begga (613–698); cousin of Saint Modesta of Trier (d. about 680); never married; no children.

Gertrude was born in 626 in present-day Belgium, the daughter of Pepin I, mayor of Austrasia, and Ida of Nivelles . Although her parents tried to arrange several different marriages for her, the pious Gertrude refused to wed, declaring that she would live her life with Christ and no mortal man. As a teenager, she entered the convent of Nivelles, where she remained the rest of her life and was eventually elected abbess.

Begga (613–698)

Belgian saint. Name variations: Beggha; Beggue of Austrasia. Born in 613; died in 698 (some sources cite 693 or 694) at Ardenne; daughter of Ida of Nivelles (597–652) and Pepin I of Landen (d. 640), mayor of Austrasia; sister of Gertrude of Nivelles (626–659); married Ansegisel also known as Auseghisel, Anchises, and Ansegisal, mayor of Austrasia (r. 632–638, son of St. Arnulf of Metz and Dode ); children: Pepin II of Heristal (c. 640–714), mayor of Austrasia and Neustria (r. 687–714).

Upon the death of her husband Ansegisal, the mayor of Austrasia who was killed around 638 while hunting, Begga made a pilgrimage to Rome. Returning home, she retired to the abbey that she had founded at Ardenne in present-day Belgium. She also founded six other churches at Ardenne of the Meuse. Begga's feast day is celebrated on December 17.

Nivelles was a double monastery, meaning that Gertrude had responsibility for the care of both monks and nuns. She proved a competent manager and earned admiration for her selflessness and for her total devotion to the welfare of her charges. When Gertrude's father died in 640, her widowed mother Ida became a nun at the abbey. Gertrude of Nivelles died about age 33 and was canonized several years later; her mother was also canonized. Many miracles were attributed to Gertrude's powers, and followers of the abbess took her personal belongings as relics to be revered. Her feast day is March 17.


Anderson, Bonnie S., and Judith P. Zinsser. A History of Their Own. Vol. I. NY: Harper and Row, 1988.

Klapisch-Zuber, Christiane, ed. A History of Women in the West, vol. II: Silences of the Middle Ages. Cambridge: Belknap/Harvard, 1992.

Laura York , Riverside, California

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