Gertrude of Helfta lived from the age of five until her death in the Cistercian abbey of Helfta, in Eisleben, Germany. She wrote several mystical works and was the first person to urge devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. For this reason she is portrayed with a burning or shining heart on her breast. The heart is often embellished by a small figure of the Christ Child, as at right.
This Gertrude is sometimes confused with St. Gertrude von Hackenborn, who was the abbess at Helfta at the time, so sometimes we see a "Saint Gertrude" portrayed with both a burning heart and a crozier (the symbol of an abbot, abbess, or bishop), as in the two images below.1
Prepared in 2013 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University
NOTES1 Butler, IV, 351-53.