St. Gertrude of Helfta: The Iconography
NOVEMBER 16

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 at Georgia Regents University by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English

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18th century statue in Aruca, Spain (See description page)

18th century relief in Compostela, Spain (See description page)

Statue by Jacinto Vieira (See description page)

DATES

  • 1256-1302

NAMES

  • Sometimes called St. Gertrude the Great to distinguish her from Gertrude of Hackenborn.

GERTRUDE'S WRITINGS

NOTES

1 Butler, 351-53.