| 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
1 Butler, 351-53.