Saint Gertrude the Great

What image does this saint point to us on her chest? Let’s know the story in this tour.

By Colonial Museum

Gregorio Vásquez de Arce y Ceballos (attributed)

Saint Gertrude the great by Gregorio Vásquez de Arce y CeballosColonial Museum

Saint Gertrude was a Cistercian Benedictine nun born on January 6th, 1256, in Eisleben, Germany. Her conventual life began at the age of five, when she entered the convent in Helfta, Saxony. There she learned about liberal arts and Latin. 

At the age of 26, she began to experience mystical visions that were spread through her writings, The Book of Special Grace and The Ambassador of Divine Mercy, a text in which special emphasis is placed on devotion to the heart of Jesus.

She is represented as a Benedictine abbess, with the black cowl and the abbess’s staff, an iconographic error, since she never held this position. 

The confusion is caused by the fact that another nun of the same name, Gertrude of Hackeborn, was abbess of the Helfta convent several years before the saint’s admission. 

One of the most representative iconographic attributes of Gertrude is the image of a Child Jesus that is located inside her heart.

This symbol alludes to the mystical experiences that the nun lived, among which stands the exchange of her heart with Christ’s. In addition, in her writings, the nun recorded the phrase “you will find me in Gertrude’s heart”, which Jesus transmitted to her. 

The saint died in 1302. Her devotion began in the 17th century after her canonization and was widely disseminated and received in the female convents of colonial America, as she was considered an exemplary figure and role model. 

Among her precepts, the importance she gave to the love of Christ as a fundamental factor to achieve salvation stands out. 

The horizontal format of this image is outstanding, because thanks to it the painter was able to emphasize both the figure of the saint and the landscape that surrounds her. 

The landscape, which occupies a large part of the composition, conveys a sensation of depth thanks to the fact that in his representation the painter used a perspective that recreates the atmosphere of the forest and the mountains in the distance. 

Saint Gertrude the Great
Gregorio Vásquez de Arce y Ceballos (attributed)
Oil on canvas  
c. 1693 

Credits: Story


Museum Director
María Constanza Toquica Clavijo

María Alejandra Malagón Quintero

Anamaría Torres Rodríguez
María Isabel Téllez Colmenares

Collection Management
Paula Ximena Guzmán López

Tanit Barragán Montilla

Jhonatan Chinchilla Pérez

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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