Gertrude of Hackeborn

Gertrude of Hackeborn

Gertrude of Hackeborn (1223-1292) was the Abbess of the Cistercian convent of Helfta, near Eisleben in modern Germany.

She was a member of the Hackeborn dynasty and a sister of St. Mechtilde. At a young age she ented the Cistercian convent of Roderdorf, where she was elected abbess in 1251 at the age of only nineteen. She founded the convent of Hederleben in 1253 with the help of her two brothers, Albert and Louis, but it suffered from a lack of water, so she received the castle of Helpeda (Helfta) and its surrounding land from them and moved her community there in 1258.

While she was abbess, the convent of Helfta became famous across the Holy Roman Empire for its practices of asceticism and mysticism. Gertrude required her nuns to be educated in the liberal arts, but most importantly in the Bible. She was considered a model abbess, most especially in her behavior during the year-long illness that took her life.

Gertrude of Hackeborn is not to be confused with St. Gertrude the Great. The abbess never wrote anything, nor did she received any relevations from God or become canonized. Gertrude the Great was born over twenty years after the her, and lived as an ordinary nun in the Helfa convent.

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