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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Gertrude the Great

b. 1256, Thuringia, Germany; d. 1301, Helfta, Germany

Gertrude, who was most likely an orphan, was educated in literature and philosophy at the monastery in Helfta, under the direction of the abbess Gertrude of Hackeborn. During her tenure, the monastery became the center of asceticism and mysticism in Germany. At age twenty-five, Gertrude the Great experienced a vision in which she was reproached by Christ for her interest in philosophy; she thereafter turned her attention to theology. This was the first in a lifelong stream of visions and mystical instructions, which she recorded in several books, two of which are extant: the Herald of Divine Love and the Book of Extraordinary Grace. She also recorded the visions of Mechthild in a volume entitled Liber specialis gratiae.