Although little is known about Gertrude’s childhood, it is widely accepted that at just four-years-old, she was enrolled in the Cistercian monastery school of Helfta in Saxony, under the governance of Abbess Gertrude of Hackerborn.
The Cistercian movement was an effort to bring the Benedictine religious community back to a stricter and more faithful adherence to the original “Rule” or way of life encouraged by St Benedict. Some sources speculate that Gertrude’s parents offered their child as an oblate, a lay person especially dedicated to God or to God’s service, while others believe she may have entered the monastery school as an orphan.
St. Mechtilde, the younger sister of the Abbess Gertrude, took care of young Gertrude. Gertrude and Mechtilde had a strong bond that only grew deeper with time, allowing Mechtilde to have a great influence over Gertrude.
Gertrude, known for being charming and able to win people over, entered the Benedictine Order at Helfta and became a nun. She devoted herself to her studies, and received an education in many different subjects. Gertrude was both fluent in Latin and very familiar with scripture and works from the Fathers of the Church, including Augustine.
To learn more about St. Gertrude the Great: http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=424