Gertrude of Poland (Olisava (?) / Gertruda Mieszkówna) (born in 1025 in Poland, † January 4, 1108 in the city of Turov), Princess of Kiev, from the late 1030s or early 1040s wife of Izyaslav Yaroslavich, sister of Casimir I the Restorer, King of Poland (1039–1058)
Gertrude, kneeling in from of Apostle Peter, her son Yaropolk Izyaslavich and his wife Irina (c. 1075). Miniature from Trier Psalter

Gertrude of Poland (Olisava (?) / Gertruda Mieszkówna) (born in 1025 in Poland, † January 4, 1108 in the city of Turov), Princess of Kiev, from the late 1030s or early 1040s wife of Izyaslav Yaroslavich, sister of Casimir I the Restorer, King of Poland (1039–1058)


  • Mieszko II Lambert, King of Poland from the Piast dynasty (1025–1034)


  • Richeza of Lotharingia, Queen of Poland, daughter of Ezzo, Ezzo, Count Palatine of Lotharingia and Matilda of Saxony; maternal granddaughter of the King of Germany and Holy Roman Emperor Otto II


Gertrude was born to the King of Poland Mieszko II and Richeza of Lotharingia in 1025. She was the sister of the future Casimir I the Restorer. After the death of Mieszko II in 1034, she was forced to leave Poland with her mother and brother fleeing the peasant war that broke out in Kingdom. According to some sources, Gertrude was educated in one of the Cologne monasteries and was one of the most educated women of her time *. She could return to Poland after her brother Casimir ascended the throne. Seeking allies to regain the territories lost in 1037-1038, Casimir I addressed the “king of Russia” Yaroslav the Wise. Apparently, the Russian-Polish union was consummated with two marriages: Casimir himself married Yaroslav’s sister, Maria Dobronega, and Gertrude was married to Yaroslav’s son Izyaslav Yaroslavich. The dates of both weddings are unknown; different sources provide the dates ranging from 1038/1039 to 1043/1044 [3, p. 108; 7, p. 19-22; 13, p. 87–89]. The Novgorod Fourth and Sophia First Chronicles attribute this event to 1040/1041. [IV, col. 154-155; V. col. 142-143; VI, p. 155; VII, p. 138] while Western sources suggest an earlier date in earlier date [VIII, p. 229; X, p. 253 XI, p. 178] (for more details on the dating of the wedding of Casimir and Dobronega - see “Maria Dobronega”).

We owe the reconstruction of the princess’s life to V. L. Yanin and A. Poppe [8, p. 205-229; 11, p. 142-164]. An inscription mentioning certain Olisava (Elizabeth), mother of Svyatopolk, discovered in the St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, allowed  to identify Izyaslav’s wife. The identification of Olisava and Gertrude is disputed. V.L. Yanin and A. Poppe believe that Olisava is the Russian name that Gertrude received when she first came to Russia. The peripeties of her life made that Gertrude converted several times converted from Catholicism to Orthodoxy and vice versa, and thus bore several baptismal names. The name ‘Elena’ also found in Gertrude’s prayer book [12, p. 84] could have been given to her when after her second conversion to Orthodoxy [8, p. 205-229; 11, p. 142-164]. A. V. Nazarenko denies re-baptism and rejects such an explanation [4, p. 279]. The scholar believes that Olisava, the mother of Svyatopolk, was Izyaslav’s concubine [6, p. 570]. S. A. Vysotsky suggested that Olisava could be Izyaslav’s first wife [1, p. 156]. Problem of the identity of Olisawa – Gertrude complicated the identification of her children. It can be safely assumed that Izyaslav had three sons: Mstislav, Yaropolk and Svyatopolk. However, A. V. Nazarenko believes that the only son from Gertrude was Yaropolk, whom she repeatedly refers as “unicus” in her Prayer Book [XII, p. 128; 6, p. 559-584]. A. Poppe assumed that the address “unicus” should be understood as “unique”, “the best”, and not “the only” [8, p. 212].

Basing on the records made in the Kiev Pechersk Monastery, one can reconstruct some facts of the princess’s biography [I, p. 19-22]. We know thus about her quarrel with her husband because of the exile of Abbot Anthony [9, p. 82] and about her initiative to found a nunnery consecrated to St. Nicholas. Apparently, her favour towards Kiev-Pechersk monastery can explain why the its monks regularly supported Yaropolk Izyaslavich in the struggle for the Kiev throne [9, p.78, 82].

The fate of Gertrude, who became the Grand Duchess of Kiev in 1054, was connected with civil wars and political intrigues in between the younger descendants of Yaroslav. The Yaroslavichi triumvirate, which formed after the death of Rostislav Vladimirovich and the defeat of Vseslav Bryachislavich, fell apart very quickly and already in 1068 Gertrude was forced to flee from Kiev to Poland together with Izyaslav. The Polish king Boleslaw II the Brave, Gertrude’s nephew, provided Izyaslav with military support and helped him to return to Kiev. It is true, that Izyaslav could not stay long in the city and was expelled over again in 1073. This time, however, Gertrude and Izyaslav were not received in Poland, because Boleslav has take decision to support Izyaslav’s opponents, his brothers Svyatoslav of Chernigov and Vsevolod of Pereyaslavl. Having spent the jewelry they had brought with them, Izyaslav and Gertrude fled to Germany hoping to seek support of Henry IV [II, p. 120]. However, they were disappointed. It was only Pope Gregory VII’s intervention that helped to restore the relationships with Boleslaw [III, p. 112-114]. Because of the pressure from Rome, Boleslaw II agreed to helped Izyaslav to return to Rus’.

After the death of Izyaslav in 1078, Gertrude settled in Volodimir Volynsky, at the court of her son Yaropolk. During the next round of the civil war, Yaropolk sent her and his wife Kunigunde to Lutsk, but the city was captured by Vladimir Monomakh. Gertrude and Kunigunde were captured and brought to Kiev. According to A. V. Nazarenko, Gertrude did not survive captivity and died in a monastery in 1086 [5]. V. L. Yanin and A. Poppe hypothesize that the princess has been living longer, until 1108 [11, p. 142-164]. It is under this year that the chronicle records the death of Olisava / Elizabeth. According to this version, Gertrude was able to return to her son Svyatopolk and lived at his court until her death.

* A unique written document of the 11th century that has been preserved, the so-called The Prayer Book (Codex) of Gertrude (so-called Trier Psalter), contains about 90 prayers in Latin, recorded, most likely, by Gertrude herself, which is an indication of the princess’s literacy [XII; 4, p. 270].

Sons **

** the order of seniority is given in according to N. M. Karamzin and is generally accepted today. In the sources, the sons of Izyaslav appear simultaneously and without any order. V. L. Yanin, basing on the account of the Nikon Chronicle Code, believes that Yaropolk was the eldest, Svyatopolk was born second, and Mstislav was the youngest [11, p. 144]. According to another version, Svyatopolk was considered the second son, and Yaropolk was the third [3, p. 108].


  • Mstislav († 1069), Prince of Novgorod
  • Yaropolk († 1086), Prince of Volyn and Turov
  • Svyatopolk (1050-1113), Grand Prince of Kiev


Gertrude’s Codex (Gertrude’s Prayer Book, Trier Psalter) — A Psalter that once belonged to Archbishop Egbert of Trier and ended up in Gertrude’s hands around 1073-1076 during her second exile [2, p. 181-182]. The volume contains around 90 handwritten prayers, including those written by Gertrude herself, as well as a short calendar and astronomical treatises [IX, p. 4-22; XII]. Gertrude’s prayers contain a number of interesting details that allow to reconstruct the circumstances of her life as well as her husband Izyaslav and son Yaropolk. The Pslater is an important supplement to the account of Russian chronicles and Western European sources [10, p. 149]. Probably, Gertrude gave the Code to her granddaughter Zbyslava of Kiev, and it passed to the daughter of Boleslaw Wrymouth, also Gertrude, and later to the daughter of the Hungarian king Andrew II, Elizabeth, who bequeathed it to the cathedral chapter in Cividale. Currently, the Code is in Cividale (Italy) [2, p. 181-182].


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