Humiliana was born in Florence to a noble family. Against her wishes, when she was sixteen, she was compelled by her father to marry a local nobleman. She subsequently bore three children, but it was an unhappy match. Her husband, who made his fortune through usury, treated her with disdain. She exacted private satisfaction through her acts of clandestine charity. When, five years later after their marriage, her husband fell ill and died, Humiliana announced her wish to devote herself, body and soul, to Christ. Ceding her husband’s fortune to his family, she requested only that they compensate all those he had defrauded.
Though she moved back to her father’s home, she chafed against the constant pressure on her to remarry. “Why do you torture me every day for a husband?” she demanded. “Bring me the one to whom you wish to hand me over, and on the other side, allow me to build a furnace, so that in the meantime, I shall choose in which of the two places I wish to be placed.” Defiantly, she put on the habit of Franciscan tertiary – becoming the first in Florence – and retired to a tower on her family’s property. This became her cell, which she left only to go to church, to care for the sick, or to beg alms for the Poor Clares.
She died on May 19, 1246, at the age of twenty-seven.