Umiliana de’ Cerchi was a a Florentine mystic of the early thirteenth century, born in 1219 to a prominent merchant family in Florence. She was married at age sixteen to but later renounced her wealth and, at odds with her husband, secretly gave away food, clothing, and alms to the poor. Her husband died five years after the marriage and, despite her family’s wishes for her to remarry, she refused. The family ultimately resorted to suing her ex-husband’s family for the return of her dowry.
Umiliana did not remarry but instead moved back into the family home where she lived in a tower, considering herself a prisoner of her own family. She died in 1246 at the age of 27.
A chapel in the transept of the Basilica Santa Croce is dedicated to Beata Umiliana. A late fourteenth-century silver reliquary bust of Umiliana (pictured above) is also in the in the chapel. While some have loosely attributed the bust to Lorenzo Ghiberti, Mario Franchi attributes the work to the studio of Andrea Orcagna.
Umiliana is reportedly also represented in Taddeo Gaddi’s Tree of Life, which is in the refectory of Santa Croce.