Angela, a mystic of the Franciscan tradition, was born in Foligno, a central Italian town not far from Assisi in the region of Umbria. Almost everything we know about Angela is narrated in The Book of the Blessed Angela of Foligno.
In 1285, the thirty-seven-year-old Angela underwent a dramatic conversion, the first of many steps in her spiritual journey. Details regarding her life previous to 1285 are virtually unknown. Local tradition has it that she was probably born in 1248 into a wealthy and noble family, and that her father died while she was still very young. When she was probably around twenty years old, Angela married a man who remains anonymous. Although we know no details, we do know that she had several sons and that shortly after her conversion they, along with her husband and mother, all died. According to her own account, she had prayed for their deaths. Although this seems extraordinary, we can surmise from her writings that her family had seemed an obstacle to her, preventing further progress along her spiritual journey.
Passages in Angela’s Book indicate that previous to her conversion, she seems to have enjoyed the extravagant social life of the wealthy—fancy food, beautiful and expensive clothing, and fine perfumes. They also indicate that she may have had a tendency toward anger, pride, gossiping, and illicit seductive behavior. A local tradition indicates that she was unfaithful to her husband, but no document exists to confirm this claim. However, upon close study of her writings, it does appear that the sin she felt obligated to confess at the onset of her conversion may have been of a sexual nature.
The only explicit motives for her conversion, mentioned in her Book, simply indicate that in 1285, she wept sorrowfully, greatly fearing damnation. She was then inspired to go to confession, but in her shame, was unable to confess all of her sins. In her despair, she prayed to St. Francis to help her find a confessor. The next morning she encountered a Franciscan friar, a man who happened to be a relative of hers and who was also chaplain to the local bishop. Angela then