Saint Juliana (b. Giuliana Falconieri) was one of the two glories of the noble Falconieri Family, the other being her uncle, Alexis. Her parents, Chiarissimo and Riguardata, were devout people of great wealth who had built at their own expense the magnificent church of the Annunziata in Florence. They were childless and already well advanced in years when, in 1270, Giuliana was born—the answer to prayer. After the death of her father when she was still a child, her uncle Alexis shared with Riguardata the direction of her upbringing.
Giuliana never cared for the amusements and occupations which interested other girls, but loved to spend her time in prayer in church. Sometimes her mother would remonstrate her, reminding her that unless she applied herself to the spinning wheel and the needle, she would never find a husband. This was no threat to the fifteen-year old Giuliana who had already made her decision never to marry but rather to consecrate herself to God and to renounce the world. Her uncle Alexis, one of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order, instructed her carefully and when he considered her ready, had her invested with the Servite habit of Philip Benizi. Despite her mother's protest, she was professed as a tertiary of the Order a year later.
As a tertiary, Giuliana continued to live at home where she gradually gained her mother's complete approval for her profession. After the death of her mother in 1304, Giuliana moved to another house where she led a community life with a number of women who devoted themselves to prayer and works of mercy. Their habit resembled that of the men of the Servite Order.
Upon the urging of her contemporaries, although with great reluctance, Giuliana accepted the position of superior. Those who were privileged to live under her guidance testified that she outstripped tem all in her zeal, charity and austerities. Her sympathies extended to all with whom she came into contact and she was especially compassionate and helpful when it was a question of reconciling enemies, reclaiming sinners and relieving the sick.
She showed great devotion to the Eucharist in which she found her strength. According to tradition, on the day of her death, being unable to take food, she was deprived of Holy Communion. At her request a Host was place on her chest; it miraculously penetrated her body, enabling her to be nourished with the Sacrament of Christ's body. After she died a short time later the image of the cross that had been on the Host was found on her breast. There is a reference to this in the collect recited on her feast, June 19.
Giuliana Falconieri died in Florence in 1341 in her seventy-first year and was canonized in 1737. Because she authored a code of regulations for the order that was later formally adopted, she is honored as the foundress of the Servants of Mary of the Servite Order. The Servite Sisters look to the Blessed Virgin Mary as their mother in faith and sister in discipleship, and remain active in educational, healing, social and pastoral ministries today.