St. Nicholas was born at St. Angelo in the March of Ancona, but is called Nicholas of Tolentino, from having resided during the last thirty years of his life at the latter place. His parents, Campanus and Amata, were long without issue, and desiring to be blessed with a child, they made a pilgrimage to Bari, to the shrine of the holy bishop St. Nicholas. Having most fervently performed their devotions, they were favored with an apparition of the Saint, who told them that they would have a son, whom they should call Nicholas, and who would become a man of eminent virtue. The truth of this prediction was soon made known. Amata gave birth to a son, who, in accordance with the command of the Saint, was named Nicholas. It was a striking fact, that from his early childhood, Nicholas possessed, in an eminent degree, the spirit of prayer, and when, as is the habit of children, he shed tears, nothing could pacify him more easily than to be told that they would carry him to church. When there he was always quiet, and as he became older, he showed a reverence that was truly angelical. He never spoke a word while in the house of God; never looked curiously about. In his whole conduct there was never seen any childishness or frivolity.
When he was old enough to begin his studies, he displayed remarkable eagerness for gaining knowledge, and made great progress: in consequence of which, he was, when yet quite young, admitted among the Canons of the church of St. Salvador. But one day, hearing a sermon on the words of the Apostle: "Do not love the world, or what is in the world," delivered by an Augustinian hermit, he perceived an inner desire to leave all that is temporal, and serve God more perfectly in a religious state. Hence he went, immediately after the sermon, to the superior of the above-named Order, and requested to be received as a novice. His request was granted; and fulfilling the prophecy of St. Nicholas, he gave, already in the year of his probation, manifestations of truly eminent virtues, which caused him to be allowed to make his profession earlier than was usual. His constant mortification excited the admiration of all with whom he came in contact. He had heard, when only seven years of age, that his holy patron, St. Nicholas, had, when an infant, abstained every Wednesday and Friday, from his mother's breast, and had begun immediately to pass the same two days without any food. To these two fast-days, he, in the course of time, added two more. During thirty years, he never touched either flesh or fish; he even abstained from eggs, milk, and fruit, contenting himself with bread, vegetables and water. Even when seriously sick, he deviated not from this austerity. Once when the physicians prescribed meat for him, and the General of the Order commanded him to follow their advice, he obeyed, but having taken a little, he begged to be excused from eating more, saying that he would regain strength without it, which did not fail to happen. Besides these continual fasts, the holy man chastised his innocent body in various ways. He constantly wore a hair-shirt, and scourged himself every night with an iron chain. He took a short rest at night on the bare floor, and never allowed his body the slightest recreation. One day, when someone told him not to be too severe upon himself, he said: "I have not entered the religious state to indulge in my own comfort."