Before the Servites ever existed as an official religious Order, seven prosperous men came together in the city of Florence, Italy. As a reflection of the penitential spirit of the times, it had been the custom of these men to meet regularly as members of a religious society established in honour of Mary, the Mother of God. Eventually, the seven left their comfortable homes, put aside their finery and went to live together in a ramshackle building. This event is believed to have happened in 1233 which is regarded as the foundation date of the order.
In 1233 A war had been raging in the Italian Province of Tuscany between the Guelphs and Ghibilenes (one supported the emperor the other the Papacy. Like all wars those who suffered the most were the less fortunate.
It was a time of the emerging middle class – the merchant class. Money was to be had and made. The gulf between rich and poor was developing.
Some were not enthralled by the scene around them – a scene of devastation, hardship, poverty and disease. These were mainly the fraternities who desired to change things and help alleviate the plight of their fellow country folk. These were the ones who would stand beside the poor and sick to witness to the healing presence of God among us.
The holiness and penitential lifestyle of the seven quickly attracted visitors and others who wished to join them in their newly found joy of fraternal living for the sake of the Gospel. The entire group moved to more peaceful surroundings, and established a hermitage on the summit of a nearby mountain, Monte Senario, sometimes known as the “sounding mountain.”
Coming to be known as the “Friar Servants of Mary,” others joined the first seven on Monte Senario, and as the group continued to grow, the seeds of the new religious Order took root. The Friar Servants of Mary were approved as a religious Order by the bishop of Florence sometime between the years 1240 and 1247. In the year 1304, the Order of Friar Servants of Mary received definitive approval as a religious Order in the Church by the Holy See.
Today Servite Friars are found in Europe, North and South America Africa, Asia, and Australia. From a humble beginning we have been blessed with a long and rich history. We still, like our Seven Founders, go where the needs of God’s people demand that we go. And we still seek the perfection of the Gospel way of life under the protection of Mary, the Mother and Servant of the Lord.
In addition to the Seven Founders, saints of the Order include: St Philip Benizi, St. Juliana Falconieri, St. Peregrine, St. Anthony Pucci, and St. Clelia Barbieri.