(Servants of Mary)
The Order of Servites is the fifth mendicant order, the objects of which are the sanctification of its members, preaching the Gospel, and the propagation of devotion to the Mother of God, with special reference to her sorrows. In this article we shall consider: (1) the foundation and history of the order; (2) devotions and manner of life; (3) affiliated associations; (4) Servites of distinction.
Foundation and history
To the city of Florence belongs the glory of giving to the Church the seven youths who formed the nucleus of the order: Buonfiglio dei Monaldi (Bonfilius), Giovanni di Buonagiunta (Bonajuncta), Bartolomeo degli Amidei (Amideus), Ricovero dei Lippi-Ugguccioni (Hugh), Benedetto dell’ Antella (Manettus), Gherardino di Sostegno (Sosteneus), and Alessio de’ Falconieri (Alexius); they belonged to seven patrician families of that city, and had early formed a confraternity of laymen, known as the Laudesi, or Praisers of Mary.
While engaged in the exercises of the confraternity on the feast of the Assumption, 1233, the Blessed Virgin appeared to them, advised them to withdraw from the world and devote themselves entirely to eternal things. They obeyed, and established themselves close to the convent of the Friars Minor at La Camarzia, a suburb of Florence. Desiring stricter seclusion than that offered at La Camarzia, they withdrew to Monte Senario, eleven miles north of Florence. Here the Blessed Virgin again appeared to them, conferred on them a black habit, instructed them to follow the Rule of Saint Augustine and to found the order of her servants (15 April, 1240). The brethren elected a superior, took the vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty, and admitted associates.
In 1243, Peter of Verona (Saint Peter Martyr), Inquisitor-General of Italy, recommended the new foundation to the pope, but it was not until 13 March, 1249, that the first official approval of the order was obtained from Cardinal Raniero Capocci, papal legate in Tuscany. About this time Saint Bonfilius obtained permission to found the first branch of the order at Cafaggio outside the walls of Florence. Two years later (2 Oct., 1251) Innocent IV appointed Cardinal Guglielmo Fieschi first protector of the order. The next pope, Alexander IV, favoured a plan for the amalgamation of all institutes following the Rule of Saint Augustine. This was accomplished in March, 1256, and about the same time a Rescript was issued confirming the Order of the Servites as a separate body with power to elect a general. Four years later a general chapter was convened at which the order was divided into two provinces, Tuscany and Umbria, the former of which Saint Manettus directed, while the latter was given into the care of Saint Sostene. Within five years two new provinces were added, namely, Romagna and Lombardy. After Saint Philip Benizi was elected general (5 June, 1267) the order, which had long been the object of unjust attack from jealous enemies, entered into the crisis of its existence. The Second Council of Lyons in 1274 put into execution the ordinance of the Fourth Lateran Council, forbidding the foundation of new religious orders, and absolutely suppressed all mendicant institutions not yet approved by the Holy See. The aggressors renewed their assaults, and in the year 1276 Innocent V in a letter to Saint Philip declared the order suppressed. Saint Philip proceeded to Rome, but before his arrival there Innocent V had died. His successor lived but five weeks. Finally John XXI, on the favourable opinion of three consistorial advocates, decided that the order should continue as before. The former dangers reappeared under Martin V (1281), and though other popes continued to favour the order, it was not definitively approved until Benedict IX issued the Bull, “Dum levamus” (11 Feb., 1304). Of the seven founders, Saint Alexis alone lived to see their foundation raised to the dignity of an order. He died in 1310.
We must here make mention of Saint Peregrine Laziosi (Latiosi), whose sanctity of life did much towards increasing the repute of the Servite Order in Italy. Born at Forli in 1265, the son of a Ghibelline leader, Peregrine, in his youth, bitterly hated the Church. He insulted and struck Saint Philip Benizi, who, at the request of Martin V, had gone to preach peace to the Forlivese. Peregrine’s generous nature was immediately aroused by the mildness with which Saint Philip received the attack and he begged the saint’s forgiveness. In 1283 he was received into the order, and so great was his humility it was only after much persuasion he consented to be ordained a priest. He founded a monastery in his native city, where he devoted all his energies to the restoration of peace. His humility and patience were so great that he was called by his people a second Job. He died in 1345. His body remains incorrupt to the present day. He was canonized by Benedict XIII in 1726, and his feast is celebrated on 30 April.
One of the most remarkable features of the new foundation was its wonderful growth. Even in the thirteenth century there were houses of the order in Germany, France, and Spain. Early in the fourteenth century the order had more than one hundred convents including branch houses in Hungary, Bohemia, Austria, Poland, and Belgium; there were also missions in Crete and India. The disturbances during the Reformation caused the loss of many Servite convents in Germany, but in the South of France the order met with much success. The Convent of Santa Maria in Via (1563) was the second house of the order established in Rome; San Marcello had been founded in 1369. Early in the eighteenth century the order sustained losses and confiscations from which it has scarcely yet recovered. The flourishing Province of Narbonne was almost totally destroyed by the plague which swept Marseilles in 1720. In 1783 the Servites were expelled from Prague and in 1785 Joseph II desecrated the shrine of Maria Waldrast. Ten monasteries were suppressed in Spain in 1835. A new foundation was made at Brussels in 1891, and at Rome the College of Saint Alexis was opened in 1895. At this period the order was introduced into England and America chiefly through the efforts of Fathers Bosio and Morini. The latter, having gone to London (1864) as director of the affiliated Sisters of Compassion, obtained charge of a parish from Archbishop Manning in 1867. His work prospered: besides Saint Mary’s Priory at London, convents were opened at Bognor (1882) and Begbroke (1886). In 1870 Fathers Morini, Ventura, Giribaldi, and Brother Joseph Camera, at the request of Rt. Rev. Bishop Melcher of Green Bay, took up a mission in America, at Neenah, Wisconsin. Father Morini founded at Chicago (1874) the monastery of Our Lady of Sorrows. A novitiate was opened at Granville, Wisconsin, in 1892. The American province, formally established in 1908, embraces convents in the dioceses of Chicago, Saint Louis, Milwaukee, Superior, and Denver. In 1910 the order numbered 700 members in 62 monasteries, of which 36 were in Italy, 17 in Austria-Hungary, 4 in England, 4 in North America, 1 in Brussels.
Devotions: manner of life
In common with all religious orders strictly so called, the Servites make solemn profession of the three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The particular object of the order is to sanctify first its own members, and then all men through devotion to the Mother of God, especially in her desolation during the Passion of her Divine Son. The Servites give missions, have the care of souls, or teach in higher institutions of learning. The Rosary of the Seven Dolours is one of their devotions, as is also the Via Matris. The fasts of the order are Advent, Lent, and the vigils of certain feasts. All offices in the order are elective and continue for three years, except that of general and assistant- generals which are for six years. The canonized Servite saints are: Saint Philip Benizi (feast 23 August), Saint Peregrine Latiosi (30 April), Saint Juliana Falconieri (19 June), and the Seven Holy Founders (12 February).
Connected with the first order of men are the cloistered nuns of the second order, which originated with converts of Saint Philip Benizi. These sisters have convents in Spain, Italy, England, The Tyrol, and Germany. The Mantellate, a third order of women founded by Saint Juliana, have houses in Italy, France, Spain, England, and Canada. In the United States they are to be found in the dioceses of Sioux City and Belville. There is also a third order for seculars, as well as a confraternity of the Seven Dolours, branches of which may be erected in any church.
Servites of distinction
A few of the most distinguished members are here grouped under the heading of that particular subject to which they were especially devoted; the dates are those of their death. Ten members have been canonized and several beatified.
Angelus Torsani (1562?); Felicianus Capitoni (1577), who wrote an explanation of all the passages misinterpreted by Luther; Jerome Quaini (1583); Angelus Montursius (1600), commentary in 5 vols.; James Tavanti (1607), whose “Ager Dominicus” comprises 25 vols.; Julius Anthony Roboredo (1728).
Laurence Optimus (1380), “Commentarium in Magistrum Sententiarum”; Ambrose Spiera (1454); Marian Salvini (1476); Jerome Amidei (1543); Laurence Mazzocchi (1560); Gherardus Baldi (1660), who was styled by his contemporaries “eminens inter theologos”; Amideus Chiroli (1700?), celebrated for his “Lumina fidei divinae”; Julius Arrighetti (1705); Callixtus Lodigerius (1710); Gerard Capassi (1737), who was by Benedict XIV called the most learned man of his day; Mark Struggl (1761); Caesar Sguanin (1769).
Paul Attavanti (1499), “Breviarium totius juris canonici”; Dominic Brancaccini (1689), “De jure doctoratus”; Paul Canciani (1795?), “Barbarorum leges antiquae”; Theodore Rupprecht, eighteenth-century jurist; Bonfilius Mura (1882), prefect of the Sapienza before 1870.
Philosophy and mathematics
Urbanus Averroista, commentator of Averroes; Andrew Zaini (1423); Paul Albertini (1475), better known as Paolo Veneto; Philip Mucagatta (1511); John Baptist Drusiani (1656), the “Italian Archimedes”; Benedict Canali (1745); Raymond Adami (1792); Angelus Ventura (1738).
History and hagiography
James Philip Landrofilo (1528); Octavian Bagatti (1566); Raphael Maffei (1577); Archangelus Giani (1623); Philip Ferrari (1626); Archangelus Garbi (1722); Placidus Bonfrizieri (1732); Joseph Damiani (1842); Austin M. Morini (1910).
Alexander Mellino (1554), choirmaster at the Vatican; Elias Zoto, John Philip Dreyer (1772); Paul Bonfichi, who received a pension from Napoleon Bonaparte for his musical compositions; Ambrose of Racconigi, Cornelius Candidus, Jilis of Milan, Germanus Sardus, poets; Arsenius Mascagni and Gabriel Mattei, painters; Angelus Montursius (1563), architect and sculptor, among whose works are the Neptune of Messina, the arm of Laocoon in the Vatican, and the Angels on the Ponte Sant’ Angelo.
- Patrick Griffin. “Order of Servites”. . CatholicSaints.Info. 26 April 2014. Web. 24 January 2017. <>