Servites, or Servants of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Servites, Or Servants Of The Blessed Virgin Mary an order of monks in the Roman Catholic Church founded (1233) in Florence by seven rich Florentine merchants. Their main object was to propagate devotion to the Virgin Mary. They lived at first as hermits, but, becoming a monastic order, adopted the rule of St. Augustine and obtained from pope Martin V the privileges of a mendicant order. The order having become relaxed, it was reestablished in 1593 in its original strictness as "Servites Eremites." This order has produced a large number of distinguished men, among whom may be mentioned father Paul Sarpi, author of the History of the Council of Trent, and St. Philip Benizi (died 1285), one of the apostles of Western Europe in the 13th century. The Servites were extremely popular during the 16th century because of their many works of charity. Their dress was a cassock of serge, a cloak, a scapular, and an alms bag.
There were also female Servites, who were never very numerous, and a large body of Tertiarians (q.v.). The order, in 1870, was divided into twenty-seven provinces, the central house being the monastery of the Annunziazione in Florence. They were involved in the decrees suppressing religious orders in Italy and Germany. They were introduced into the United States in 1870 by bishop Melcher of Green Bay, Mich. There was a similar order founded In Naples in 1243.