These seven saints lived in the thirteenth century. They were all from Florence, Italy. Each had a great love for Mary, the Mother of God. They were active members of a confraternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The way they came to be founders of the Servite order is remarkable. On the feast of the Assumption, while the seven men were deep in prayer, the Blessed Mother appeared to them. She inspired them to leave the world and to live alone with God. After several years of living as hermits, they went to their bishop. They asked him for a rule of life to follow. The bishop encouraged them to pray and to ask for guidance from Mary. Mary appeared to the men carrying a black habit. At her side was an angel bearing a scroll with the words “Servants of Mary” written on it. In this vision, the Blessed Mother said that she had chosen them to be her servants. She asked them to wear a black habit. This was the habit they started to wear in 1240. They also began to live their religious life according to the rule of St. Augustine.
These wonderful men helped each other love and serve God better. Six of them were ordained priests. They were Bonfilius, Amadeus, Hugh, Sostenes, Manettus and Buonagiunta. The seventh founder, Alexis, remained a wonderful religious until death. In his humility, he chose not to be ordained to the priesthood.
Many young men came to join these holy founders. They were known as Servants of Mary or Servites. The Servite order was approved by the Vatican in 1259. The seven holy founders were declared saints by Pope Leo XIII in 1888.