A vision of Mary

Alexis Falconieri (c 1200-1310) was one of the seven founders of the Servite Order, the Servants of Mary.

He was born in Florence, the son of Bernard Falconieri, whose success as a merchant had made him one of the richest and most powerful men in the city.From childhood Alexis’s most conspicuous qualities were humility and self-abnegation. He joined a confraternity called the Laudesi, dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

On August 15, 1233, the feast of the Assumption, Alexis and six companions experienced a vision of Mary. Subsequently the seven rich young men abandoned all material possessions and resolved to dedicate themselves to a life of prayer. At first they moved to La Camarzia, a house on the edge of Florence. They then built a few rough huts and a chapel amid the trees and caves on Mount Senario.

Alexis took on the role of raising the slender means which the group required for survival, begging in the streets of Florence where he had lately led a privileged existence.In 1239 the Virgin again appeared, and instructed her servants to found an order. The apparition also demanded that the Servites wear a black scapular, or cloak, “for truly I am the Mother of Sorrows”.

The order duly came into being the next year, and by 1285 had attracted 10,000 members, not merely in Italy, but also in Germany, France, Italy and Spain. In the 14th century the Servites even sent a mission to India.

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