top of page
  • Pompeii Rising

As Light Passes through Glass: a Saga

Updated: May 5

Fr. Thomas and B. Gulliford reclaim stained glass
The Church Fathers tell us that just as light passes through glass, so miraculously did Our Lord come into the world on the night of His birth. This is a defense of the Blessed Mother's Perpetual Virginity, and stained glass has impressed upon the hearts of Christians their catechism for millennia.

Inevitably, much buzz is in their air regarding the future of stained glass at Our Lady of Pompeii Catholic Church. When it was an active parish, the church, formally known as Old Holy Rosary, bore beautiful and timeless stained glass. The first pastor, Msgr. Denis Lyons, commissioned the renowned German religious art studio Mayer's of Munich to fill his parish with masterpieces. This is the story of the stained glass of Old Holy Rosary and where it is today.

From the old Florida Times Union Article we learned the "The large rose window above the entrance will be stained in colors that will throw a soothing light upon the congregation. The windows on the sides will be memorial windows of the standard type and will be donated by the members of the parish. Three of these windows have been ordered already and it is expected that they will arrive in time to be installed for Easter Sunday [1924]."

Top row: Resurrection (left) and Nativity of our Lord (right)
Bottom row: The Reception of the Holy Rosary of St. Dominic (left) and the Finding in the Temple

As we know, the original congregation outgrew the building of Old Holy Rosary by 1963. Two years later, the parish moved to a newly built church hall which could fit the larger congregation. This temporary solution would buy the congregation time while new construction for a church could be arranged. For the Western Rite Catholic congregation, Old Holy Rosary would host the occasional Saturday night Mass or Wedding and was considered the historic chapel. However, we also know that Old Holy Rosary wasn't just a Latin Rite parish, but also offered the Eastern Syriac Rite. The church at 2039 N Laura continued to hosts Jacksonville's Catholic Arab population where the Divine Liturgy was offered by a priest named Msgr. Shashy until his death in February, 1986. At this time, the New Holy Rosary church was built, and the Diocese no longer required Old Holy Rosary to operate, opting to close it down and put the property up for sale.

Our friend, Ray Solomon, was one of the young children baptized by Msgr. Shashy, and attended Old Holy Rosary with his family since he was a child. At the time of the sale, Solomon was a successful businessman. From another Times Union article (right) written in 1995, we see that "Rather than let the exquisite stained glass windows be desecrated or destroyed, Solomon had bought the church" desiring to "salvage the windows." Ray could not bare to see the church in which he was raised and received all his Sacraments become a demolition zone or worse. The news article continues that, with the help of subject matter expert Henry Tilley, the two removed each window from the church and stored them until they could be distributed to a good home. From the same article we catch a glimpse of what many of us already know. "While we were in the process of removing the mad us realize how insignificant we were.... The church would start to get dark, the figures in the windows would become translucent...we could sense a feeling of spiritualness in the church." The Blessed Virgin was not done yet, and even after the church was closed, she would move one more heart. Tilley, the stained glass artisan, would go on to become Catholic.

Raymond Solomon removed all of the Catholic items from the church with respect and dignity. Only after all the important religious items were salvaged did he put the building back on the market. This left Solomon with an inventory of stained glass that could use a good home.

B. Gulliford (L) with old friend R. Solomon and Fr. Thomas
Resigned to the real possibility that the church would never be reclaimed, Solomon found churches and chapels in the area who would love and treasure the glass as much as he did growing up.

Years ago, Coordinator of St. Michael the Archangel, William Gulliford, purchased two stained glass windows from Ray for our congregation to enjoy. We can see from the picture below that while St. Peter and St. Paul flanked the choir loft of Old Holy Rosary, the stained glass extended down into a lower panel, including a dedication. Since the entire stained glass would not fit in our small church's sanctuary, Ray agreed to part with the top halves, and stored the rest in his warehouse. Perhaps Ray's guardian angel knew something that we didn't; that one day, the halves would be reunited under the care of the Society of St. Pius X.

(Left) Fr. Sean Gerrity takes a newly baptized baby to the High Altar to be offered to God while the stained glass of St. Peter looks on from the North wall of the sanctuary. (Right) We see from a picture taken of the stained glass before it was removed from Old Holy Rosary that there was originally more stained glass.

Years later, two small works of stained glass showed up on the steps of St. Michael the Archangel chapel. For over 20 years, it has been a mystery who donated the circular panes of glass with a depiction of the Blessed Sacrament and the other with the holy symbol IHS. However, newly discovered photos reveal the origin of these blessings are no longer a mystery. The IHS comes from the apex of the stained glass of the depiction of the Blessed Virgin gifting the Rosary to St. Dominic (as seen above.) The Holy Eucharist must have come from one of the other three windows that lined the nave.

Holy Spirit Catholic Church, a parish built the same year as the sale of Old Holy Rosary, graciously received one of the largest stained glass works. The Nativity Scene (as shown above) was built into the wall of Holy Spirit's sanctuary. The parish, which is located near Fort Caroline on Jacksonville's Northside, also inherited the original Stations of the Cross.

To the right we see the front page of the program for the dedication of the Holy Spirit, where the Nativity Stained Glass is showcased as their centerpiece.


We fast forward 30 years, and Mr. Solomon heard with great joy that a Catholic congregation purchased the building when it went up for sale in 2022. Mr. Solomon invited Fr. David Thomas, head of Pompeii Rising, to his business venture which happens to be around the corner from St. Michael the Archangel, where Father is chaplain. During this meeting, Solomon passed along some memorabilia that has helped us research this blog. At this meeting, we found out what happened to another great work of art.

Mr. Solomon is good friends with some of those in management at Hospice of North East Florida. We see from the 1995 article that Old Holy Rosary's Moses window, located in the old baptistry, is now under the care of Hospice in one of the chapels of their locations in Jacksonville. We also see additional windows surrounding Moses. This group came from the rose window above the choir loft of Old Holy Rosary. The central figure is non other than St. Cecelia, patroness of music. The angels on either side play their trumpet and lyre while the angel above sings from the book of Psalms. The two longer windows flanking Moses are non-descriptive and seem to have come from the stairwell found the lesser church spire.

Luckily, Ray Solomon did not find good homes for all of the stained glass. During the meeting, Ray revealed that he still had six pieces of stained glass, and he was honored to donate them to Pompeii Rising: Restoring Old Holy Rosary. While not much is known about the remaining pieces, we know there are windows excited to receive the original stained glass once again. We end this article with two thoughts. Firstly, debt of gratitude to Mr. Raymond Solomon for his vision, his resourcefulness, and his love for God and the things due to Him. Thank you!

Secondly, we know it would make everyone's hearts full to have stained glass in Our Lady of Pompeii once more. However, the effort to adorn the church with stained glass will be a part of a later phase that will allow us to focus on beautification and adornment. Currently, we are working overtime to provide the necessities. In all likelihood, we will commission glass to match the style that was there in the past, which will be an expensive undertaking. We are sure there will be opportunities for benefactors to sponsor works of art like our forefathers did a century ago. May God bless you and all who enjoy these works of art.

259 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All



Dear Fr. Thomas and Bill Gulliford,

It’s so amazing how things come around! You both knew my parents, Jim and Laura Ann Jones, and you know a few of us “joneses” from St. Marys academy and from St. Michael’s (with Fr. Collin’s back in the early 90’s). In case you haven’t heard from other siblings, my parents were married in this Church in 1957!

I’m so excited for this project…ALMOST excited enough to consider moving back to Jax….(from St. Mary’s).

bottom of page