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  • Pompeii Rising

Sowing the Seeds of Faith: Catholicism in North Florida & the Honored History of Our Lady of Pompeii

Updated: Nov 9, 2023


Northeast Florida has deep Catholic roots and a rich history of the Faith due to its time as a Spanish territory. The blood of many martyrs, both European and native, fertilize the First Coast.

Northeast Florida is called the First Coast because Spanish Admiral Pedro Mendez founded the first settlement in what is now known as the United States at St. Augustine in 1565. Catholicism is in the very fiber of Jacksonville’s being. The very first act was to offer a Mass of Thanksgiving in the very same Traditional Roman Rite that the Society of St. Pius X uses today. Only a year later in 1566, the Jesuit, Fr. Pedro Martinez S.J., was martyred just 23 miles Northeast of Old Holy Rosary.

Florida was ceded to the United States under the reign of Pope Pius VII (1820) and the pre-diocesan history of North Florida concludes with the Diocese of St. Augustine being created in 1870 by Bl. Pope Pius IX.


Agustin Verot, represented the First Coast in Vatican Council I (1870) as the first bishop of the newly created See of St. Augustine. Only three decades later, our patron, Pope St. Pius X, named Bp. Michael Curley to be the 4th bishop of St. Augustine. Bp. Curley worked tirelessly for race equality, battling Jim Crow laws, and allowing black children to receive good Catholic education.

As the Great Fire of 1901 burned urban Jacksonville to the ground, many residents moved two miles north of downtown, causing a boom in population to the neighborhood of Springfield. The change in demographics warranted the area to stand as a parish of its own, and one of the last tasks Bp. Curly completed, before being promoted to serve as the new Archbishop of Baltimore, was to create the parish, historically known as Holy Rosary, to better serve the Faithful of North Jacksonville.

Ground was broken by the newly appointed bishop, Patrick Barry, in 1923, who laid the cornerstone we see today. The new church was built in the Neo-Romanesque style to last for generations. Being completed in 1924, the finished church was dedicated by Bp. Barry to the Blessed Virgin under the devotion to her Holy Rosary. Bp. Barry also was the same bishop who established the pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Le Leche, which the Society of St. Pius X still champions annually for the past 11 years. He led the diocese until his death in 1940, when a new bishop, Joseph Hurley was selected by Pope Pius XII.

Bp. Hurley not only served as the Local Ordinary of the Diocese of St. Augustine, but also gained the title of Archbishop for his service to the Vatican as a diplomat for the Holy See to post-war Yugoslavia. He took part in the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and during this same time the congregation of Holy Rosary, which comfortably sat 450, had already outgrown the building that was dedicated just 40 years earlier.

Archbishop Hurley allowed the overcrowded congregation to celebrate the Mass in a large provisional building on the parish school’s property a mile north of Springfield, at the intersection of Brentwood and Norwood. The beautiful church between Main Street and North Laura was henceforth affectionately known as Old Holy Rosary. The church was semi-retired and plans for the new church were underway.


Since the great fire of 1901, displaced Eastern Rite Catholics had been meeting at Holy Rosary for the Divine Liturgy. This congregation continued to use the church even after the Latin Rite congregation moved to the campus a few miles north.

In 1986, Fr. Andrew Sashi (Syriac Rite priest) died, and Old Holy Rosary was officially closed as a Catholic church. A few years later in 1991, the Diocese of St. Augustine sold the church to a private buyer who, a year later in turn, sold to the Seventh Day Adventists for $80,000. Thanks to the historic preservation guidelines of Springfield, the exterior of the building has remained untouched. The church and its impressive Marian relief of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of Pompeii continued to hold a special place in the heart of our community.


In 2021, the Seventh Day Adventist's put the church up for sale and the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) acquired it. The growth of the SSPX congregation in Jacksonville necessitated a move to a larger church. The SSPX have overseen St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church on Bartram Road since 2017. The purchase of Old Holy Rosary was the perfect fit to accommodate this growth. We are excited to restore Old Holy Rosary to it's former glory and celebrate Mass their once again.

Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of Pompeii, pray for us!

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