JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Quite possibly Jacksonville's most beautiful Christmas story begins with a German hymn.
Many know "Silent Night," but without one of Florida's earliest holy men, Bishop John Freeman Young, the English translation may not exist.
"He came here when Florida was nothing more than a howling wilderness right as statehood was happening. When Florida's motto was “Leave Us Alone,” even as we moved into statehood and he went deeper and deeper into the howling wilderness for this belief to establish his missions, his churches," Emily Lisska of the Jacksonville Historical Society said.
As Young rose through the Episcopal Church's ranks, he left Florida. Landing in New York at Trinity Church around 1855. Young's passion for music and translation led him to the 1818 work by Franz Gruber and Joseph Mohr, known then as “Stille Nacht!”
"As far as notes and rhythms, they're basically the same, there might be some cultural differences the way it's sung, but for the most part it's nearly identical," vocalist Ryan Justice explained.
Young was consecrated as the second Bishop of Florida in 1867 and returned to Jacksonville to help rebuild what the Civil War destroyed. Part of his vision, Old St. Andrews Church.
"This church opened Easter Sunday, perfect to in the scheme of this story in 1888 and it opened during an exciting time in this city's history," Lisska said.
In 1885, More than 25 years after Young translated Silent Night into English that he was in New York, fell ill and died. His body was then taken here to Jacksonville's Old City Cemetery where for 132 years he continues to sleep in heavenly peace.
Lyrics that have given hope in the darkest of hours. Lisska recounts a battlefield tradition that brought foes together just for a moment.
"A great truce just among the troops, not a stated one by international powers where they stopped shooting, they stopped fighting and the men, the German's and the English speaking men sang Silent Night and shot their weapons up into the Heavens," Lisska said.
As another Christmas season comes and goes, the moss growing thick on markers in the Old City Cemetery. It's what is left behind by one of the most famous residents, continues to inspire.
"What the world owes him, at least the English speaking world is moving that song through the world internationally and bringing us the beauty of Silent Night," Lisska said.