10 Oldest Churches in the World

Churches are some of the most majestic buildings in existence. Since the dawn of time, civilizations and cultures have gathered in these buildings for worship, and many of these ancient buildings are still standing, today.

The history of these churches is a journey through time itself. And we have found some of the oldest churches in the world, and present them to you, below:

10. Hagia Sophia

 Years Built: 532 – 537 AD
 Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Denomination: Christian
Today: Museum

Hagia Sophiaphoto source: staticflickr.com

For more than 1,000 years, Hagia Sophia was the largest Christian church in existence (and one of the largest churches of any denomination in the world).

Built by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, Hagia Sophia went through several changes over the years. Originally, the church was a Christian cathedral, but it has been changed from time to time. And also has been a Greek Orthodox cathedral, a Roman Catholic cathedral, and an Imperial mosque.

Today, Hagia Sophia still stands, but it is now a museum, not a church. Visitors to Istanbul can tour the museum, and there are estimates that approximately 10,000 people go through it each day.

9. Etchmiadzin Cathedral

 Years Built: Construction began in 483 AD
 Location: Vagharshapat, Armenia
Denomination: Christia
Today: Still Operational

Etchmiadzin Cathedralphoto source: Wikimedia

Etchmiadzin Cathedral was the first cathedral built in ancient Armenia, and it remains the oldest Christian cathedral in existence. Originally, a church was built on the same site in 301 AD, but it was replaced by the current church in 483 AD.

Today, the cathedral still stands and serves as a major shrine for Christians in Armenia. Etchmiadzin Cathedral is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is one of the most popular spots for tourists to visit in the entire Armenia country.

8. Basilica of San Lorenzo, Milan

 Years Built: Construction began in 364 AD
 Location: Milan, Italy
Denomination: Roman Catholic
Today: Still Operational

Basilica of San Lorenzo, Milanphoto source: Wikimedia

The Basilica of San Lorenzo is one of the oldest buildings still standing in Milan. When built, the basilica was the largest construction project that the Western world has ever seen. When construction was complete, it was the largest circular church in the world, and it was the inspiration for Hagia Sophia, which is also on this list.

Today, the Basilica of San Lorenzo is still an operational church, and some of the original features remain, though much of it has been rebuilt over the years.

7. Cathedral of Trier

 Years Built: 340 AD
 Location: Trier, Germany
Denomination: Roman Catholic
Today: Still Operational

Basilica of San Lorenzo, Milanphoto source: Wikimedia

The Cathedral of Trier is the oldest cathedral in Germany. Originally, it was built on a Roman site that broke ground in the late third century. The most interesting thing about the Cathedral of Trier are its relics. It holds one of the Holy Nails that was said to hold Jesus to the cross when he was crucified, but that’s not the most remarkable relic.

The church also has an artifact known as the Seamless Robe of Jesus. This relic is said to be the robe Jesus wore shortly before his crucifixion. It is rarely available for public viewing, however, and the last time it was displayed was back in 2012.

6. St. Peter’s Basilica

 Years Built: 326 to 360 AD
 Location: Vatican City
Denomination: Roman Catholic
Today: Rebuilt in the 16th century

Basilica of San Lorenzo, Milanphoto source: Wikimedia

The most famous church on our list is St. Peter’s Basilica, home of some of the most famous works of art in the world, including Michelangelo’s, Pieta. Originally, the church was commissioned by Constantine I, and was the site of the crowning of Charlemagne, when he was named Holy Roman Emperor.

The original church stood until the 16th century, when the new building, the one standing today, was built. Some original features are still at the site, including the Tomb of St. Peter, one of the disciples of Jesus from the Bible.

5. Church of the Nativity

 Years Built: Construction began in 325 AD
 Location: Bethlehem, Palestine
Denomination: Multiple
Today: Under reconstruction

Basilica of San Lorenzo, Milanphoto source: Wikimedia

The Church of the Nativity is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is currently under reconstruction. The site is also the home of four monastic communities including those from the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Roman Catholic, and Syriac Orthodox churches. Interestingly enough, this church is often in the news due to clashes between these communities.

4. Mar Sarkas

 Years Built: Pre-325 AD
 Location: Maalula, Syria
Denomination: Greek Catholic
Today: Still Operational as a monastery and church

Mar Sarkaphoto source: Wikimedia

Mar Sarkas is a monastery and convent that was built before 325 AD, but the exact date of construction is unknown. This makes it one of the oldest monasteries in the whole of Christendom. The convent on site holds several ancient icons, including several from the fourth century.

Within the community, there are a few nuns at the site who speak English. They are happy to take visitors around the site for a short tour if asked. The church is also the site of several festivals that take place throughout the year, including the Festival of Mar Sarkas. This festival is held each year on October 7th.

3. Aqaba Church

 Years Built: 293 – 303 AD
 Location: Aqaba, Jordan
Denomination: Christian
Today: In Ruins

Aqaba Churchphoto source: Wikimedia

Aqaba Church was hidden for thousands of years until it was discovered by a team of archaeologists in 1998. It is thought to be the oldest remaining Christian church in the world, or at least the oldest site that was meant to be a church.

During the excavation, the team found tombs with golden crosses on them, as well as glass lamps, a cemetery with more than 20 skeletal remains, and coins in a collection box. The researchers estimate that the church could hold 60 worshipers when it was first built, but it is believed that it was destroyed in an earthquake in 363 AD. When the church was rebuilt, the capacity of the church almost doubled.

2. Megiddo Church

 Years Built: Late 3rd to Early 4th Century AD
 Location: Tel Megiddo, Israel
Denomination: Christian
Today: Ruins

Megiddo Churchphoto source: Wikimedia

One of the most interesting things about the Megiddo Church is that it was built on the site of a modern prison, and inmates discovered the first clues of an archaeological site in 2005. Archaeologists began excavating it very quickly, and they found some remarkable information. The building was a rectangle shape, and archaeologists also found a well-preserved mosaic and several Christian artifacts.

The language of the words inscribed in the mosaic is Greek, and it also features fish, an early symbol of Christianity. Experts also believe that the site was not originally a church, but turned into a church around the early 4th century.

1. Dura-Europos Church

 Years Built: Approximately 233 AD
 Location: Dura-Europos, Syria
Denomination: Christian
Today: Ruins

Dura-Europos Churchphoto source: Wikimedia

The Dura-Europos Church is likely the oldest church in existence. Before it was used as a church, however, it is believed that the building was a private home. Today, the site is in ruins, but it was fully excavated during the 1920s and 1930s by a team of French and American archaeologists.

Several frescoes were removed during that period, which are visible at the art gallery at Yale University. Unfortunately, we believe the church remains in ruins, but it is located in an ISIS occupied area, so researchers have been unable to access the site.


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