Last Updated on 26th October 2023 by admin
The oldest churches and their remains are not just historical landmarks but they help to understand the rise of Christianity and the immortal beliefs of God’s disciples in a bygone era. Churches witnessed the marvelous evolution as well as the expansion of Christianity religion on the entire planet. Some of the oldest churches in the world have stood for centuries, bearing witness to the development and spread of Christianity.
The concept of churches came into existence after the demise of Lord Jesus Christ. Disciples of Jesus (later known as Christians) spread His teaching and doctrines to the whole world through a commonplace church. Church (Greek word ekklesia) is the place of congregation or assembly of believers. Let’s take a journey through time and explore 30 oldest churches that have left an indelible mark on history.
30) Church of Saint Michael
Location: Vienna, Austria
Constructed: 1220 – 1240
The Church of Saint Michael is considered one of the oldest churches in Vienna, Austria. It is said to be that the oldest part of the church was built between 1220 and 1240. Over time, many changes have taken place, and its current structure was built in 1792. St. Michael’s Church is one of Austria’s famous landmarks that is reminiscent of Romanesque, Gothicism and other architecture. Must visit this church to see the beauty of the artistic and unique type of architecture
29) Notre-Dame de Paris
Location: Paris, France
Constructed: 1163 – 1345
Notre-Dame de Paris is a medieval Catholic cathedral located on the island (Île de la Cité) of the Seine River in Paris, France. It is one of the most famous tourist attractions in France. The cathedral is dedicated to the Virgin Mary (the mother of Jesus) and is considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. Construction of the cathedral was begun in 1163 and was completed in 1345. The cathedral is a large, imposing building with a long nave, a short choir, and two towers. The exterior of the cathedral is characterized by its flying buttresses, which support the roof and walls. The interior of the cathedral is decorated with stained glass windows, sculptures, and other works of art.
28) Dalby Church
Location: Skåne County, Sweden
Constructed: 11th century
Dalby Church (Dalby Kyrka) is one of the oldest churches in Sweden, and is sometimes claimed to be the oldest stone church in the Nordic countries, still in use. It is also called the Church of the Holy Cross in Dalby, located in the Swedish province of Scania. Dalby was part of Denmark at the time when it was first built in the 11th century, and the church was commissioned by King Sven II of Denmark. The current structure of the church we see today was built over several centuries and was last renovated in the 19th century.
27) Greensted Church
Location: Essex, England
Constructed: 9th or 10th Century
This beautiful wooden church is located in the small village of Greenstead located in near Chipping Ongar in Essex, England. It is believed to be the oldest wooden church in the world and dedicated to St. Andrew. dendrochronological (tree-ring dating) estimate that it was built in 845 AD, later re-analyzed and reset the wood to about 1053 AD. The church was reconstruction work by the Victorians in the 19th century and some brickwork was added to the building.
26) Aachen Cathedral
Location: Aachen, Germany
Constructed: 796 – 805
Aachen Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church and one of the famous tourist attractions in Germany located in the old city of Aachen. It is one of the oldest cathedrals in Europe and was built in the 8th century by the order of Emperor Charlemagne. Aachen Cathedral is a masterpiece listed on the UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites list since 1978 due to its exceptional artistry and architecture. It was severely damaged in World War II, but the basic structure of the church survived.
25) Church of Saint Peter of the Nave
Location: Zamora, Spain
Constructed: 680 – 711
San Pedro de la Nave is a medieval church in the province of Zamora, Spain. It is one of the oldest churches in Europe built in the 7th century. It was originally built near the Esla River and then moved from its original site when the land was flooded by the creation of the Ricobayo Reservoir. Relocation of the church was carried out from 1930 to 1932 under the direction of architect Alejandro Ferrante Vazquez.
24) Chapel of St Peter-on-the-Wall
Location: Essex, England
Constructed: 654 AD
This simple-looking church is considered to be one of the oldest churches in England. The chapel of St Peter-on-the-Wall Church is believed to have been built in 654 AD by St Cedd on the foundations of a Roman fort and is still in use. It is situated on the edge of the sea and offers stunning views, which makes it a beautiful destination. Apart from Church of England services, the chapel is regularly used by the nearby Othona community.
23) St Martin’s Church
Location: Canterbury, Kent, England
Constructed: 597 AD
St Martin’s is an ancient church of England parish situated beyond the city center in Canterbury, England. It is one of the most famous destinations in England. It is the oldest church in the entire English-speaking world and is still in use as a parish church and a part of a World Heritage Site. St Martin church was the private chapel of Queen Bertha of Kent, who died around 601. The churchyard also has some graves of many famous people of local families including Thomas Sidney Cooper and Mary Tourte.
22) Church of the Transfiguration
Location: Mount Tabor, Israel
Constructed: 4th-6th AD
21) Church of San Vitale
Location: Ravenna, Italy
Constructed: 527-547 AD
The Church of San Vitale is a Byzantine church in Ravenna, Italy. It is a stunning testament to the architectural and artistic mastery of the Byzantine era. The church was built in the 6th century during the reign of Emperor Justinian I. It is a centrally planned church with a large octagonal dome. These mosaics depict biblical scenes and portraits of important historical figures, showcasing a unique blend of Eastern and Western artistic influences. The Church of San Vitale is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the oldest chruches in Italy.
Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Constructed: 532-537 AD
Hagia-Sophia Church has also known as the “Church of the Holy Wisdom” a place to enlighten the soul and mind. The entire structure described the enormous religious transformations made over the centuries. One can see inscriptions of Islam and minarets as well as iconographic mosaics, the true source of understanding of Christianity religion and beliefs, indicating the prevalence of two different religions at different times. Today the marvelous structure is surrounded by a beautiful garden. The holy place is designated as the historical area of Istanbul by UNESCO.
19) Church of Saint Porphyrius
Location: Gaza, Palestine
Constructed: 5th AD
The Church of Saint Porphyrius is a Greek Orthodox church in Gaza City, State of Palestine. It belongs to the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and is the oldest active church in the city. This ancient church is dedicated to Saint Porphyrius, who is venerated as the city’s patron saint. The church was first built in the 5th century, but it has been rebuilt and renovated several times over the centuries. The current structure dates from the 12th century. On October 19, 2023, an Israeli airstrike hit a building belonging to the Church complex, killing 16 Palestinian civilians, during the 2023 Israel–Hamas war.
18) Church of Santa Maria Maggiore
Location: Rome, Italy
Constructed: 432 – 440 AD
The Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, or the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, is one of Rome’s most remarkable and historically significant churches. It is one of the four papal major basilicas in Rome, and is one of the largest and most important churches dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the world. Located atop the Esquiline Hill, Santa Maria Maggiore dates back to the 5th century AD and stands as one of the oldest churches in Rome. This grand basilica is one of the four major basilicas in the city and is famous for its architectural beauty and the role it has played in the history of Christianity.
17) Basilica di Santa Sabina
Location: Rome, Italy
The Basilica di Santa Sabina, situated atop the Aventine Hill in Rome, is a remarkable ancient church that exudes historical significance and architectural beauty. Built in the 5th century, it is one of the oldest Roman basilicas and holds a special place in the city’s religious and cultural heritage. The basilica was built in the 5th century by the priest Peter of Illyricum, a Dalmatian priest. It was originally dedicated to the Christian martyr Saint Sabina, who is believed to have been buried on the site. The basilica was restored in the 12th century by the Dominican Order, which has been headquartered at the church ever since.
16) San Lorenzo Florence
Location: Florence, Italy
San Lorenzo was the oldest cathedral in the city with a large space to accommodate many people. The church was founded in the 4th century by Saint Ambrose, and was rebuilt in the 11th century. The current structure is a three-aisled basilica with a nave and two aisles. Modern architectural design is based on the classical model of churches in Rome. Beautiful aesthetics and calmness of place inspire and rejuvenate mind and soul to eternity. This beautiful church is also added in the list of oldest churches in the world.
15) Basilica di San Simpliciano
Location: Milan, Italy
Constructed: 380 AD
The Basilica di San Simpliciano, located in the heart of Milan, is a venerable religious site with a rich history and architectural significance. It is one of the oldest churches in the city, dating back to the 4th century. The basilica is dedicated to Saint Simplician, who was a bishop of Milan and a mentor to Saint Augustine. It was originally dedicated to the Virgin Mary, but was later renamed in honor of Saint Simpliciano. The basilica is a famous tourist destination and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
14) Basilica of St. Pierre-aux-Nonnains
Location: Metz, France
Constructed: 380 AD
The basilica of St. Pierre-aux was constructed on Roman Gymnasium stood in the 4th century; the structure was actually converted into Holy Church in the 7th century. On the same foundation, the ancient roman architectural style has brought beautiful reconstruction and redesigning to bring every element of the building into a heavenly state. The oldest church in France is still in amazingly good condition and is one of the famous tourist attractions in France.
13) Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio
Location: Milan, Italy
Constructed: 379 AD
The Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio is a Roman Catholic church in Milan, Italy, that is one of the oldest churches in the city. It was commissioned by Saint Ambrose in 379-386, in an area where numerous martyrs of the Roman persecutions had been buried. The basilica is an outstanding example of Lombard Romanesque architecture. The current structure dates from the 11th and 12th centuries, but the church has been rebuilt and renovated several times over the centuries.
12) Panagia Ekatontapiliani
Location: Parikia, Greece
Constructed: 4th century
Ekatontapiliani means “Church of 100 doors”. A yard surrounding the church contains baptistry and monks’ cells. The church is the center of the religious festival held on 15th August, where people celebrate the sacrifices of Jesus and the triumphs of Christianity. The church is believed to have been founded by Saint Helen, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, in the 4th century AD. However, the oldest surviving parts of the church date from the 6th century AD. The church has been rebuilt and restored several times over the centuries, most recently after an earthquake in 1770.
11) Church of our Lady Mary of Zion
Location: Aksum, Ethiopia
Constructed: 4th century
The church was built to worship the Virgin Mary. Ethnic Ethiopian paintings beautifully illustrated the sacrifice of Mother Mary. She was an iconic and ideological figure as the creator of God. Church of our Lady Mary of Zion was renovated several times and today you can visualize it as vibrant, divine and an astonishing work of architecture and design. It is one of the oldest churches in the world, and it is believed the church have been built in the 4th century AD by King Ezana of Aksum. The church is made of stone and is roofed with a barrel vault.
10) Cathedral of Trier
Location: Trier, Germany
Constructed: 340 AD
Germany is not only known for the most famous castles in the world, but also for “The Cathedral of Trier”, which is Germany’s oldest Cathedral. It has a huge campus and pilgrims all over the world visit and stays here. The church is the most prestigious treasure of Germany for several reasons –
- It is the house of the “Holy Robe”, that was brought by St. Helena and it is in the form of a written document.
- Another important relic is the “Holy Nail” presumed to be used in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
- Skull of St. Helena.
It is one of the famous tourist attractions in Germany. The Cathedral of Trier is also listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
9) Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere
Location: Trastevere, Rome, Italy
Constructed: 340 AD
The holy place is dedicated to honoring and worshipping Blessed Virgin Mary as the savior of the people. The magnificent design and carving truly depict the phases of the Virgin Mary’s life and as a great soul-bearing God. Basilica of Santa Maria Church replaced many elements of ancient style with modern church designs giving a sleek masterpiece representing the highest level of faith. It is a beautiful and impressive building, and its interior is decorated with some of the finest examples of early Christian and Renaissance art in the world.
8) Church of Holy Sepulchre
Constructed: 335 AD
The church was founded by Constantine the Great. The holy church was believed as the place of the renaissance of Jesus Christ. It is one of the oldest churches in the world and most popular and devoted Christian pilgrimage destinations. Earlier it was the temple of Jupiter and Venus, later on through reconstruction and redesign it was converted to a church. According to believers after the transformation into the church roman was freed from its ruins. According to St. Helena, the mother of Constantine, Jesus Christ was buried at this place. The Church of Holy Sepulchre was rebuilt several times and one can find evidence of several phases of history in its inscriptions and graffiti.
7) St. Peter’s Basilica
Location: Vatican City, Rome
Constructed: 326 – 360AD
St. Peter was one of the Apostles of Jesus, who vowed to spread the teaching of God. It is believed that he was murdered and buried at this place, where the church St. Peter’s Basilica stands today. It is one of the famous churches due to its great historical importance and huge Elysian structure that can accommodate more than 50000 people at a time. The famous artist Michelangelo dedicatedly poured awe-inspiring works of art for the love of God and the honor of His disciples.
6) Church of the Nativity
Location: Bethlehem, Palestine
Constructed: 330–333 AD
The Church of the Nativity has been and still is worshipped as the most pious place in the history of Christianity. It is the birthplace of Jesus Christ and the primitive foundation of the Christian religion. The Church offers an extraordinary influence on believers as the place is associated with the founder of their existence and identity as Christians. The place bears great historical as well as universal significance which is the reason in 2012 Church of the Nativity was inscribed in the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.
5) Mar Sarkis Church
Location: Ma ’Lula, Syria
Mar Sarkis is located in the heart of Damascus, Syria, today the church converted to a monastery and convent. It is one of the oldest known monasteries in the world. The church was originally built in the 4th century, but it has been rebuilt and renovated several times over the centuries. The current structure dates from the 12th century, the church is a rectangular building with a single nave and a semi-circular apse. Many of the churches of the earlier period were transformed into monasteries for the spreading of Christianity and its teaching as well as to preserve the historical glory of the place.
4) Etchmiadzin Cathedral
Location: Vagharshapat, Armenia
Constructed: 301-303 AD
Etchmiadzin Cathedral was built over a pagan temple, and it was under the administration of the supreme head of the Armenian Church and is considered a popular pilgrimage place of Christianity. According to legendary writer Agathangelos the saint Gregory, the illuminator envisioned Jesus Christ with his golden hammer striking the place to show the site of the construction of the holy cathedral. Due to its great historical importance cathedral was enlisted in UNESCO World Heritage Site.
3) Megiddo Church
Location: Tel Megiddo, Israel
Constructed: 3rd century AD
Megiddo Church remains are the oldest reported. Many of the pieces of evidence shed light on early Christianity’s struggle and origin. The Church contained inscriptions telling “God’s close Akeptuous offering table to Jesus”. Mosaic containing amazing figures and images found during the excavation that is irresistible to believe. Mosaic is well preserved for historical significance.
2) Aqaba Church
Location: Aqaba, Jordan
Constructed: 293 – 303 AD
Aqaba Church is one of the oldest churches in history. According to Archaeologists, A double-storey building was unique in its architectural style with arched-shaped doors. It had the capacity to accommodate up to 100 worshippers at a time. The entire structure was made out of bricks and mud. The Church was refurbished and brought to function several times before its complete demise by a catastrophic earthquake.
1) Dura-Europos Church
Location: Dura Europos, Syria
Constructed: 233 – 256 CE
The dura-Europos church is also known as the “Earliest Christian House Church”. dura-Europos is the oldest Christian church in the world with an assembly hall for the congregation of the Jewish community. It consisted of ancient figurative wall paintings that depict animal and human figures. There was another small room transformed into the baptistery. It was richly attired with paintings that signify the miracles of Jesus that he promised his disciples. Historical paintings and sculptures found in the Dura-Europos church were now preserved at the Art Gallery of Yale University.
The word Church defines the Christian community and beliefs as a whole. Holy Churches of the world reveal the great history of the struggle for the evolution of Christianity. These are the amazing example of aesthetically adorned architecture and miraculous paintings that shed light on the origin of Jesus and Christianity. Exploring these sacred sites is like stepping back in time and connecting with the roots of one of the world’s most influential religions.