Sunday, June 16, 2024

8 Oldest Churches in the World Still Standing Today

Churches have been important holy places for Christians all over the world for thousands of years. While many old churches have crumbled over time, some incredibly ancient ones have managed to survive until today. These oldest churches give us a fascinating glimpse into the early history of Christianity and the incredible skills of their builders from so long ago. Here are 8 of the oldest churches that still exist in the modern world:

Church of Nativity in Bethlehem (339 AD)

Oldest Churches

Location: Palestinian territories

This is one of the oldest churches that has stayed pretty much unchanged since way back in the 4th century AD. It marks the spot where many Christians believe Jesus Christ was born in a stable. The first church was built here in 339 AD under the reign of the Roman emperor Constantine. While later additions like bell towers were constructed, the main building’s design with its stone walls, wooden roofs, and doors has remained original for over 1,600 years! Incredibly, it has survived fires, earthquakes, and even hostile invasions by ancient armies over the centuries.

St. Etchmiadzin Cathedral in Armenia (301 AD)

St. Etchmiadzin Cathedral in Armenia (301 AD

Location: Vagharshapat, Armenia

According to tradition, this cathedral’s history stretches back about 1,700 years to around 301 AD! It has been the most important church for Armenian Christians and the home of their head spiritual leader called the Catholicos. While parts were rebuilt after years of conflict, the core structure of St. Etchmiadzin survived with thick stone walls. What makes it quite unique are the three separate levels representing different classes that worshipped there in ancient times – the clergy, upper classes, and peasants.

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Basilica of Our Lady of Zion in Israel (335 AD)

Basilica of Our Lady of Zion in Israel (335 AD)

Location: Jerusalem

The Basilica of Our Lady of Zion in Israel is one of the oldest churches in the world. This ancient church honors the spot where Jesus’s mother Mary lived and where the Last Supper is said to have taken place. It first opened in 335 AD and portions of those earliest designs remain inside today like intricate floor mosaics. The exterior was renovated many times over the centuries but you can still see remaining stone sections from those original 4th-century walls that sheltered worshippers nearly 1,700 years ago. Amazingly, this church has been considered a holy site by Christians, Jews, and Muslims over the ages.

St. George’s Church in Israel (Late 19th Century)

St. George's Church in Israel (Late 19th Century)

Location: Lod, Israel

Saint George’s Church claims to be one of the oldest churches continuously used as a place of worship by Christians on earth. Legend has it the first church was built on this spot around 292 AD after St. George was martyred for his faith nearby. While later renovations gave the exterior its current look, much of the inner church with granite columns has been preserved from those earliest days in the late 19th Century. It provides a fascinating peek into how churches were designed so long ago.

Kizhi Island Churches in Russia (1714 and 1694 AD)

Kizhi Island Churches in Russia (1714 and 1694 AD)

Location: Lake Onega, Russia

On a remote island in a Russian lake, two wooden churches have amazingly been standing since the late 1600s without a single nail used in construction! The larger Church of the Transfiguration was built in 1714 entirely of pine logs masterfully carved and stacked in an incredible Russian architectural style. Right beside it, the smaller Church of Intercession was built in 1694. Together they provide an astonishingly well-preserved look at Russian Orthodox church design from over 300 years ago using only wood, pitch, and intricate carvings.

St. Longinus Church in Turkey (341 AD)

Location: Tarsus, Turkey

The simple stone hall of St. Longinus is what remains of one of the oldest churches in Turkey dating back almost 1,700 years. According to legend, St. Longinus was the Roman soldier who pierced Jesus in the side at his crucifixion but then converted to the Christian faith shortly after. The church was built on the spot of his home in Tarsus around 341 AD and still has original marble columns that worshippers would have seen so many centuries ago. While the exterior was rebuilt over the centuries, exploring its dimly lit hallways inside recalls the earliest days of Christianity.

Dura Europos Church in Syria (233 AD)

Dura Europos Church in Syria (233 AD)

Location: Syrian Desert

Hidden under sand in the Syrian desert for centuries, the ruins of Dura Europos contain what is considered the oldest church ruin in the world. Construction of this modest church home to an early Christian community dates back to around 233 AD in the 3rd century! Its ancient baptistery and frescoes depicting Bible stories like Christ’s miracle of the loaves and fishes give a rare glimpse into religious practices and artwork in that distant era. Despite being underground for so long, archeologists were amazed to discover these elaborate decorations still largely intact inside the church ruins.

Megiddo Church in Israel

Location: Valley of Armageddon

Built by the Romans around 330 AD, this ancient church in northern Israel contains remarkably well-preserved stone mosaics covering the floors and lower walls. The detailed craftsmanship used to create vivid images of plants, animals, and geometric patterns provides colorful evidence of the wealth and importance of this church in its earliest days in the 4th century AD. But the most unique mosaics are inscriptions in ancient Greek actually naming some of the wealthy Christians who paid for the church’s construction over 1,600 years ago!

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