List of oldest church buildings

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This article lists some but by no means all of the oldest known church buildings in the world. In most instances, buildings listed here were reconstructed numerous times and only fragments of the original buildings have survived. These surviving freestanding buildings were purposely constructed for use by congregations (or used at an early date). The dates are the approximate dates when they were first used by congregations for worship.

"Church" may be used in the sense of "Christian denomination" or in the singular as the Christian Church as a whole. The "church" (ecclesia, assembly) is traced to Pentecost and the beginning of the Christian mission in the first century and was not used in reference to a building.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia the Cenacle (the site of the Last Supper) in Jerusalem was the "first Christian church."[1] Archaeology magazine suggests that the Dura-Europos church in Syria is the oldest surviving church building in the world.[2] While Jordan's Aqaba Church is considered to be the world's first purpose-built church.[3] Several authors have cited the Etchmiadzin Cathedral (Armenia's mother church) as the oldest cathedral.[4][5][6][7][8][9]

Early Christianity[edit]

Church buildings of the 2nd to 4th centuries, either excavated archaeologically or substantially preserved.

Africa[edit]

Building Image Location Country Oldest Part Denomination Notes
Monastery of Saint Anthony
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Eastern Desert Egypt 356 Coptic Orthodox Partially destroyed in the 11th century and rebuilt; very little of the original structure remains.
Monastery of Paromeos
Paromeos Monastery.jpg
Wadi El Natrun Egypt 335 Coptic Orthodox Built by St. Macarius the Great, its name(Pa-Romeos) which in Coptic means "The Romans" is thought to refer to his two Roman disciples Saints Maximus and Domitius sons of the Roman Emperor Valentinian II. The Monastery flourished during the Middle Ages and continues to be a major monastery within Egypt.
Monastery of Saint Macarius the Great
Monastery of Saint Macarius the Great-13.jpg
Wadi El Natrun Egypt 360 Coptic Orthodox Built by St. Macarius the Great, Who was a father for more than 4000 Monks of different Nationalities. It has been continually inhabited since its construction and has experienced renovation and expansion in the 20th century.
Monastery of Saint Pishoy
Bischoy Kloster BW 1.jpg
Wadi El Natrun Egypt 4th Century Coptic Orthodox Built by St Pishoy, his body was moved to the monastery on December 13 in 841 AD. The Monastery contains five Churches and a Keep, constructed in the 5th century AD, for protection against Berber raids. The Monastery has been raided several times by the Berbers throughout the ages, the most famous incident is when forty of the Monasteries elders were martyred and thrown in a neighboring well, consequently called "The Well of Martyrs".
Monastery of St. Mary Deipara
Frescos from the Wadi Natrun monastery3.jpg
Wadi El Natrun Egypt 4th Century Coptic Orthodox Most commonly known as"Syrian Monastery". Some sources claim that Monks had lived there since the 4th century, but it is most commonly believed that it Was established in the 6th century by monks from the Monastery of St. Pishoy who rejected the Julian Heresy, which claimed that Christ was incorruptible. As a result, they abandoned the Monastery and established a new one which they named after the Theotokos, to emphasize that they believed in Christ's humanity and corruptibility. The Monastery was bought by Syrian Merchants in the eighth century and inhabited by Syrian Monks.
Abu Mina Basilica and Complex
Abu Mena Ancient Monastery 04.JPG
Alexandria Egypt late 3rd century Coptic Orthodox Built near the place at which the Body of St. Mina the Martyr was buried, the Basilica was ordered to be built by Emperor Zenon after the Saint healed his leper daughter. A Monastic community and a city eventually sprang up near the Basilica and it became a famous site of pilgrimage. Terracotta pots with the image of the Saint and spices from his body have been found all throughout the Roman Empire and as far north as Germany. The City complex and Basilica as well as the Monastery were sacked and destroyed in the 7th century by the Arab invaders. The ruins are currently a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Monastery of St. John the Short
Hosios Loukas (nave, vault over south-west bay) - John Kolobos.jpg
Wadi El Natrun Egypt 4th century Coptic Orthodox Built by Saint John around his "Tree of Obedience". The Monastery remained open until the 17th century when it was finally abandoned. Originally the body of St. John was in a Church near modern-day Suez, Egypt, but his disciples moved it to the monastery in 515 AD.
Monastery of St.Moses the Strong
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Wadi El Natrun Egypt 4th century Coptic Orthodox Built by Saint Moses the Strong, who is called the Apostle of Peace. St. Moses was an Outlaw who repented and became a Monk in Sketes. As he progressed in age he became a father unto many, some of whom were criminals following his example. He was ordained a Priest and built a Chapel and a small monastic community around it. In 405 AD St. Moses heard news that the Monastery was going to be sacked, his disciples wanted to pick up arms and defend their home, however he urged them to either stand as Martyrs with him or escape to neighboring monastic communities. He and 7 others remained in the Church as it was sacked. Later some of his disciples returned and took his body, and the 7 others, with them to Paramous, where they lay today. The Monastery has remained desolate to this day.
Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion
Ark of the Covenant church in Axum Ethiopia.jpg
Axum Ethiopia 4th century Ethiopian Orthodox Originally built in the 4th century, it has been rebuilt several times, most recently in the 17th century during the reign of Emperor Fasilides.

Asia[edit]

Building Image Location Country Oldest Part Denomination Notes
Dura-Europos church
DuraEuropos-Church.jpg
Dura-Europos Syria c. 241[2] Early Church House church. Several walls still standing, oldest images of Jesus discovered within the surviving frescoes of the large baptistry room. Fragments of parchment scrolls with Hebrew texts unearthed containing Christian Eucharistic prayers closely connected with the prayers in the Didache.[10]
Megiddo church Legio near Tel Megiddo Israel late 3rd century[11] Early Church Ruins discovered on prison grounds in 2005, possibly oldest building constructed as a church ever discovered. It retains mosaic floor decoration with Christian motifs – possibly the oldest building with this feature.[12]
Aqaba Church
Early church of Aqaba02.jpg
Aqaba Jordan late 3rd-early 4th century[3] Early Church Ruins uncovered in 1988; Remains of an early basilica.[13] Considered to be the world's first purpose-built church.[14]
Etchmiadzin Cathedral
Էջմիածնի Մայր Տաճար.jpg
Vagharshapat Armenia 301 (tradition); current church: 483–484 Armenian Apostolic Church According to scholars it was the first cathedral of the world (but not the first church) built in ancient Armenia.
Mar Sarkis Monastery
Monastery St Sergios 3.JPG
Ma'loula Syria 4th century Syriac Catholic Built in the 5th century on the remains of a pagan temple, it likely predates the Council of Nicea (325 AD) as evidenced by the fact that it has a round altar, which was prohibited at the Council.[15] The monastery suffered extensive damage and desecration in the Syrian Civil War.[16]
Sts. Constantine & Helena Cathedral Yabroud Syria 326 Syriac Catholic Originally built as a pagan temple dedicated to Baalshamin during the first millennium BC, it was converted to a church when St. Helen passed through the city on her way back to Rome from Jerusalem. The church was damaged during the Syrian Civil War.[17]
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre-Jerusalem.JPG
Jerusalem 335 Simultaneum Originally completed in 335, the building suffered extensive damage and was almost completely destroyed in 1009. The church was rebuilt in 1038.
Church of the Nativity Betlehem Church of the Nativity.jpg Bethlehem Palestine 339 Simultaneum It was commissioned in 327 by Constantine and his mother Helena over the site that was traditionally considered to be located over the cave that marks the birthplace of Jesus. The original basilica was completed in 339.
Mar Mattai monastery
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Mount Alfaf Iraq 363 Syriac Orthodox Extensively rebuilt over the years with the earliest portions built during the 4th century.
Kasagh Basilica
Basilica of the Holy Cross (Aparan, Armenia).jpg
Aparan Armenia 4th or 5th century Armenian Apostolic Original building retains many ancient features.
Mor Gabriel Monastery
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Midyat Turkey 397 Syriac Orthodox Built on the ruins of an old Assyrian temple, the property is now currently subject to a dispute between the Turkish government and the church.
Jubail Church
Jubail Church.jpg
Al-Jubail Saudi Arabia 4th century Assyrian Church The government hides it from locals and bans foreigners from openly visiting it – even archaeologists.[18]
Church of St Peter
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Antioch (Antakya) Turkey 4th or 5th century Syriac Orthodox Cave church used by very first Christians of Antioch, where St. Peter presided as bishop. Known by its original Aramaic name of Knisset Mar Semaan Kefa. Extensively reconstructed, with oldest surviving elements from 4th or 5th century.[19]

Europe[edit]

Building Image Location Country Oldest Part Denomination Notes
Cathedral of Saint Domnius
Cathedral of Split1.jpg
Split Croatia 295–305 Roman Catholic Built 295–305 as the Mausoleum of emperor Diocletian, is the second oldest structure used by any Christian Cathedral. Consecrated in 641 AD, is regarded as the oldest Catholic cathedral in the world that remains in use in its original structure, without near-complete renovation at a later date.
Rotunda of St. George
Rotunda of Galerius (February 2009).jpg
Thessaloniki Greece 306 Greek Orthodox Built as an imperial mausoleum or temple, currently a museum, with church access for various festivities. Largely as built in 305; consecrated later in the century.
Santi Cosma e Damiano
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Rome Italy c. 309 Roman Catholic Occupies the former space of the Temple of Romulus in the Roman Forum.
Panagia Ekatontapiliani
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Parikia Greece 326 Greek Orthodox Panagia Ekatontapyliani (also known as the Church of 100 Doors) is a historic Byzantine church complex.
Stavrovouni Monastery
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Larnaca Cyprus 327–329[20] Greek Orthodox It was founded by Saint Helena the mother of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine the Great at the place where after a miracle she found the lost Holy Cross on her way back from her pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Saint Helena went on the pilgrimage after the First Ecumenical Synod in Nicaea (325). The monastery has a piece of the Holy Cross left there by Saint Helena.
St. Peter's Basilica
Vatican City at Large.jpg
Vatican City Vatican City State 333 Roman Catholic Largest church in the world and the seat of Roman Catholicism, the current church (1635) is built on the site of the original basilica and the grave of St. Peter (who was martyred in Rome).[21] The actual grave is visible in excavations under the church. The original floor and columns are visible in a space under the 17th-century floor.
Church of St. George
StGeorgeRotundaSofia.JPG
Sofia Bulgaria 4th century during the reign of Constantine the Great (306–337) Bulgarian Orthodox Built by the Romans with many later additions, St. George is the oldest building in Sofia and the only one dating from the Roman era. Still a functioning church.[22]
Santa Maria in Trastevere
Santa Maria in Trastevere front.jpg
Rome Italy 340 Roman Catholic The first sanctuary was built in 221 and 227 by Pope Callixtus I and later completed by Julius I, but the oldest parts of the present church, the wall structure and floors, date from 340 AD[23][24]
Cathedral of Trier
Trier Dom BW 1.JPG
Trier Germany 340 Roman Catholic Oldest cathedral in Germany, and still in use today. Its construction was overseen by Bishop Maximin of Trier, the construction of the grandest ensemble of ecclesiastical structures in the West outside Rome. A few 4th-century elements remain in a mainly Romanesque building.
Basilica di San Lorenzo
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Milan Italy 364 Roman Catholic When built, it was the biggest circular church building standing. It was an inspiration for the Hagia Sofia in Constantinople. Few ancient features remain.
Basilica di San Simpliciano
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Milan Italy c. 374 Roman Catholic Exterior walls are original from the late 4th century. Roman basilica windows as in Cathedral of Trier are still visible on the flanks of the basilica.
Basilica of Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains
Metz st pierre nonnains.jpg
Metz France 380 Roman Catholic Originally built to be part of a Roman spa complex, the structure was converted into use as a church in the 7th century when it became the chapel of a Benedictine monastery. It is the oldest church building in France.
San Nazaro in Brolo
IMG 5599 - Milano - S. Nazaro Maggiore - Foto Giovanni Dall'Orto - 21-2-2007.jpg
Milan Italy c. 382 Roman Catholic One of the earliest Latin cross buildings in western Europe; retains few ancient features.[25]
San Paolo fuori le mura
Roma San Paolo fuori le mura BW 1.JPG
Rome Italy 386 Roman Catholic One of the four major Constantinian basilicas in Rome, and the only one to retain its antique character, the basilica was heavily damaged by an 1823 fire. It was rebuilt true to form, however, so it remains one of the best "preserved" Constantinian basilicas in the Roman world. All that remain of the ancient basilica are the interior portions of the apse and the triumphal arch.[26]
Santi Giovanni e Paolo
Basilique Santi Giovanni e Paolo de Rome.JPG
Rome Italy 398 Roman Catholic A 4th-century basilica was erected on the site of one of the most well-preserved "house churches" of early Christianity (dating from the 1st, 2nd or 3rd century), with intact fresco decoration.[27] The houses are part of a museum currently, but the basilica still functions as a church.
Lullingstone Roman Villa
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Eynsford, Kent England 4th century Early Christian Room in a large Roman villa turned into a Christian chapel or house church, with wall-paintings surviving (Chi-Rho, largely restored, illustrated)
Basilica di Sant'Eustorgio ruins
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Milan Italy c. 4th century Roman Catholic Some ruins remain of the apse of the ancient basilica.
Aula Palatina (Konstantinbasilika)
Konstantinbasilika Trier 2016.jpg
Trier Germany 4th century Evangelical Church in the Rhineland A Roman palace basilica that was built by the Emperor Constantine at the beginning of the 4th century. The basilica contains the largest extant hall from antiquity. The church was converted to Protestant use from its original Roman Catholic use in 1856.[28]
Santi Nereo e Achilleo
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Rome Italy 4th century Roman Catholic Adjoins the Baths of Caracalla at the site where St. Peter is said to have dropped the cloth covering his wounds upon his removal from the Mamertine Prison. First referenced in 336, a 15th-century basilica sits on its original site; only the columns are original.[29]
Santa Pudenziana
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Rome Italy 4th century Roman Catholic Retains original and unique late Roman mosaic decoration.[30]
San Clemente al Laterano
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Rome Italy 4th century Roman Catholic The present basilica was built just before the year 1100, but beneath it is an intact 4th-century basilica that had been converted out of the home of a Roman nobleman, part of which had in the 1st century briefly served as an early church. This ancient basilica retains fresco decoration (see image). The basement the house had in the 2nd century briefly served as a mithraeum. The home of the Roman nobleman had been built on the foundations of a republican era building that had been destroyed in the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD.
Santa Costanza
Santa Costanza - vista dalla basilica costantiniana.jpg
Rome Italy 4th century Roman Catholic Built under Constantine as a mausoleum for his daughter, Costanza. Retains many original mosaic decorations, and her porphyry sarcophagus is a gem of the Vatican Museum.
Santi Quattro Coronati
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Rome Italy 4th century Roman Catholic Sanctuary is located in an isolated green area of Rome, so it retains the ambience of the area in antiquity.
Chora Church
Chora Church Constantinople 2007 panorama 002.jpg
Istanbul Turkey 4th century Eastern Orthodox Very little remains of the 4th-century structure, but it contains impressive 13th-century mosaic decoration. It was converted to a mosque in 1501 and has been a museum since the time of Ataturk.[31]
Hagia Irene
Hagia Eirene Constantinople July 2007 002.jpg
Istanbul Turkey 4th century Eastern Orthodox Now a museum and concert hall (due to its excellent acoustics). Its excellent state of preservation is due to the fact that it lies inside the Ottoman palace complex (Topkapı Palace).[32]
  • Valkum (Fenekpuszta) Built before 433 AD remains of a Bazilika in Hungary near lake Balaton

Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages[edit]

Church buildings dating to between the 5th and 10th centuries.

Africa[edit]

Building Image Location Country Oldest Part Denomination Notes
Saint Catherine's Monastery
Katharinenkloster Sinai BW 2.jpg
Sinai Peninsula Egypt 548 AD Greek Orthodox Built by Emperor Justinian surrounding St. Helen's Chapel of the Burning Bush. One of the Monasteries was converted into a Mosque by the Fatimid Caliphs in the 10th century and remained in popular use till the 13th century. The Mosque was restored in the 20th century and continues to be used in special occasions.
Church of the Virgin Mary in Haret Zuweila Cairo Egypt 10th Century AD Coptic Orthodox Served as the See of St. Mark, and the Seat of the Coptic Orthodox Pope of Alexandria from 1400 to 1520. Later a Nun's Convent was added to it in the 19th Century.
Monastery of Saint Paul the Anchorite
MonasteroPaolo4.jpg
Eastern Desert Egypt 560 AD Coptic Orthodox Partially destroyed in the 15th century and rebuilt; was abandoned in the 16th century, but was later repopulated by Monks from St. Antony's monastery early in the 17th century.
Church of Saint Menas
Menas.jpg
Cairo Egypt 6th century AD Coptic Orthodox Built in honor of the Saint and Martyr, the Church was built within what later was renamed "Cairo". The Church was renovated in the 8th century, and the body of Saint Mena which had been in the ruins of the Abu Mena Complex in Mariout was moved there. The body remained there until a modern Monastery bearing the Saint's name was built adjacent to the ruins, in 1967 the body was moved to the new Monastery. The Church remains open to this day and is a prominent pilgrimage and tourist center in Cairo.
Debre Damo
Debre Damo Church.jpg
Tigray Region Ethiopia 6th century Ethiopian Orthodox The best preserved example of Aksumite Architecture.

Asia[edit]

Building Image Location Country Oldest Part Denomination Notes
Monastery of Stoudios
One of the exterior facades of the St. John Stoudios (Imrahor) Monastery.jpg
Istanbul Turkey 462 Greek Orthodox No longer a functioning church, and was a mosque until it fell into ruin. As with many other archaeological sites in Turkey, plans to revert the ruins back into a mosque are underway.[33]
Qalb Loze
QalbLoze,W.jpg
Qalb Loze Syria 5th century Assyrian Church Built in 460s, one of the best-preserved early Syrian churches, the first known with a wide basilica, where the columns that separate the aisles from the nave have been replaced with low piers and soaring arches that create the feeling of expanded space.
Church of Saint Simeon Stylites (Deir Semaan)
Church of Saint Simeon Stylites 17.jpg
Aleppo Syria 475 Greek Orthodox Once a popular pilgrimage site, now in ruins, but walls still standing.
Bolnisi Sioni
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Bolnisi Georgia 479–493 Georgian Orthodox The oldest extant church building in Georgia.
Turmanin Basilica
Church of Turmanin.png
Turmanin Syria 480 Early Church Drawing reconstruction shown. Now in ruins, served a monastery and hospice.[34]
Etchmiadzin Cathedral
Էջմիածնի Մայր Տաճար.jpg
Vagharshapat Armenia 483 Armenian Apostolic Built in 483 and heavily rebuilt in the following centuries. Still the main cathedral of the Armenian Apostolic Church. A UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Mor Hananyo Monastery
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Mardin Turkey 493 Syriac Orthodox Founded in 493 by Mor Shlemon on the site of a temple dedicated to the Assyrian sun god Shamash that was converted into a citadel by the Romans, then transformed into a monastery. Better known as Saffron Monastery. (Deir-ul-Zafran)
Dranda Cathedral
Dranda cathedral.jpg
Dranda Abkhazia/Georgia c. 550–600 Georgian Orthodox The oldest church building in Abkhazia, still functioning as a church.
Church of the Nativity
Church of the Nativity (Bethlehem, 2008).jpg
Bethlehem West Bank c. 565 Simultaneum One of the oldest church buildings in the world which has continuously functioned as a church.
Jvari (monastery)
Jvari monastery, outside Mtsketa.jpg
Mtskheta Georgia 590–604 Georgian Orthodox A World Heritage Site.

Europe[edit]

Building Image Location Country Oldest Part Denomination Notes
San Vitale
San Vitale 051112-20.JPG
Rome Italy 400 Roman Catholic Although it was restored several times, the church retains its original structure and walls; it actually sits below street level due to its age and relative lack of major structural renovations. The portico is one of the most ancient parts of the church.
Santa Sabina
Rom, Basilika Santa Sabina, Außenansicht.jpg
Rome Italy 422 Roman Catholic Mostly unaltered, with some original mosaic decoration and agate window treatments. Notably, wooden doors date from around the same era and contain an early depiction of the crucifixion.
San Giovanni Evangelista
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Ravenna Italy 424 Roman Catholic Partially original walls, with original floors and columns under layers of new floors.
Santa Maria Maggiore
SantaMariaMaggiore front.jpg
Rome Italy 432 Roman Catholic Features intact original mosaic decoration, including some of the oldest depictions of the Virgin Mary. 18th-century façade covers 12th-century façade which replaced the original.
Church of the Acheiropoietos
Church of the Acheiropoietos.JPG
Thessaloniki Greece 450–470 Greek Orthodox The Acheiropoietos has been dated from its bricks and mosaics to c. 450–470, making it perhaps the earliest of the city's surviving churches. It was modified in the 7th century and again in the 14th and 15th centuries, but retains much of its original character. Known as the Panagia Theotokos in Byzantine times, it is dedicated to Mary.
Santo Stefano Rotondo
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Rome Italy 455 Roman Catholic Believed to be the first church in Rome with a circular plan, inspired by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
Sant'Agata dei Goti
Sant'Agata dei Goti (Rome) - Interior.jpg
Rome Italy 460 Roman Catholic Built for the Arian Goths by Ricimer, this ancient church retains its original site plan and columns, despite many restorations.
Stenče Basilica Polog Valley Macedonia 420–465 Early Church To date remains of 16 early Christian basilicas have been revealed in the Polog Valley, of which 12 in Tetovo area and 4 in Gostivar area, and best has been investigated the one in Stenče dating from the 5th century AD, which is unique in Macedonia with 3 baptisteries.
Santa Prisca
Santa Prisca-facciata-antmoose.jpg
Rome Italy 4th or 5th century Roman Catholic In the interior, the columns are the only visible remains of the ancient church after a 17th-century restoration, but the floor plan remains. A baptismal font allegedly used by Saint Peter is also conserved.
Little Hagia Sophia
Sergius and Bacchus Church February 2011.JPG
Istanbul Turkey 527 Greek Orthodox A former Eastern Orthodox church dedicated to Saints Sergius and Bacchus in Constantinople, converted into a mosque during the Ottoman Empire. This Byzantine building with a central dome plan was erected in the 6th century by Justinian, likely was a model for Hagia Sophia, and is one of the most important early Byzantine buildings in Istanbul. Poorly executed restorations leave the church with a modern character.[35]
Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia exterior 2007 002.jpg
Istanbul Turkey 532–537 Greek Orthodox For almost 1,000 years it was the largest church in Christendom, the main center of worship for the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the jewel of Constantinople. In 1453, it was captured and converted into a mosque, becoming a museum in 1932 under Atatürk.
Basilica di San Vitale
Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy.jpg
Ravenna Italy 547 Roman Catholic The best-preserved basilica from the time of Justinian I, filled with outstanding Byzantine mosaics in an excellent state of preservation.
Saint Sofia Church
Basilica of Hagia Sofia, Bulgaria.jpg
Sofia Bulgaria 4th century, actual building is from 6th century during the reign of Justinian I (527–565) Bulgarian Orthodox The church was built near the Amphitheatre of Serdica. 343 in the building took place the Council of Serdica that was attended by 316 bishops. The current building is from the 6th century.
Basilica of Saint Servatius
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Maastricht Netherlands c. 550 Roman Catholic The oldest church in the Netherlands. There was a small memorial chapel on the site dedicated to the Saint Servatius (310–384), who became the first bishop of Maastricht, and this was later replaced by a larger stone church, incorporating the ancient stone.
Dormition of the Theotokos Church, Labovë e Kryqit
Labova e Kryqit3.jpg
Gjirokastër Albania 6th century Eastern Orthodox The Dormition of the Theotokos Church (Albanian: Kisha e Shën Mërisë) is a church in Labovë e Kryqit, Gjirokastër County, Albania. The foundation on the structure dates from 6th, with the rest from 13th. It is a Cultural Monument of Albania.[36] The present building dates from the 13th century.[37]
St. Martin's Church
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Canterbury United Kingdom 597 Anglican The oldest church building in England, still functioning as a church.
Church of Saint Apostles Peter and Paul
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Stari Ras, Novi Pazar Serbia 6th century Serbian Orthodox Also known as Peter's Church (Serbian: Петрова црква / Petrova crkva), it is a Serbian Orthodox church, the oldest intact church in Serbia. It is situated on a hill of Ras, the medieval capital of the Serbian Grand Principality (Rascia), near Novi Pazar, Serbia. It is part of the Stari Ras complex, listed on the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites in Serbia. The foundations of the structure date from the 6th century, with the rest from the 7th, 9th, and 12th centuries.[38]
Chapel of São Frutuoso
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Real, Braga Portugal 656 Catholic Church Visigoth chapel. It has been modified and rebuilt many times.
San Juan Bautista
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Baños de Cerrato, Venta de Baños, Castile and León Spain Completed in 661 Catholic Church Visigoth church built by King Recceswinth in 661 and whose solemn ceremony of consecration is believed to have been on January 3, 661. The excavations carried out in the years 1956 and 1963 found a medieval necropolis of 58 tombs to the northwest of the church and also found three pieces of bronze of the 7th century: 2 lychee-shaped belt clasps and 1 liturgical object.
Santa María de Melque
Exterior del monumento.jpg
San Martín de Montalbán, Castile-La Mancha Spain 668 Catholic Church It served as a monastic ensemble of the Visigoths. The radiocarbon dating of a sample obtained from the conserved part of the original stucco plaster has given a most probable construction date in the interval 668–729 AD. Probably its construction was paralyzed when the arrival of the Arabs began and it was finished and it was reformed later, having suffered multiple historical vicissitudes.
Chapel of St Peter-on-the-Wall
St Peter on the Wall, Bradwell juxta Mare, Essex - East end - geograph.org.uk - 965189.jpg
Bradwell-on-Sea, Essex England 660–662 Catholic, now Church of England Early Anglo-Saxon church, reusing Roman brick. Still in use.[39]
Escomb Church
St John's Church ,Escomb.jpg
Escomb, County Durham England c. 670–675 Catholic, now Church of England Early Anglo-Saxon church. Still in use.[40]
All Saints' Church, Brixworth
Brixworth AllSaints south.jpg
Brixworth, Northamptonshire England before 675 Catholic, now Church of England Early Anglo-Saxon church, with later additions. Still in use.[41]
San Pedro de la Nave
S Pedro Nave 20070127.JPG
El Campillo, San Pedro de la Nave-Almendra, Castile and León Spain 680 Catholic Church Visigothic church. It must have been built between 680 and 711.
Crypt of San Antolín of the Cathedral of Palencia
Palencia Catedral 3 19 0 Cripta.png
Palencia, Castile and León Spain 7th century Catholic Church Located under the current cathedral of Palencia. It is the only remnant of the primitive Visigothic cathedral built in the second half of the 7th century. The oldest vestige of worship that is preserved today is the bottom of the crypt, a building dating from the middle of the 7th century. The remains of Antolín, noble Gallo-Visigoth, saint and martyr, would have arrived in Spain in the procession of King Wamba from Narbonne in the year 673. Wamba himself would order the construction of the burial.
Hermitage of Santa María de Lara
Santamariadelarafront.jpg
Quintanilla de las Viñas, Mambrillas de Lara, Castile and León Spain Completed at late-7th century or early-8th century Catholic Church Visigothic hermitage.
Church of St John the Baptist, Kerch
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Kerch Ukraine 717 Ukrainian Orthodox Founded in 717, later rebuilt on several occasions.
Santa Cruz de Cangas de Onís
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Cangas de Onís, Asturias Spain Completed in 737 Roman Catholic Church of Kingdom of Asturias. t was consecrated in 737. The church was restored in 1633 and 1936. Now it is a World Heritage Site.
Church of San Juan Apóstol y Evangelista
Santianes de Pravia - 04.jpg
Santianes, Pravia, Asturias Spain 774 Roman Catholic Church of Kingdom of Asturias. Built between 774 and 783. In the church the debate between the Beatus of Liébana and Elipando of Toledo was celebrated, on the adoptionist interpretation of the divinity of Christ. Now it is a World Heritage Site.
Oviedo Cathedral
Oviedo-Catedral.JPG
Oviedo, Asturias Spain 781 Roman Catholic Church of Kingdom of Asturias. It underwent modifications and was enlarged until 16th century. Now it is a World Heritage Site.
Santa María de Bendones
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Bendones, Asturias Spain 792 Roman Catholic Church of Kingdom of Asturias. Built between 792 and 842. It suffered a restoration after Spanish Civil War. Now it is a World Heritage Site.
Aachen Cathedral
Aachen Germany Imperial-Cathedral-01.jpg
Aachen Germany 805 Roman Catholic It is the oldest cathedral in northern Europe and was constructed by order of the emperor Charlemagne, who was buried there after his death in 814.
San Julián de los Prados
Facade of the church of San Julián de los Prados - Oviedo.jpg
Oviedo, Asturias Spain Completed in 830 Roman Catholic Church of Kingdom of Asturias. The church's construction was ordered by Alfonso II of Asturias and it was built by the court architect Tioda. Now it is a World Heritage Site.
Santa María del Naranco
Naranco, Iglesia Santa Maria-PM 34664.jpg
Municipality of Oviedo, Asturias Spain Completed in 842 Roman Catholic Church of Kingdom of Asturias. Built as a banqueting house, later used as a church. It is a World Heritage Site.
San Miguel de Lillo
San Miguel de Lillo.jpg
Oviedo, Asturias Spain Completed in 842 Roman Catholic Church of Kingdom of Asturias. It is a World Heritage Site.
Santa Cristina de Lena
Santa Cristina de Lena.jpg
Lena, Asturias Spain Completed in 852 Roman Catholic Church of Kingdom of Asturias. It is a World Heritage Site.
Great Basilica, Pliska
Old Basilica in Pliska Reconstruction.JPG
Pliska Bulgaria Completed around 875 during the rule of Knyaz Boris I (852–889) Bulgarian Orthodox Architectural complex in Pliska, the first capital of the Bulgarian Empire, which includes a cathedral, an archbishop's palace and a monastery. Completed around 875, the basilica was the largest Christian cathedral in Europe around 1000 years,[42] with an area of 2,920 square metres (31,400 sq ft). The basilica was built at the place of what is known as the Cross-shaped Mausoleum, an older religious building that is thought by some researchers to be an unknown kind of Bulgar heathen temple. According to the Shumen architectural museum's research, an early Christian martyrium that included a cross-shaped church and a holy spring also existed at that place. The martyr buried there is thought to be Enravota, the first Bulgarian saint. The martyrium is thought[by whom?] to have been destroyed in 865 during the failed rebellion of the heathens in the wake of the Christianization of Bulgaria. Other researchers,[who?] however, regard the cross-shaped remains as a mausoleum of early Bulgarian rulers.
Church of St. Sophia, Ohrid
Rear courtyard
Ohrid Republic of Macedonia 9th century during the rule of Knyaz Boris I (852–889) originally Bulgarian Orthodox, now Macedonian Orthodox Church The church was built during the First Bulgarian Empire, after the official conversion to Christianity. Some sources date the building of the church during the rule of Knyaz Boris I (852–889).[43]
Round Church, Preslav
Preslav Golden Church Klearchos 2.jpg
Preslav Bulgaria Before 907 during the rule of Tsar Simeon I Bulgarian Orthodox Large partially preserved early medieval Eastern Orthodox church in Preslav, the former capital of the First Bulgarian Empire, today a town in northeastern Bulgaria. The church dates to the early 10th century, the time of Tsar Simeon I's rule, and was unearthed and first archaeologically examined in 1927–1928. Considered to be one of the most impressive examples of medieval Bulgarian architecture, the Round Church takes its name from the distinctive shape of one of its three sections, the cella (naos), which is a rotunda that serves as a place of liturgy. The church's design also includes a wide atrium and a rectangular entrance area, or narthex, marked by two circular turrets.
Iglesia de San Tirso
Church of San Tirso, Oviedo 01.JPG
Oviedo, Asturias Spain 9th century Roman Catholic Church of Kingdom of Asturias. It was founded in the 9th century. It has undergone various reconstructions and restorations. Now it is a World Heritage Site.
San Pedro de Nora
San Pedro de Nora0527.jpg
Las Regueras, Asturias Spain 9th century Roman Catholic Church of Kingdom of Asturias. It suffered a restoration after Spanish Civil War.
Cámara Santa
Cámara Santa, exterior.jpg
Oviedo, Asturias Spain 9th century Roman Catholic Church of Kingdom of Asturias. Its function, practically from its construction and that it conserves at present, has been the one of guard of the relics and cathedral treasure. It is now a World Heritage Site.
San Salvador de Valdediós
SanSalvadorValdedios-1.jpg
Municipality of Villaviciosa, Asturias Spain 9th century Roman Catholic Church of Kingdom of Asturias. Consecrated in 893. Now it is a World Heritage Site.
Santiago de Gobiendes
Santiago de Gobiendes.jpg
Gobiendes, Asturias Spain late-9th century Roman Catholic Church of Kingdom of Asturias. It was restored in three times.
Santo Adriano de Tuñón
Santo adriano de Tuñon.jpg
Tuñón, Asturias Spain 9th century Roman Catholic Church of Kingdom of Asturias. Founded in 891. It suffered many reforms.
Church of St. Margaret of Antioch
Kopčany kostol - sever.JPG
Kopčany Slovakia 9th or 10th century Roman Catholic The only remaining Great Moravian building. The oldest church in Slovakia. Well-preserved and openly accessible to the public.
Church of San Salvador de Priesca
San Salvador de Priesca.jpg
Villaviciosa, Asturias Spain Completed in 921 Roman Catholic Church of Kingdom of Asturias. Consecrated in 921. It suffered some enlargements and two restorations. Now it is a World Heritage Site.
San Pietro in Trento
Pieve San Pietro in Trento 1.JPG
Ravenna Italy c. 977 Roman Catholic Facade restored, but very much intact. Constructed by Galla Placidia.
Boyana Church
Boyana Church 2 TB.JPG
Sofia Bulgaria late 10th or early 11th century Bulgarian Orthodox Church Medieval Bulgarian Orthodox church situated on the outskirts of Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, in the Boyana quarter. In 1979, the building was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. The east wing of the two-storey church was originally constructed in the late 10th or early 11th century, then the central wing was added in the 13th century under the Second Bulgarian Empire, the whole building being finished with a further expansion to the west in the middle of the 19th century. A total of 89 scenes with 240 human images are depicted on the walls of the church.

High to Late Middle Ages[edit]

A selection of notable, extant 11th- to 14th-century churches.

Building Image Location Country Oldest Part Denomination Notes
Church of Our Lady Vor Frue Kirke Århus.jpg Aarhus Denmark 1060 Lutheran An older wooden church was on the site in the 10th century. The crypt of the church is the oldest extant stone church in Scandinavia. It is still functioning as a church.
Cathedral of Pisa Pisa.Dom.pano01.jpg Pisa Italy 1063 Roman Catholic Built on the foundations of an older church. Dedicated to the Assumption of St. Mary, it is a Primatial church.
Santiago de Compostela Cathedral Santiago.de.Compostela.Catedral.Noche.jpg Santiago de Compostela, Galicia Spain 1075 (current church) Roman Catholic According to tradition, the Apostle James, son of Zebedee spread Christianity in the Iberian Peninsula. In the year 44 he was beheaded in Jerusalem and his remains were later transferred to Galicia in a stone boat. The king Alfonso II of Asturias ordered the construction of a chapel in 810s in the place. This chapel was followed by a first church in 829 and later by a pre-Romanesque church on 899, gradually becoming an important place of pilgrimage. In 997 this primitive church was reduced to ashes by Almanzor, commander of the army of the Caliphate of Cordoba. The construction of the current cathedral in the same place was built between 1075 and 1122 under the reign of Alfonso VI of León and Castile. The baroque façade of Obradoiro was made in 1740; also baroque is that of Acibecharía; that of Pratarías was built by Master Esteban in 1103; the Pórtico da Gloria, a primordial work of Romanesque sculpture, completed by Master Mateo in 1188.
Church of the Holy Mother of God, Asen's Fortress Asens Fortress TB 4.jpg Asen's Fortress Bulgaria 1100–1200 Bulgarian Orthodox Church Medieval Eastern Orthodox church located in Asen's Fortress. It lies near Asenovgrad in the Rhodope Mountains of Plovdiv Province, south central Bulgaria. Constructed most likely in the 12th century, it features two stories, of which the upper story is the church proper and the lower story is of unclear function. The rectangular tower over the church's narthex is regarded as the earliest preserved of its kind in the Balkans. Fragments of frescoes are visible on the walls of the church's upper story.
Church of St Demetrius of Thessaloniki, Veliko Tarnovo St Demetrius Tarnovo Klearchos 2.jpg Veliko Tarnovo Bulgaria 1185 Bulgarian Orthodox Church Medieval Bulgarian Orthodox Church in the city of Veliko Tarnovo in central northern Bulgaria, the former capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire. The church lies at the northeastern foot of the Trapezitsa and Tsarevets hills, on the right bank of the Yantra River, outside the city's medieval fortifications. Architecturally, it has a pentahedral apse and a cross-domed design with a narthex and a fore-apse space. It was once part of a large monastery and belonged in its southeastern part. The church's exterior is decorated with blind arches and colourful ornaments: glazed rosettes, suns, rhombs and other painted figures. The church was built of stone alternated with three rows of bricks. It is 15.75 by 8.40 metres (51.7 ft × 27.6 ft) in size. The church was the place where the anti-Byzantine Uprising of Asen and Peter was proclaimed in 1185; it was this uprising that led to the reestablishment of the Bulgarian Empire and the proclamation of Tarnovo for its capital. [54]
Holy Forty Martyrs Church, Veliko Tarnovo Exterior Veliko Tarnovo Bulgaria 1230 Bulgarian Orthodox Church Medieval Eastern Orthodox church constructed in 1230 in the town of Veliko Tarnovo in Bulgaria, the former capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire. The Holy Forty Martyrs Church, an elongated six-columned basilica, has three semicircular apses and a narrow narthex from the west. Another building was added later to the west side of the church. The church interior was covered with mural painting probably in 1230. On the western addition some of the outer decoration survived revealing the traditional arches and coloured small ceramic plates inserted into the wall. It is not clear if the church has frescoes painted on the outer walls. Some of the Bulgarian Empire's most significant historical records are stored in the church, including Omurtag's Column, Asen's Column and the Border Column from Rodosto from the rule of Khan Krum. [55]
St. Michael's Church St. Michael's Church Vienna 1.jpg Vienna Austria 1220–1240 Roman Catholic One of the oldest churches in Vienna, Austria, and also one of its few remaining Romanesque buildings. Dedicated to the Archangel Michael, St. Michael's Church is located at Michaelerplatz across from St. Michael's Gate at the Hofburg Palace.
Church of Saints Peter and Paul, Veliko Tarnovo Church of Saints Peter and Paul Veliko Tarnovo TB1.jpg Veliko Tarnovo Bulgaria 1218–1241 Bulgarian Orthodox Church Medieval Bulgarian Orthodox church in the city of Veliko Tarnovo in central northern Bulgaria, the former capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire. The 13th-century church lies at the foot of the Tsarevets hill's northern slopes and was reconstructed in 1981. The church is dedicated to the Christian Apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul. It follows the cross-domed design and has a single apse. The cella is divided into three naves by two rows of columns. The columns' capitals are decorated with plastic carving and tracery. The church has a high, massive iconostasis. According to the 14th-century account of Patriarch Evtimiy, the church and the surrounding monastery were built on the order of Tsar Ivan Asen II's (ruled 1218–1241) wife Anna. [56]
Ascension Cathedral (Veliko Tarnovo) Patriarshia Tarnovo Bulgaria.JPG Veliko Tarnovo Bulgaria 1331–1371 Bulgarian Orthodox Church Reconstructed Eastern Orthodox cathedral in the city of Veliko Tarnovo, in north central Bulgaria. Located on top of the fortified Tsarevets hill in the former capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, the cathedral was the seat of the Bulgarian patriarch from its construction in the 11th–12th century to its destruction in 1393. Standing on top of a late Roman church, the cathedral, reconstructed in the 1970s and 1980s, follows a cross-domed plan with a bell tower and a triple apse. Richly decorated on both the exterior and interior, its internal walls now feature modern frescoes, the presence of which has meant that it has not been reconsecrated. Though not active as a Christian place of worship, it has been open for visitors since 1985. [57]
Church of Christ Pantocrator, Nesebar Church of Christ Pantocrator Nesebar.jpg Nesebar Bulgaria 1331–1371 Bulgarian Orthodox Church Medieval Eastern Orthodox church in the eastern Bulgarian town of Nesebar (medieval Mesembria), on the Black Sea coast of Burgas Province. Part of the Ancient Nesebar UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Church of Christ Pantocrator was constructed in the 13th–14th century and is best known for its lavish exterior decoration. The church, today an art gallery, survives largely intact and is among Bulgaria's best preserved churches of the Middle Ages.[58] [59]
Church of Saint Paraskevi, Nesebar Church of Paraskevi in Nesebar 02.JPG Nesebar Bulgaria 1331–1371 Bulgarian Orthodox Church Partially preserved medieval Eastern Orthodox church in Nesebar (medieval Mesembria), a town on the Black Sea coast of Burgas Province in eastern Bulgaria. It was most likely built in the 13th or 14th century and forms part of the Ancient Nesebar UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Church of Saint Paraskevi features a single nave and a pentagonal apse as well as rich exterior decoration. Its dome and the belfry surmounting the narthex have not been preserved today, and it is unknown which of the three saints named Paraskevi it was dedicated to. [60]

Early Modern[edit]

Notable early churches built in the New World between the 15th and 19th centuries. Listed are especially the oldest extant church buildings by country.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]