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) and the dates are the approximate dates when they were first used by congregations for worship.
St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Palayur is located at Palayur(also spelt Palayoor), in Thrissur district in Kerala on the west coast of India. According to tradition, it was established in 52 AD by St Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ. It is the oldest church in India and is called an Apostolic Church credited to the Apostolate of St. Thomas who preached and also started conversion of people to Christianity here.
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.
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.
Built in the 4th 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. The monastery suffered extensive damage and desecration in the Syrian Civil War.
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 substantially damaged during the Syrian Civil War.
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.
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). 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.
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.
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.
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.
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. The houses are part of a museum currently, but the basilica still functions as a church.
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.
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.
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.
The church at Qalb Lozeh dates back to the 460s AD and is one of the best-preserved churches of this period in the region. The church is the first known in Syria with the wide basilica, where the columns that in traditional Byzantine church architecture separate the aisles from the nave have been replaced with low piers and soaring arches that create the feeling of expanded space.
It was 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. After the Romans withdrew from the fortress, it was transformed it into a monastery. Better known as Saffron Monastery. (Deir-ul-Zafran)
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.
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.
Oldest functioning Christian monastery in the world. A copy of the Ashtiname of Muhammad, in which the Islamic prophet, Muhammad is claimed to have bestowed his protection upon the monastery, is kept in the monastery.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Abbey of Romainmôtier: a 5th-century church was rebuilt in the 7th century, and again between 990 and 1030. The church building remained mostly unchanged since the 11th century, and qualifies as one of the oldest romanesque buildings in Switzerland.
Lund Cathedral, built in 1123, Possibly the oldest church in Sweden (although part of Denmark in 1123) (Lutheran)
Basilica of Saint Servatius, church congregation dating to 384 AD, current building built from 11th to 13th centuries, oldest congregation and possibly the oldest church building in the Netherlands (Roman Catholic)
Hvalsey Church, located in Hvalsey (modern-day Qaqortoq), Greenland, Kingdom of Denmark, is the oldest surviving church (no longer in use, in ruins) in both North America and all of the Western Hemisphere. Originally built in the 14th century as a Catholic church, although archaeology suggests it was constructed on the site of a previous church.
^"To the time of Constantine (71-312)". Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 15 November 2013. Certainly no spot in Christendom can be more venerable than the place of the Last Supper, which became the first Christian church.
^Stokes, Jamie, ed. (2008). Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Africa and the Middle East. New York: Infobase Publishing. p. 65. ISBN9781438126760. Etchmiatzin is located in the west of modern Armenia, close to the border with Turkey, and its fourth-century cathedral is generally regarded as the oldest in the world.
^Dhilawala, Sakina (1997). Armenia. New York: Marshall Cavendish. p. 72. ISBN9780761406839. Echmiadzin Cathedral is the spiritual center of the Armenian Church and the seat of the Catholicos of all Armenians. It is also the oldest cathedral and Christian monastery in the world.
^Bauer-Manndorff, Elisabeth (1981). Armenia: Past and Present. Lucerne: Reich Verlag. Etchmiadzin, with the world's oldest cathedral and the seat of the Catholicos, draws tourists from all over the world.
^Utudjian, Édouard (1968). Armenian Architecture: 4th to 17th Century. Editions A. Morancé. p. 7. ...he also wanted to contribute to the restoration of the oldest cathedral in Christendom, that of Etchmiadzin, founded in the 4th century.
^Horne, Charles Francis (1925). The World and Its People: Or, A Comprehensive Tour of All Lands. New York: I.R. Hiller. p. 1312. A far more interesting relic in this Russian section of Armenia is the old monastery of Etchmiadzin. It has been in constant use since the founding of Christianity in Armenia in the third century of our era, and is thus the oldest Christian monastery in the world today.
^Bryce, James, Viscount (1896). Transcaucasia and Ararat, being notes of a vacation tour in the autumn of 1876, by James Bryce. London: Macmillan and Co. LTD. p. 311. ...the famous monastery of Etchmiadzin, which claims to be the oldest monastic foundation in the world...
^J.L. Teicher, "Ancient Eucharistic Prayers in Hebrew (Dura-Europos Parchment D. Pg. 25)", The Jewish Quarterly Review New Series 54.2 (October 1963), pp. 99-109
^The Ancient Church at Megiddo: The Discovery and an Assessment of its Significance E Adams - The Expository Times, 2008 "... chronologically distinct. The structure at Megiddo is obviously not a basilica. According to Tepper, the Megiddo church is a unique ecclesiastical form. It could not have resembled the church buildings of the late third century."