Religious buildings come in all shapes and sizes for all kinds of denominations. Many Christians denominations have essentially claimed the term “church” for their buildings although the word church comes from the Greek kuriakos, or “of the lord.”
While new churches open every year designed in styles that range from the traditional to the avant-garde, some of the most well-known and most extraordinary churches date back to when Jesus was almost still a Jew. Here, finally, is a list of five of the oldest churches in the world!
Dura-Europos Church – Dura-Europos, Syria
Dura-Europos is known to be the oldest Christian church, dating back to 235 AD. The building is simple in design – a house attached to a room thought to be used for meetings. It was discovered in the 20th century by some crafty archaeologists. The most notable feature of the church are numerous frescoes that include images of the Good Shepherd, David and Goliath, Adam and Eve, and Christ healing the sick and doing the trick he was most known for – walking on water.
Megiddo Church – Tel Megiddo, Israel
Megiddo church was built in the 3rd century when the Roman Empire exercised its power over Christians. Where is it located? How about on the grounds of a prison! The prisoners were the first ones to discover the site, until it was further excavated in 2005 by a Tel-Aviv University archaeologist. A huge mosaic measuring nearly 600 sq ft is the most fascinating feature of the church.
Etchmiadzin Cathedral – Etchmiadzin, Armenia
Etchmiadzin cathedral holds the distinction of being the oldest church in the world that was originally built by a state. Located in Armenia (the world’s first Christian country) and still in operation, it is the headquarters of the Armenian Apostolic Church. It was built by Saint Gregory the Illuminator between 301 and 303 AD in what is now known as Armenian style, known for its emphasis on height, pointed domes, and stone materials.
St. Peter’s Basilica – Vatican City
St. Peter’s Basilica is the Disney World of churches. Located in Vatican City in Italy, St. Peter’s Basilica attracts millions of visitors annually and is seen as one of the holiest locations in the world among Catholics, partially because it’s believed to sit above St. Peter’s tomb. The Basilica was first built as a church in 333AD and got a major face lift in the 15th century.
Church of St. Peter – Antakya, Turkey
That Saint Peter sure has gotten a lot of architectural love over the centuries. Located in an area once known as Antioch, the church was carved along the side of Mount Starius. At 42 ft deep, 31 ft wide and 23 ft tall, it definitely took a lot of digging to complete. It features an altar, frescoes, and mosaics on the cave’s floor. A tunnel built within the church gave visitors a quick escape route if needed. The church is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles in the Bible and its worshipers were the first to be called Christians.