Christianity, despite having been born more than 2000 years ago in Palestine, is not the most archaic of the world religions. It is a monotheistic religion, based on the son of God sent by him to the Earth, Jesus Christ. He was called Christ (the Christ) as the word itself, deriving from Greek, means “the Anointed”, which was an honorific title because the ancient Middle East kings, priests, and prophets were generally chosen and consecrated by anointing with aromatic oils. In Hebrew, the term is Messiah. Jesus dies on the cross after being incarnated as a man and having actively participated in the life of his people through his message of love, selflessness, and faith. He leaves a great number of believers and followers, i.e. Christians, who continue spreading his message of love and forgiveness.
But which are the oldest churches in the world that hosted the first true Christians?
Let’s find this out together!
10. Church of Dura-Europos – Dura- Europos, Syria: 241 AD
Apparently, it is a house converted into a place of worship and, therefore, considered the first of its kind. Abandoned after the Persian conquest of the city, it still has some frescoes inside, probably the oldest in Christianity. The “good shepherd”, the “healing of the paralytic”, and “Christ and Peter walking on the water” are the oldest descriptions of Jesus Christ.
9. Chora Church – Istanbul, Turkey: 4th century
It is a very old Byzantine church, converted into a mosque in the 16th century during the Ottoman occupation. It has been a museum since 1948. Inside, there are some of the oldest surviving Byzantine mosaics and frescoes.
8. Church of Our Lady Mary of Zyon – Axum, Ethiopia: 4th century
Rebuilt several times over the centuries, the Emperors of Ethiopia were traditionally crowned here. It is an important pilgrimage center for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians.
7. Stavrovouni Monastery – Larnaca, Cyprus: 327/329 AD
Here you can admire one of the remaining pieces of the Holy Cross, found by Saint Helena, its founder, returning from the Holy Land. It is one of the oldest Christian places of worship in the world.
6. St. Peter’s Basilica – Rome / Vatican City – Italy / Vatican State: 333 AD
Symbol of the Vatican State, it crowns the monumental St. Peter’s Square. It is the largest of the four papal basilicas of Rome. As a Pontifical Chapel, it is the seat of the main manifestations of Catholic worship.
Legend has it that the apostle Peter, the first Pope, is buried here. It’s, obviously, a pilgrimage destination as well as one of the favorite places for art lovers. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the cathedral church of the Roman diocese.
5. Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher – Jerusalem, Palestine: 335 AD
Built on the site that tradition indicates as that of the crucifixion, anointing, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, it is located within the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. This church incorporates, both, what is believed to be the “hill of Golgotha”, the place of the crucifixion, and the tomb carved into the rock, where the New Testament reports the burial of Jesus.
The Holy Sepulcher is one of the essential destinations for pilgrims who visit the Holy Land. It’s the only place of which existence there is archaeological evidence dating back just a hundred years after the death of Jesus. Today, it’s the seat of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
4. Trier Cathedral – Trier, Germany: 340 AD
The oldest cathedral in the country stands on the remains of a luxurious Roman home. The best-known relic kept in this cathedral is the Holy Robe, which is kept in a special building, in a wooden container protected by safety glass, and is exhibited to the public only on rare occasions. This cathedral also preserves the skull of Saint Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine.
3. Monastery of Saint Anthony – Desert, Egypt: 356 AD
Partially destroyed in the 11th century, very little remains of the original structure of this monastery. Hidden in the mountains of the Red Sea, it was built by the followers of Saint Anthony, who was considered the first Christian monk.
2. Basilica of Saint Lawrence – Milan, Italy, 364 AD
This basilica is located in Milan, in Corso di Porta Ticinese, in front of the columns of San Lorenzo (Saint Lawrence) that were once part of the portico in front of the church itself. It’s one of the oldest churches in Milan. It has an impressive pipe organ.
1. Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls – Rome, Italy, 386 AD
It is one of the four papal basilicas of Rome and the second largest after St. Peter’s. It rises near the left bank of the Tiber, about 2 km outside the Aurelian walls (hence its name). According to a legend, it was built on the burial site of the apostle Paul which is why it has always been a destination for pilgrimages.