Top 5 Oldest Churches in the World (2023)
A church, church building, or church house serves as a place for Christian worship and other religious activities.
When it comes to ancient places of worship, five churches stand out as some of the oldest in the world.
These ancient churches are remarkable testaments to history, as their enduring structures have preserved their historical and architectural significance for centuries.
With amazing histories and architectural beauty, these five churches continue to captivate visitors worldwide, attracting pilgrims and tourists alike, and providing insight into Christianity’s rich history and lasting faith legacy.
In this article, MTC will showcase the top 5 oldest churches globally.
Top 5 Oldest Churches in the World (2023)
Table Of Contents
5. Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also known as the Church of the Resurrection, is the fifth oldest church in the world.
Situated in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, it’s the holiest Christian pilgrimage site since the 4th century.
Tradition says it holds two important Christian sites: where Jesus was crucified (Calvary or Golgotha) and His empty tomb where He was buried and resurrected.
The church, rebuilt over time, preserves ancient artifacts in each renovation, and the tomb is now in a 19th-century shrine called the Aedicule.
The Status Quo, established in 1757, governs the site’s use by various religious communities. Inside the church, the last four Stations of the Cross depict the final events of Jesus’ Passion.
Since its creation in the 4th century, it has been a significant Christian pilgrimage spot due to its association with Christ’s resurrection, reflected in its original name, the Church of the Anastasis (‘Resurrection’).
4. St. Peter’s Basilica
Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, also known as the Papal Basilica of Saint Peter, is one of the oldest churches in the world, located in Vatican City, Rome, Italy.
Pope Nicholas V and Pope Julius II in the 15th century initiated its construction to replace the old St. Peter’s Basilica, built by Roman Emperor Constantine the Great in the fourth century.
Work on the new basilica started on April 18, 1506, and finished on November 18, 1626.
St. Peter’s is a famous example of Renaissance architecture and is the fourth-largest church worldwide by interior size.
It’s highly regarded as a sacred Catholic site, and it’s known for being the burial place of Saint Peter, the first Bishop of Rome (Pope). Many popes have been buried there since early Christianity.
The basilica is renowned for pilgrimages and religious ceremonies.
The Pope presides over various liturgical events throughout the year in the basilica or St. Peter’s Square, attracting large crowds. St. Peter’s is one of Rome’s four major Papal basilicas and one of the Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome.
Contrary to common belief, it’s not a cathedral because it’s not the bishop’s seat; the Pope’s cathedra as the Bishop of Rome is at Saint John Lateran.
3. Stavrovouni Monastery
Stavrovouni Monastery, or Stavrovouni, stands as a Greek Orthodox monastery atop a hill in Cyprus. Saints Helena and Constantine founded it approximately between AD 327 and 329.
Legend has it that Helena discovered three crosses during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. While transporting them to Constantinople, one remained in Cyprus due to a shipwreck.
The Holy Cross spontaneously rested on a high hill, emitting a bright light. Despite several efforts to recover it, Helena constructed a chapel at that location to shelter a fragment of the Holy Cross.
2. Panagia Ekatontapiliani
Panagia Ekatontapiliani, also known as Panagia Katapoliani, is an ancient Byzantine church complex located in Parikia on the Greek island of Paros.
It consists of a main chapel, two additional chapels, and a baptistery with a cross-shaped font.
Despite its name, which means “the church with 100 doors,” it doesn’t actually have a hundred doors. One theory suggests that the name may be a distortion of “Katapoliani,” meaning “Lower Town church,” due to its seaside location in Parikia.
The church dates back to 326 and likely predates the official establishment of Christianity as the Roman Empire’s religion in 391.
Saint Helen, the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great, is believed to have founded it during her pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
Justinian also began construction on the site. Although an 18th-century earthquake caused significant damage, people gradually restored it.
1. Etchmiadzin Cathedral
Etchmiadzin ranks first in the list of oldest churches in the world. This church stands as the primary church of the Armenian Apostolic Church, located in the city of Etchmiadzin (also known as Ejmiatsin) in Armenia.
Historically, Saint Gregory the Illuminator originally constructed it in the early fourth century, marking the shift from paganism to Christianity in Armenia. Vahan Mamikonian later rebuilt the structure after it sustained damage during a Persian invasion.
For an extended period, Etchmiadzin functioned as the Armenian Church’s headquarters. Nonetheless, it underwent neglect and suffered plundering in 1604 by Shah Abbas I of Persia.
Nevertheless, it underwent restoration in 1441 and continues to serve as the seat of the catholicos.
Etchmiadzin holds great religious, political, and cultural importance in Armenia, functioning as a significant pilgrimage site and symbolizing Armenian Christianity.
Additionally, it achieved recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000, alongside nearby early medieval churches.