What are the oldest churches in the world, and where are they?
Christianity, despite being born more than 2000 years ago in Palestine, is not the most archaic of the world's religions. It is a monotheistic religion, based on the son of God sent by the latter to Earth: Jesus, the Christ (i.e. "the Anointed One", an honorific title deriving from the fact that in the ancient Middle East kings, priests and prophets were generally chosen and consecrated by anointing with aromatic oils (the Hebrew term is Messiah). Jesus will die on the cross after having incarnated as a man and having actively participated in the life of his people through his message of love, self-denial and faith.
But what are the oldest buildings that housed the first true Christians? Let's find out together.
10 - Church of Dura-Europos, Dura-Europos - Syria: 241 A.D.
Apparently 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 preserves some frescoes inside, probably the oldest of Christianity. The "good shepherd", the "healing of the paralytic" and "Christ and Peter walking on the waters" are the oldest depictions of Jesus Christ.
9 - Church of Chora, Istanbul - Turkey: 4th century
It is a really old Byzantine church, converted in the 16th century into a mosque during the Ottoman occupation. It has been a museum since 1948. Inside are some of the oldest remaining Byzantine mosaics and frescoes.
8 - Church of Our Lady Mary of Zyon, Aksum - Ethiopia: 4th century
Rebuilt several times over the centuries, this is where the emperors of Ethiopia were traditionally crowned. It is an important pilgrimage center for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians.
7 - Stavrovouni Monastery, Larnaca - Cyprus: 327/329 A.D.
Here you can admire one of the remaining pieces of the Holy Cross, found by St. 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 A.D.
Symbol of the Vatican State, it crowns the monumental St. Peter's Square. It is the largest of the four papal basilicas in Rome. As the Pontifical Chapel, it is the seat of the main manifestations of Catholic worship.
Tradition has it that the Apostle Peter, the first Pope, is buried here, obviously a pilgrimage destination, as well as a favorite place for art lovers. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the cathedral church of the Roman diocese.
5 - Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem - Palestine: 335 A.D.
Built on the site that tradition indicates as the site of the crucifixion, anointing, burial and resurrection of Jesus, it is located within the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. It encompasses both what is believed to be the"Hill of Golgotha", the site of the crucifixion, and the rock-cut tomb where the New Testament reports the burial of Jesus.
It is one of the must-see destinations for pilgrims visiting the Holy Land. The San Sepolcro is the only place for which there is archaeological evidence dating back to just one hundred years after the death of Jesus, today it is the seat of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
4 - Trier Cathedral, Trier (Trier) - Germany: 340 A.D.
The oldest cathedral in the country. It stands on the remains of a luxurious Roman residence. The Holy Robe is its most famous relic. It is kept in a special building, in a wooden container protected by a safety glass and is exhibited to the public only on rare occasions. It also preserves the skull of St. Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine.
3 - Monastery of St. Anthony, Desert - Egypt: 356 A.D.
Partially destroyed in the 11th century, very little remains of the original structure. Hidden in the mountains of the Red Sea, it was created by the followers of St. Anthony, considered the first Christian monk.
2 - Basilica of San Lorenzo, Milan - Italy, 364 A.D.
Located in Milan on Corso di Porta Ticinese, in front of the columns of San Lorenzo that were once part of the portico in front of the church, it is one of the oldest churches in Milan. It has an impressive pipe organ.
1 - Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, Rome - Italy, 386 A.D.
The Basilica of St. Paul is the oldest church in the world. It is one of the four papal basilicas in Rome, the second largest after St. Peter's Basilica. It rises near the left bank of the Tiber, about 2 km outside the Aurelian walls (hence its name). According to tradition it was built on the burial place of the apostle Paul and has therefore always been a destination for pilgrimages.
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