The grandeur and/or peerless historical value of most old churches will captivate every person who has a penchant for antique, imposing architecture and their amazing history.
Whether you are religious or not, and whether you are visiting churches as part of a pilgrimage or just for sightseeing, your journey will be worth it when you are able to see any of these old, beautiful churches.
Knowing a bit of the church’s history is a good tourist tip, in order to better appreciate their beauty. You should know when a certain church was first built, the ones who built it, or the renovations that had been done, if any, or if the original structure is still standing. Sure, you know why churches were built, but through many centuries they have also served for things other than as a place of worship.
It was not uncommon during those olden times that people sought the protection offered by churches in times of war, as it was seen a blasphemy to incite an attack inside a holy place. Also as a place of charity and selfless service, churches have served as temporary shelters for the refugees and victims of natural disasters.
Many of these old churches have been transformed and used for other purposes as people have stopped attending Masses. As sad as it sounds, these churches have been sold to investors who would most likely convert them into restaurants or multi-purpose halls, due to the churches’ beauty and awesome architecture.
We all hope that these old (and new) churches will continue to stand the test of time as well as to bear witness to the people and crucial events that have been a part of the churches’ existence.
Known to be the oldest Christian church structure in the world, it is located in present-day, strife-torn Syria. It was built around 300 B.C. While it obviously lacks the grandeur of later and more famous churches, its historical value cannot be denied. It includes the most important relics such as frescoes describing the miracles of Jesus Christ and Hebrew scrolls that actually turned out to be Christian prayers.
Israel is known the world over as the Holy Land, and no wonder it is the site of the oldest known places of worship. Located in an archaeological site near Tel Megiddo, Israel, the Megiddo Church was built around 3rd century A.D. Actually, the church was located at the grounds of the Megiddo Prison. Mosaics with Greek inscriptions depicting the life of Jesus Christ are found on the remaining walls.
The Etchmiadzin Cathedral, located in Vagharshapat, Armavir Province, Armenia, is the Armenian Apostolic Church’s equivalent to St. Peter’s Basilica of the Roman Catholic Church. Armenia’s patron saint Gregory the Illuminator laid the foundations of this church, whose construction started around 301 A.D. The church has suffered damage over centuries due to neglect, but lately it has undergone several restorations to maintain its original design.
Being the largest and probably the most famous church in the world, St. Peter’s Basilica is located in the Vatican City within Rome, the capital of Italy. St. Peter, one of Jesus Christ’s followers and apostle, took the leadership position and went on to become the “rock” of the Christian Church. Centuries-long tradition has maintained that Peter sailed to Rome and encountered his martyrdom there during Emperor Nero’s reign. It was in Rome where the construction of the St. Peter’s Basilica took place inside Vatican City.
First constructed around in 319 A.D. as the Old St. Peter’s Basilica during emperor Constantine the Great’s reign, St. Peter’s Basilica had the typical basilicas during that time, usually cross-shaped when viewed from above. The reconstruction occurred during the Renaissance period in the 17th century. Art lovers will surely call Saint Peter’s Basilica a paradise — it is the home of the Pieta by Michaelangelo, Maderno’s nave, Raphael’s frescoes, and the furnishings by Bernini. Of course, St. Peter’s Basilica is the home of Pope, the leader of the Roman Catholic church.
The Church of the Nativity is located in the city of Bethlehem, which is in the state of Palestine. Bethlehem, as many of us know, is the birthplace of Jesus Christ, so it’s not so surprising that people wanted to build a church to honor His birth. The church was first constructed on commission from Emperor Constantine the Great and his mother Helena right on the cave where, according to tradition, Christ was is believed to have been born. Pilgrims from all over the world flock to the Church of Nativity and won’t mind waiting and standing in line for hours just touch the site where the baby Jesus’ manger is believed to have been located.
Built on the foundations of the ancient Roman buildings in 340 A.D. (during emperor Constantine’s rule), the Cathedral of Trier is located in Trier, a city in Germany. The church is notable for its eclectic design, due to the fact that it has survived a lot of eras which had contributed to its diverse architectural styles. Saint Helen (or Helena), Constantine’s mother, personally oversaw the construction of the church. The Cathedral of Trier is the oldest known church in Germany.
Rome, Italy is famous for its old buildings and churches, including of course St. Peter’s. Another one of the city’s oldest churches is the Santa Maria in Trastevere, a minor basilica first built during Constantine’s rule (c. 4th A.D.), which is evident in the church’s Romanesque architectural style. Built in honor of Mother Mary, the Santa Maria may be the church where Mass was first celebrated openly.
In the middle of the eastern Egyptian desert lies the Monastery of Saint Anthony, a Coptic Orthodox monastery located deep in the Red Sea mountains (680 meters above the Red Sea level). It was built in 356 A.D. in commemoration of St. Anthony the Great, by his own followers. Despite being the place of worship, monks sought refuge there in order to evade attacks from the Berbers and the Bedouins, during the 6th and 7th centuries A.D.
Built and consecrated in the 3rd century, the Basilica of San Simpliciano is located in Milan, Italy. It was built in honor of the bishop of Milan, Saint Simplician (whose feast day is August 14). This church was constructed in the form of a Latin cross by St. Ambrose. Like a lot of very old churches, this basilica has undergone many restorations over the centuries.
This basilica is located in the French city of Metz, which is renowned for its rich history (back in the Roman era) and several centuries-old architectures. Built and completed in 380 A.D., the Basilica of Saint-Pierre was originally planned and actually used as a Roman gymnasium. It became a church and convent in the 7th century but in the 16th century, it was converted into a warehouse which operated for many centuries. During the 1970s, the former church/warehouse was remodeled and opened to the public to serve as a venue for concerts, exhibitions, and plays, and it has remained so up to this day.
Also known as the San Nazaro Maggiore, this basilica was built in 382 A.D. by the bishop of Milan, St. Ambrose, who dedicated it to the Apostles (thus its other name Basilica Apostolorum). It is one of the oldest churches not only in Milan but in the world as well. It contains relics of several of the Apostles, the embellishments donated by the Roman noblewoman Serena (emperor Theodosius’ niece), as well as the extant remains of St. Ambrose’s inscription.