Oldest Churches

The 10 Oldest Churches in America you must visit in 2022

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My recent visit to some of the oldest churches made me realize the colossal value it holds in the hearts of visitors. Some of these churches date back to the 15th century that was built by the Europeans to establish the presence of the Christianity religion. These churches have been preserved over the centuries through renovations and reconstructions.

Below is a list of the 10 oldest churches in America that you must visit in 2022 – 

1. Cathedral of San Juan Bautista:

Oldest Churches

Built Year: 1521–1540 

Located: San Juan, Puerto Rico

The Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, is the oldest church in America. The church building was initially constructed using wood straw that got destroyed by a hurricane. Later, by 1529, the building was reconstructed using stone. The interior of the church displays the tomb of a Spanish explorer–Ponce de Leon, who founded the first settlement on Puerto Rico and was named the island’s first governor in 1509. The remains of St. Pio, who was a Roman martyr, has also been displayed in a glass box since 1862.

2. San Miguel Mission:

San Miguel Mission

Built Year: 1610 – 1710 

Located: Santa Fe, New Mexico

San Miguel Mission is the oldest church in the US continent that was constructed by Tlaxcalan Indians. The church has been rebuilt and reconstructed several times since its incorporation. The church was initially leaded by a small group of Spanish soldiers, laborers, and Tlaxcalan Indians that was later destroyed in 1640 by Luis de Rojas following the Pueblo Revolt in 1710. It is currently a U.S. National Historic Landmark with a weekly Mass offered at the chapel on Sundays.

3. San Estevan del Rey Mission:

San Estevan del Rey Mission

Built Year: 1629–1641 

Located: Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico

The San Estevan del Rey Mission Church was built by Franciscan monks as a way to control people at Acoma Pueblo and to convert the indigenous people to Christianity. The construction of the church was a 12-year project and was built 150 feet long and 40 feet wide. The materials used for construction were the same adobe bricks that were used on the rest of the Acoma Pueblo’s structures. The roof was made using wooden beams called ‘vigas’.

4. Jamestown Church:

Jamestown Church

Built Year: 1607–1907

Located: Jamestown, Virginia

Jamestown Church, built by Europeans in the original thirteen colonies, is considered as one of the oldest surviving building remnants. Built inside a fort in 1607, the church was destroyed by fire. The building was re-built and destroyed two more times after which a permanent structure was constructed using bricks. In 1619, the church was held as the meeting place of the first representative legislative assembly in British North America.

5. St. Mary’s Whitechapel:

St. Mary’s Whitechapel

Built Year: 1669–1970 

Located: Lancaster, Virginia

Named after Whitechapel parish in the East End of London, the church is considered as the birthplace of Mary Ball Washington, mother of George Washington. St. Mary’s Whitechapel was built by James Jones, the grandfather of President James Monroe. The building was built in a simple elegant style resembling the churches of the colonial era in the seventeenth century. The Anglican Church became dormant and was closed for 30 years after which it was re-established in 1832. Most of its important artefacts including a silver chalice from the 17th century, the Decalogue from the 18th century, and the Baptismal Font from the early 18th century are still kept for display.

6. Old Trinity Church:

Old Trinity Church

Built Year: 1671–1950 

Located: Church Creek, Maryland

Old Trinity Church is the longest running Episcopal congregation in the US. The church was restored to its original colonial style and has been furnished as per orders given by Queen Ann in 1703. Old Trinity Church has an active burial ground that holds the remains of Anna Ella Carroll (silent member of Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet), and veterans of every American War. The building is built of red bricks and is of a very small size of 38 feet length and 20 feet width with its windows fashioned with pointed arches.

7. Old Ship Church:

Old Ship Church

Built Year: 1681–1960 

Located: Hingham, Massachusetts

The Old Ship Church, also known as the Old Ship Meetinghouse, is the only surviving 17th century Puritan meetinghouse in America. The roof of the building has been built to resemble the hull of a ship and the side galleries along with first box pews were added to the structure in mid 1700s. An extensive restoration work has been done to preserve the building that now serves as a Unitarian Universalist congregation.

8. Third Haven Meeting House:

Third Haven Meeting House

Built Year: 1681–1684 

Located: Talbot County, Maryland

Third Haven Meeting House is considered as the oldest surviving Quaker church and Friends meetinghouse. The members of the church built the meetinghouse on three acres of land in two years. In 1684, the first meeting was held at the newly built structure. George Fox was the founder of the Friends society and sent various books to the meeting, eventually establishing the first public library in Talbot County.

9. St. Luke’s Church: 

St. Luke’s Church

Built Year: 1632–1682

Located: Benns Church, Virginia

St. Luke’s Church, an Anglican church, is also known as Old Brick Church or Newport Parish Church and is the oldest church in Virginia. The architectural structure of the building is considered an example of the 17-th century Artisan Mannerism. Its exterior structure is built using bricks featuring elements of Romanesque, Gothic, and Jacobean designs. Currently, the church operates as a museum and holds community preservation workshops.

10. Old Indian Meeting House:

Oldest Churches

Built Year: 1670–1684

Located: Mashpee, Massachusetts

The Old Indian Meeting House is the oldest Native American church in the eastern U.S. and also the oldest church on Cape God. The building was first built as a place of worship for the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe and was later converted to Christianity by the European colonists. It is a place of historic and spiritual significance and the site of the famous Mashpee Revolt when tribal members and their minister protested the government’s intrusion on their self-governance.

While most of these 10 oldest churches in America have been designed to continue active congregations, some of them were re-designed and converted as museums depicting the cultural heritage and religious significance of America. However, most of the churches still retain some elements of their original construction. 

I would definitely recommend you to visit the Old Ship Church which is the only surviving 17th century Puritan meeting house in America and one of the oldest churches in the world.

Also Read: 30 Most Surprising Facts about Apple that you should know today


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