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March 06, 2012
Christian archeology
By Father Rocky Hoffman *

By Father Rocky Hoffman *

Do we know when the first church building was constructed and where it was located? If not, what is the oldest known church building that has survived — if not intact, then at least in ruins?

You ask a question about Christian Archeology, a very important topic because of the Catholic’s Church claim of apostolic origin. We can trace the Catholic Church back to the time of Christ by means of the unbroken succession of Roman pontiffs.  In fact, we know exactly where St. Peter was buried.
 
There are various archaeological claims for the oldest Catholic Church in the world, and each has its own merits, whether in the Holy Land at Rihab in the Jordan, or in the Vatican at St. Peter’s.  The Church of Saint Simeon Stylites in Syria dates back to the 5th century AD and is well preserved.  Parts of the ancient burial monument of St. Peter are embedded in the foundations of that great basilica and date from around 67 AD;  also parts of the original Constantinian Basilica of St. Peter (@ 320AD) can be found in the current version of St. Peters.
 
But my pick for the oldest known Catholic Church building that has survived and currently in use is the “Pantheon” in Rome, built by Hadrian in 126 AD, and appropriated by the Catholic Church during the 7th century and dedicated to “St. Mary and the Martyrs.”  It is in perfect condition;  a marvel to behold.

Rev. Francis J. Hoffman, JCD (Fr. Rocky) is Executive Director of Relevant Radio.  Ordained as a priest for Opus Dei in 1992 by Blessed John Paul II, he holds a doctorate in Canon Law from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, an MBA from the University of Notre Dame, and a BA in History from Northwestern University.  His Question and Answer column appears in several Catholic newspapers and magazines across the country.

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