History, Art & Culture, Holy Jordan, Jordan News

World’s Oldest Church is in Jordanian City of Aqaba

November 15, 2022

Aqaba, the kingdom’s port city, which is situated on the Red Sea and a four-hour drive from Jordan’s capital, is recognized as the home of the oldest-built Christian church.

According to the Guinness World Records, “the oldest known purpose-built Christian church in the world is in Aqaba, Jordan,” which was built between the years 293 and 303. The church is slightly older than the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem. It is believed that the church was abandoned and fell into ruin between 303 and 311. It was later restored but fell into ruin again following an earthquake in the year 363.

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(Photo credit: Aqaba Blog)

It remained forgotten until 1998 when archaeologists led by Professor S. Thomas Parker of North Carolina State University were conducting exploratory work in the area and found ruins of a structure that resembles a basilica with an apse and aisles. There structure also had arched doorways, a narthex, a chancel and walls that are about 15 feet high. These findings helped them trace back the ancient church. At the time of its establishment, the church would have held about 100 worshipers, welcoming Christians to come and pray together.

Today, the church’s ancient ruins are preserved for people to visit. Those visiting Aqaba can easily access the site of the church from the city’s downtown area and explore all that remains of the holy place that stood in the same location many years ago. 

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(Photo credit: Aqaba Blog)

Aqaba’s Red Sea is commonly known for its beautiful diving sites and colorful corals but it is also an important port city that is mentioned in the holy Bible. The Bible discusses the Red Sea in the verse 1 Kings 9:27 which states, “King Solomon also built ships at Ezion Geber, which is near Elath in Edom, on the shore of the Red Sea. And Hiram sent his men—sailors who knew the sea—to serve in the fleet with Solomon’s men. They sailed to Ophir and brought back 420 talents of gold, which they delivered to King Solomon.”

From its ancient church to its stunning sea, Aqaba is definitely a must-visit destination in Jordan.

By Leen Hajjar
Leen Hajjar

Leen Hajjar, born and raised in Amman, is JTBNA's blog editor. A recent graduate from Villanova University with a master's degree in Communication, Leen focuses on media analysis, specifically mainstream media’s portrayal of Arabs and the Middle East. Her previous experience as a writer for Al Arabiya English, inspired stories that shed light on the diverse and positive attributes of the Arab world, aiming to provide a more comprehensive representation of the region and its people.

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