Where is the Oldest Church in America?

The entrance to San Juan Bautista Cathedral built in 1521.
The entrance to San Juan Bautista Cathedral built in 1521.

Below, we take a look at some of the oldest Christian churches still in existence, whether in whole or in part, in the United States and its outlying territories.

1. San Juan Bautista Cathedral, San Juan, Puerto Rico (1521)

San Juan Bautista Cathedral or the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is the oldest church building in the US. It was the first cathedral church in San Juan, then known as the city of Puerto Rico. The building was constructed from the wood straw in 1521, and later it was destroyed by a hurricane and reconstructed in 1529 using stone. There were other reconstructions over the centuries and the last one being in 1917. The interior is a design of Gothic medieval, and the neoclassic appearance was given in 1852.

2. San Miguel Mission, Santa Fe, New Mexico (1610)

The church is the oldest church in the continental US found in New Mexico and was built in 1610. Over the centuries the church has been rebuilt and reconstructed. The church was constructed by Tlaxcalan Indians who are believed to have come from Mexico and settled in New Mexico in 1598. Initially, the church served the small group Spanish soldiers, laborers, and Tlaxcalan Indians.The church was destroyed in 1640 by Luis de Rojas, who was serving as provincial governor when he had misunderstandings with church leaders. The church was reconstructed, but the Pueblo revolt of 1689 adversely damaged the building again. The uprising drove away the Spanish but returned twelve years later to Santa Fe, and made repairs and the restoration of the building. In 1798 the mayor of Santa Fe funded a major repair and the constructions of the beautiful altar before the church. An intricate 3-tier bell tower was built in 1848, and the installation of the 780-pound bell followed in 1856. In 1955 more restoration was made by a Spanish colonial expert and painter.

3. Jamestown Church, Jamestown, Virginia (1639)

The Jamestown church in Virginia was constructed in 1639 by Governor John Harvey and other sea captains. The materials used were bricks and was larger than the previous wooden building which had been built in the same spot way back in 1609.The construction took a long time and competed in 1647. The bacon rebellion of 1776 saw the church building burned and was reconstructed again ten years later. A brick tower was added, and this is the only 17th Century structure still standing above the foundation of the Jamestown. The church was in use until it was abandoned in the 1750s and fall into ruins in 1790s. The bricks rescued were used to construct the existing graveyard wall. The tower remained intact and throughout the 19th Century, it remained a symbol of America's old heritage. The present church known as the Memorial Church building was built in 1906.

4. Old Trinity Church, Church Creek, Maryland (1675)

The old Trinity church in Maryland was built in 1675 and belongs to an Episcopal church.Presently the church has been restored to the earlier original appearance as it was in the 17th Century it has also been furnished according to the instructions and orders were given by Queen Ann in 1703. Around 1853, the building was remodeled to the characteristic Gothic style, where windows were fashioned with pointed arches and some old windows were sealed off.The church has been active for the past three centuries. The graveyard in the compound is a local burial ground, and veterans of almost all American wars are buried there. The restorations and refurbishing were mainly done between 1953 and 1960.

Oldest Christian Churches In The United States

RankOldest Churches In The United StatesYear of Initial Construction
1San Juan Bautista Cathedral, San Juan, Puerto Rico1521
2San Miguel Mission, Santa Fe, New Mexico1610
3Jamestown Church, Jamestown, Virginia1639
4Old Trinity Church, Church Creek, Maryland1675
5Third Haven Meeting House, Talbot, Maryland1681
6Old Ship Church, Hingham, Massachusetts1681
7St. Luke's Church, Smithfield, Virginia1682
8Old Indian Meeting House, Mashpee, Massachusetts1684
9Old Dutch Church, Sleepy Hollow, New York1685
10King's Chapel, Boston, Massachusetts1686

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