First purpose-built church
Aqaba church
Jordan (Aqaba)
The oldest known purpose-built Christian church in the world is in Aqaba, Jordan. Built between 293 and 303, the building pre-dates the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, Israel, and the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, West Bank, both of which were constructed in the late 320s. The church is the first purpose-built Christian church discovered from the period before Christianity found favour with the Roman imperial government. It even pre-dates the greatest of all the Roman anti-Christian persecutions, that of Diocletian in 303-313. The church, the ruins of which were excavated in 1998, is in the form of an east-west oriented basicila, with apse and aisles. It also had a narthex and chancel. Excavation has unearthed walls up to 4.5m 14ft 9in high. During its first phase the church would have held about 60 worshipers; it was later extended to hold about 100. The building appears to have been abandoned during the presecution of 303-311, then refurbished between 313 and 330. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 363.