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The 15 oldest Catholic churches in America

Jason Mrachina | CC
1789 St Louis Cathedral-Basilica, New Orleans, Louisiana
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People still worship in these beautiful sanctuaries today.

Ten years before the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock in 1630, the oldest continuously operating church, the San Miguel Mission, was built in what is now Sante Fe, New Mexico. You can visit the church — and attend Mass there — along with a number of historic Catholic churches in the United States that first opened their doors to worshipers in the 17th and 18th centuries.

While the United States is a relatively young country, its Catholic churches, founded as they were during a time of Spanish and French colonization and missionary work, link the country to its European ancestors in a tangible way.

From the Spanish missions in the American southwest and California, to the churches founded by British Jesuits in Maryland, here are some of the oldest Catholic churches still standing and open for worship today. Some of them have been rebuilt over the centuries, but all retain some element of their original construction:

 

1. 1610: San Miguel Mission, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Wikipedia
1610: San Miguel Mission, Santa Fe, New Mexico

2. 1731: St. Francis Xavier Church, Leonardtown, Maryland

St. Francis Xavier Church, Leonardtown, MD
Public Domain
1731 St. Francis Xavier Church, Leonardtown, MD

3. 1738: Cathedral of San Fernando, San Antonio, Texas

1738: Cathedral of San Fernando, San Antonio, Texas
Prayitno | CC
1738: Cathedral of San Fernando, San Antonio, Texas

4. 1769 Mission San Diego de Alcala, San Diego, California

1769 Mission San Diego de Alcala, San Diego, CA
CaptSpaulding | CC
1769 Mission San Diego de Alcala, San Diego, CA

5. 1782: Mission San Juan Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, California

1782 Mission San Juan Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, CA
Anthony Dolce | CC
1782 Mission San Juan Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, CA

6. 1789: St Louis Cathedral-Basilica, New Orleans, Louisiana

Jason Mrachina | CC
1789 St Louis Cathedral-Basilica, New Orleans, Louisiana

7. 1789:  St. Ignatius Church, Forest Hill, Maryland

St. Ignatius Church, Forest Hill, MD
Public Domain
1789 St. Ignatius Church, Forest Hill, MD

8. 1791: Mission San Francisco de Asís (Chapel), San Francisco, California

Mission San Francisco de Asís (Chapel), San Francisco, Cal.
Robert A. Estremo | CC
1791 Mission San Francisco de Asís (Chapel), San Francisco, Cal.

9. 1792: St. Francis Xavier Church, Warwick, Maryland

St. Francis Xavier Church, Warwick, MD
Jack Boucher | Public Domain
1792 St. Francis Xavier Church, Warwick, MD

10. 1793: San Felipe de Neri Church, Albuquerque, New Mexico

1793, San Felipe de Neri Church, Albuquerque, NM
Steven Martin | CC
1793, San Felipe de Neri Church, Albuquerque, NM

11. 1793: Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, St. Augustine, Florida

1793 Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, St. Augustin, FL
Wikipedia
1793 Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, St. Augustine, FL

12. 1794: Cathedral of San Carlos Borromeo, Monterey, California

1794 Cathedral of San Carlos Borromeo, Monterey, CA
Jsweida | CC
1794 Cathedral of San Carlos Borromeo, Monterey, CA

13. 1797: Mission San Xavier del Bac, Tucson, Arizona

1797 Mission San Xavier del Bac, Tucson, Arizona
JR P | CC
1797 Mission San Xavier del Bac, Tucson, Arizona

14. 1798: St. Ignatius Church, Port Tobacco, Maryland

1798 St. Ignatius Church, Port Tobacco, MD
Pubdog | Public Domain
1798 St. Ignatius Church, Port Tobacco, MD

15. 1799: Church of the Holy Family, Cahokia, Illinois

1799 Church of the Holy Family, Cahokia, Illinois
Kbh3rd | CC
1799 Church of the Holy Family, Cahokia, Illinois
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