Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Tuesday 28 September |
Saint of the Day: St. Wenceslaus
home iconArt & Culture
line break icon

This art from the earliest known “house church” is nearly 1,800 years old

The site of Dura-Europos.

Heretiq - Wikimedia - CC0

J-P Mauro - published on 10/01/18

It is unknown if the site still survives after ISIS occupation.

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” – Matthew 18:20

Often, when contemplating these words from the Gospel of Matthew, the first images that arise are of a healthy congregation filling a local parish, a prayer circle in the midst of tragedy, or even a family saying grace before a meal. It is unlikely, however, that early Christians had the same ideas, as the church as we know it did not exist yet. It was in this direction from Christ that we were guided to begin His Holy Church.

The first Christians gathered in homes, as they were no longer welcome in the synagogues. Later, Roman Christians continued this practice, as they were often met with persecution so great that they worshiped in secret. These first places of worship became known as “house churches.”


Read more:
Early Christian “secret church” excavated in former ISIS-held territory

The oldest known house church is located in Dura-Europos, in Syria, and is known simply as the Dura-Europos Church. The site is believed to have once been a private residence that was converted into a place of worship between 233 and 256, when the town was abandoned in the wake of the Persian conquest.

The site of Dura-Europos Church was mostly excavated in the early 20th century by French and American archaeologists. Through their efforts, not only was this important landmark discovered, but some of the earliest Christian art and frescoes were unearthed as well. Fragments of parchment scrolls with Hebrew texts were also found and later identified as Eucharistic prayers.

Thankfully, the art found at the site was removed and housed at the Yale University Art Gallery, as it is unknown if this ancient site has survived ISIS occupation. Here are some images of these early depictions of the Christian faith.

ArchaeologyCatholic history
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
The Sinai Peninsula and the Dead Sea Rift
J-P Mauro
Experts now believe Sodom was destroyed by a meteor
J-P Mauro
Chicago architect models Vatican City from 67,000 LEGO bricks
Giovanna Binci
He’s autistic, she has Down syndrome, and they’re wonderfully hap...
Fr. Michael Rennier
The purpose of life according to J.R.R. Tolkien
Bret Thoman, OFS
Exclusive photos: Meet Padre Pio and the place he lived
crisis man
Marzena Devoud
Advice from 3 monks for overcoming acedia
Christ and the woman taken in adultery
Daniel Esparza
What Jesus wrote
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.