The Oldest Buildings In The World That Are Still In Use

10 of the Oldest Man-Made Structures On Earth Still In Use

Rheinstein Castle by I Manfred Heyde via Wikimedia cc

What are some of the oldest buildings that are still in use?

Various historical monuments are scattered around the world representative of past civilizations’ glory. Most of these buildings have succumbed to the tyranny of time, falling into ruins. However, some of the historical monuments still stand proud today … even fewer remain in use today.

In this article, we will take you through some of the oldest buildings in the world that are still in use. Some of these buildings have been reinforced and reconstructed to meet modern requirements, while others continue to exist in their original form, serving the same purpose that they have for centuries.

1) Arles Amphitheatre

Arles Amphitheatre in France photo via Pixabay
Arles Amphitheatre in France photo via Pixabay

Address: 1 Rdpt des Arènes, 13200 Arles, France
Function: Amphitheater
Architectural style: Ancient Roman architecture
Height: 21 m (69 ft)
Founded: 90 AD

Arles Amphitheatre is one of the impressive Roman heritage sites that survived through time and is still being used for the same purpose with which it was created. The Arles Amphitheatre is believed to be built around 90 AD, with the capacity to house at least 20,000 individuals. Consisting of 120 arches spread around an oval arena, the seating was constructed to provide a full view of the stage in the center.

For almost 400 years, the Arles Amphitheatre was believed to be home to various games, animal fights, theatrical shows, gladiator combats, etc. With the fall of the Roman Empire, the amphitheater fell out of use and became a fortress, housing 200 houses, and churches with a town square in the middle. The theatre’s restoration began in 1826 when the amphitheater once again became a performance center. Today, the amphitheater continues to host concerts and bullfights.

2) The Tower of Hercules

The Tower of Hercules in Spain photo via Pixabay
The Tower of Hercules in Spain photo via Pixabay

Address: Av. Navarra, s/n, 15002 A Coruña, Spain
Phone: +34 981 22 37 30
Architects: Gaius Sevius Lupus, Eustaquio Giannini
Architectural style: Ancient Roman architecture
Height: 55 m
Province: A Coruña
Function: Lighthouse
Built: 2nd century AD
UNESCO Site Id: 1312

The Roman Empire is famous for its broad geographical reach and the architectural heritage left behind across Europe. The buildings symbolize Rome’s glorious impact on the world and the durability of its architecture, even after centuries. The Tower of Hercules is one such monument built by Romans in Spain. Historians believed that the tower was built for two major reasons: for the protection of sea transportation and is also believed to be the burial site of Gerylon, according to Roman mythology.

The Tower of Hercules is the only still-standing lighthouse from Roman times, it has been operational since the 2nd century CE. The Tower of Hercules has been designated a UNESCO heritage site since 2009.

3) The Basilica of Santa Sabina

The Basilica of Santa Sabina by Dnalor 01 via Wikimedia cc
The Basilica of Santa Sabina By Dnalor 01 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 at, cc

Address: Piazza Pietro D’Illiria, 1, 00153 Roma RM, Italy
Phone: +39 06 579401
Length: 60 m (200 ft)
Completed: 432
Style: Paleochristian, Baroque, Neoclassical
Dedication: Saint Sabina
Nave width: 17 metres (56 ft)

The Basilica of Santa Sabina is known as one of the earliest churches built after the rise of Christianity. When the basilica was built, the early Christians were still trying to build an organizational system. No one had an idea of what a church should look like or the elements it should entail. The basilica was built according to what is known as Paleochristain architecture, largely derived from Roman architecture.

The church’s architecture is believed to be inspired by the older pagan temples of the time–from the marble doorframes to the 24 columns lining the inside of the church, all are elements similar to pagan temples. The door of the basilica depicts Jesus being crucified, which is considered one of the earliest depictions of Christ’s crucifixion. Today, the Basilica of Santa Sabina continued to be a religious center for Christians, serving a similar purpose to which it was built.

4) Rheinstein Castle

Rheinstein Castle by I Manfred Heyde via Wikimedia cc
Rheinstein Castle By I, Manfred Heyde, CC BY-SA 3.0, cc

Address: Burg Rheinstein, 55413 Trechtingshausen, Germany
Phone: +49 6721 6348

Rheinstein Castle is a famous Germanic castle built around 1316 AD. The castle was originally important for its strategic location; today, it is notable for its Medieval and Romantic-style architecture, including drawbridges and portcullis. The castle also included an elaborate chapel in the Neo-Gothic style. The basement of the chapel contains a crypt for Prince Fredrick and his family.

Today, the castle is a converted museum containing a restaurant and two enchanting apartments, which visitors can book to enjoy an overnight stay. The castle’s museum contains elaborate historical artifacts from the 15th and 16th centuries. Interestingly, there is also a 500-years-old grapevine in the castle’s courtyard, which continues to produce grapes.

5) Theatre of Marcellus

Theatre of Marcellus photo via Wikipedia cc
Theatre of Marcellus photo via Wikipedia cc

Address: Via del Teatro di Marcello, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
Phone: +39 06 0608
Architectural style: Doric order
Opened: 14 AD

The Theatre of Marcellus is another Roman building, built around 13 BC. Considered the largest amphitheater in Rome, the theatre is believed to have been the grandest building in the city until the Colosseum was built. It was house to numerous cultural and sports activities like other amphitheaters in the city. However, the Theatre fell to ruins around the 4th century with the fall of the Roman Empire.

Most of the building materials were dismantled to be used elsewhere. However, much of the structure survived the strains of time and became a fortress, before becoming a private residence of the Orsini family. The Theatre of Marcellus remains in its semi-original form, with its arches standing proudly as they did when the theatre was built.

6) Mundeshwari Temple

Mundeshwari Temple by Lakshya via Wikipedia cc
Mundeshwari Temple By Lakshya – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, cc

Address: XHM7+CXF, Mundeshwari Dham Rd, Bhabua, Bihar 821103, India
Temple(s): One
Completed: 635 CE Hindu inscriptions dated 4th century AD were found in the temple m.
District: Kaimur district
Deity: Shiva and Shakthi

Mundeshwari Temple is the oldest temple in India still in use. This small shrine carved out of a stone in an octagonal shape is believed to be built around 600 AD. The temple was created as a worship shrine for Devi Durga and Lord Shiva. The temple soon became a religious and educational epicenter and continued to expand its significance in the region.

The temple remains operational today, with most of its original structure still intact. The smoke from the torches and incense burners has stained the temple’s inner walls, marking the passage of time here.

7) Horyu-ji

Horyu-ji Pagoda by 663highland via Wikipedia cc
Horyu-ji Pagoda By 663highland – Own work, CC BY 2.5, cc

Address: 1-1-1 Horyuji Sannai, Ikaruga, Ikoma District, Nara 636-0115, Japan
Departments: Horyu-ji West Quarters
Phone: +81 745-75-2555
Opened: 607 AD
UNESCO Site Id: 660

Horyu-ji Temple in Japan is a wonder of its own. Unlike other old buildings that were either carved out of stone or stone fortifications, this completely wooden pagoda in Japan has been standing proud since 594 AD. Horyu-ji is believed to be the oldest surviving and functional wooden structure in the world.

The pagoda is around 35 meters (115 ft) tall, supported by wooden pillars. The temple structure is made out of Japanese cypress wood, originally cut 1300 years ago. The pagoda functions as a Buddhist temple and a memorial site for religious activities. The temple continues to be visited by Buddhists worldwide and is believed to be one of the sacred temples in the Buddhist religion.

8) The Acoma Pueblo

The Acoma Pueblo by Scott Catron via Wikipedia cc
The Acoma Pueblo By Scott Catron – originally posted to Flickr as Acoma Pueblo Sky City, CC BY-SA 2.0, cc

Location: Four communities make up the village of Acoma Pueblo: Sky City, Acomita, Anzac, and McCartys.
Area: 109 ha
Added to NRHP: October 15, 1966
Built: 1100
Architectural style: Pueblo, Territorial

Perhaps one of the oldest surviving structures in North America, the Acoma Pueblo is a vast building complex housing the Acoma Pueblo community since 1100 AD. Located in New Mexico, the local community claims to be occupying the place “since forever”.

Around 1500 AD, the Spanish took over and made additions to the structure of the village, including building a church. The hostile conversion of the natives into Catholicism led to hostile revolts in the region that destroyed some of the old buildings. Today, Acoma Pueblo continues to be occupied despite having no electricity or running water.

9) Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia in Turkey photo via Pixabay
Hagia Sophia in Turkey photo via Pixabay

Address: Sultan Ahmet, Ayasofya Meydan? No:1, 34122 Fatih/Istanbul, Turkey
Open 24 hours
Phone: +90 212 522 17 50
Architects: Isidore of Miletus, Anthemius of Tralles
Architectural style: Byzantine architecture
Materials: Ashlar, Roman brick
Opened: December 27, 537 AD
Function: Mosque
Height: 56 m

The Byzantine Empire, based in their capital of Constantinople, is famous for the churches they constructed to reinforce the Christian religion in the region and the architectural advent of the basilica style. The Hagia Sophia is one such grand church built by Justinian I, it took six years to complete but became an architectural wonder of its time. The Hagia Sophia became widely popular in the Christian community and was decorated with beautiful mosaics and marble columns.

However, the fall of the Byzantine Empire and the conquest of Constantinople by Turks instigated the conversion of the church into a mosque, with four minarets added to its original structure. The Hagia Sophia was known as the ‘Blue Mosque’ in the region for a long time until it was converted into a museum by the Turkish president in 1935. However, the current president of Turkey, Tayyip Erdogan, reconverted the museum to a functional mosque in 2020.

10) The Pantheon

The Pantheon photo via Pixabay
The Pantheon photo via Pixabay

Address: Piazza Della Rotonda, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
Phone: +39 06 6830 0230
Architectural style: Ancient Roman architecture
Builder: Trajan, Hadrian
Opened: 125 AD
Height: 43 m
Function: Museum

The Pantheon is another piece of monumental architecture from Roman times that exists to date. UNESCO has termed the Pantheon one of the best-preserved buildings from the Roman period. Built around 125 AD, the original purpose of the building remains unknown. Historians believed it to be an ancient Roman temple built to honor the Roman pantheon of gods and goddesses.

Out of the three buildings originally built at the site, one was struck by lightning and burned down. Only the third Pantheon exists today, converted to a Catholic church known as St. Mary of the Martyrs in 608 AD. The building continues to function as a church and stands as a remanence of the glory of the Roman Empire.

The Pantheon concludes our list of some of the oldest buildings in the world that are still in use. In the comment section, let us know which structure from the past times intrigued you the most or the one that you are looking forward to visiting. We look forward to hearing from you!

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