When I was about six years old, my family moved to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. One of my first memories of living there is being woken early in the
morning by loud wailing. Little did I know that this was the call to morning prayers. My sister and I were actually freaked out and she had to be
comforted by my parents (being only four), I will always remember that experience.
Saudi Arabia is Muslim to the core.
It is the birthplace of the religion and home to the two holiest places in Islam (Mecca
But the Saudis have a "dirty" little secret.
It is one of those amazing stories, a chance discovery, a government trying to cover it up to save face.
But I've found some links and information and I can bring it to you now ATS!
For a background I'll quote Wikipedia, the information is highly innadequate, but the lack of the quality and quantity of information released in the
public domain will tell how sensitive a subject this is for the Saudis.
The Jubail Church
Jubail Church is the oldest still remaining church in the world, located in Jubail, Saudi Arabia. It dates to the 4th century. It was discovered
in 1986. The government hides it from locals and bans foreigners from visiting it, even archaeologists. It is an ancient Assyrian church
possibly of the Nabatean culture.
That's it, all they have. But after some digging, and I must admit the sources are obscure, I can bring you more details and pics of the World's
Oldest Remaining Church
, in the Kingdom Of Saudi Arabia no less!
The Church of Jubail
In 1986, people on a desert picnic discovered the ruins of a church near the city of Jubail, Saudi Arabia, while digging one of their trucks out
of the sand. The church is believed to have been built prior to A.D. 400, making it older than most churches in Europe. It was likely associated with
one of five bishoprics existing on the shores of the Arabian Sea during the term of Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople and founder of the heresy
that bears his name.
Anyone familiar with contemporary Latin and Eastern Rite Catholic church buildings will recognize the basic design. The foundation marks for roof
support columns in the main room easily identify it as the nave of a church. Probably, the roof was a thatch of palm branches supported by risers and
crossbeams about a foot above the walls for sunlight and ventilation. The congregation would have entered through the main doorway at the west side of
the nave and assembled, women standing to the right and men to the left, facing east toward the sanctuary (the middle of the three smaller chambers")
where the altar would have been.
At the doorways to the sacristy, sanctuary, chapel, and the main entrance, stone crosses were attached to the wall. These four crosses, in place
during the early excavation, disappeared in late 1986 or early 1987. Over the years since the discovery, the desert has erased even the marks left
when the crosses were removed.
The last part is not surprising, I believe this is an intentional plan to leave the Church at the Mercy of the Desert Winds:
4th Century Assyrian Church in Saudi Arabia (Assyrian International News Agency)
The ruins are known as the Jubail Church and are acknowledged by the Saudi government, who will not issue permits to visit it because 'the
site is being excavated.'
In any case, the original ruins contained four stone crosses, which later went missing, though the marks where the crosses were are still
visible. The ruins are thought to date from the 4th century, which make them older than any known church in Europe. Not much else is known but
speculation is that it was in some way connected to one of the five Assyrian Church of the East bishoprics which are known to have existed in this
area of the Gulf in the 4th century.
The photographs were taken by Robert and Patricia McWhorter during 1986 shortly after the ruins were partially excavated and protected by the
Saudi Department of Antiquities.
I went to the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities and searched for
Church of Jubail
, guess what?
It goes without saying that there were no results for that (as well as just "Church"), nor for the same search on the World Heritage Site either.
The oldest standing Church in the World
not mentioned by either the Saudi Commission for Antiquities nor the World Heritage Site.
I find that very odd!
Note in the pictures the barbed wire fence, obviously to "Protect" the building, more likely to stop interested parties finding out that Saudi
Arabia had one of the World's first Churches, and also that the current Oldest Standing Church n the World can still be found in this strictly Muslim
All the best ATS, Kiwifoot!
[edit on 10-1-2010 by kiwifoot]