39

What is the oldest building or structure in the world that's still in regular use today?

For the sake of the question, I'm not looking for something that still exists purely as a tourist attraction. (Unless the building is closed to the public part time to allow it to serve its purpose. ex: a church that's open to tourists, but still runs regular services.)

  • 4
    Would Stonehenge count? – mts Jul 11 '16 at 18:13
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    Does the Great Wall of China still defend against Mongol hordes? – Azor Ahai Jul 11 '16 at 22:36
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    @Azor-Ahai it doesn't have to be the original usage. It's still a great tourist attraction of China. – John Dvorak Jul 12 '16 at 4:01
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    Maeshowe, maybe, or Skara Brae or the Ring of Brodgar. They predate Stonehenge by a fair bit and two of them are still used. Skara Brae is now just a tourist site. – Rory Alsop Jul 12 '16 at 16:40
  • @Azor-Ahai wiki says the great wall goes as far back as seven centuries BCE so why not make that an answer together with some sources? you'll have my +1 – mts Jul 12 '16 at 16:46
49

This question is hard to answer since you would have to define "in use" very precisely. Here are some wild guesses:

Further reading:

The accepted answer there is the Pantheon in Rome from 128 A.D. and still a church to day. However the most upvoted answer points to several arenas/theaters still in occasional use.

The Epidaurus Theatre (ca. 300-340 BC), the Delphi theatre (4th century BC) and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus (161 AD) in the Acropolis of Athens (known locally as the the Herodeon), still fulfil their original purpose, all three are constantly used as venues for various festivals. The ancient theatre in Dion is also used occasionally.

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    There are other stone circles which are probably older than Stonehenge, and also used by neopagans. eg Calanais – vclaw Jul 11 '16 at 22:22
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    Stonehenge is not "still" in use as a place of religious significance; that implies unbroken continuity between its ancient users and its modern ones, which does not exist. The structure was disused for a long time. The current religious use of Stonehenge is a very recent phenomenon with no direct connection to its ancient use. – Paul Legato Jul 12 '16 at 3:50
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    @PaulLegato "Are you still eating that stuff?" "No, I've stopped for a week about a month ago" – John Dvorak Jul 12 '16 at 4:04
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    @JanDvorak This is especially pertinent to the case of StoneHenge since there, given the timescales. It would be closer to your friend having played when he was 8 then giving up when he was 9, starting again at 30 and you meeting him when he's 31. Anyone answering "Yes I still play the piano," in this example would be very strange. – DRF Jul 12 '16 at 20:13
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    @DRF: re: continuous use or not: What really matters here is that both versions of the question are interesting, and I'd like to see answers for both. "Still in use for the original purpose" rules out a lot of things that are basically only in use as tourist attractions / museums, which I think is a lot less interesting. I'd also be interested in a list of buildings other than religious buildings and arenas. i.e. are there any other kinds of buildings that have stood the test of time? – Peter Cordes Jul 12 '16 at 23:01
20

The Theatre of Epidaurus (4th century BCE!) still has performances. It is not, however, an enclosed building.

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    And it is considered the top Theater in Greece. Back when things were more serious, it was the ultimate honor for an artist, to perform there. – gsamaras Jul 19 '16 at 17:20
19

The Great Pyramid of Giza initially had two functions, to serve as a tomb for the pharaoh, and to demonstrate his power and prestige. Today, it has two functions, to serve as a tourist attraction and to demonstrate the power and prestige of the pharaohs. It is a structure that has continuously fulfilled one of its functions since 2540 BC.

As far as I know, it is never closed to tourists to fulfill its status symbol function, but it makes quite a good status symbol even while open.

  • 3
    There are several older Pyramids that would probably be technically better answers, but the Pyramids certainly are not unreasonable answers in general for the reasons you state. – Joe Jul 12 '16 at 17:45
  • Wouldn't it serve three? Or is it no longer a tomb for the pharoh? – mkingsbu Jul 12 '16 at 18:08
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    @mkingsbu The whereabouts of Khufu's mummy are currently unknown. If it is in the pyramid, it is well hidden. – Patricia Shanahan Jul 12 '16 at 19:13
  • @Joe I think the Great Pyramid is doing a better job of continued function as a status symbol than e.g. the Bent Pyramid. – Patricia Shanahan Jul 12 '16 at 19:15
13

The Etchmiadzin Cathedral was built in 301 AD.

The original church was built in the early fourth century—between 301 and 303 according to tradition—by Armenia's patron saint Gregory the Illuminator, following the adoption of Christianity as a state religion by King Tiridates III. It replaced a preexisting temple, symbolizing the conversion from paganism to Christianity. The core of the current building was built in 483/4 by Vahan Mamikonian after the cathedral was severely damaged in a Persian invasion. From its foundation until the second half of the fifth century, Etchmiadzin was the seat of the Catholicos, the supreme head of the Armenian Church.

10

I have prayed at the Western Wall of The Temple Mount in Jerusalem. My ancestors have been priests there since about the 10th century BC.

enter image description here

  • The original temple mount does not exist. – hownowbrowncow Dec 22 '16 at 18:06
5

A lot depends on your definitions of "building", "use", and whether "use" is required to be continuous throughout history. A good candidate is the pantheon in Rome (AD 128). It was a place of pagan worship to start with, became a church when Rome became Christian, and has been in use as a church since then. Amphitheatres and pyramids don't really fit the "walls supporting a roof" definition of "building".

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    I intentionally didn't specify what I meant by building in the hopes of getting more diverse answers. – ThunderGuppy Jul 12 '16 at 18:08
0

The cathedral in Syracuse was built as a temple to Athena? around 500BCE, and converted into a church around 500CE

  • Any links to back this up, especially showing that it is still in use today? Thanks. – Jan Doggen Nov 25 '18 at 22:02

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