41

What's the oldest building in the world that is still in use (i.e. used for something other than a tourist spot).

6
  • 2
    I like the question. My first thought is a church or government building I would imagine. I don't see how anything else would still be used for a non tourist spot. Maybe refine it a bit? Are tombs considered "Still in use"?
    – sealz
    Commented Feb 27, 2012 at 21:29
  • 1
    The Dunster castle(en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunster_Castle) is still in use despite being almost a 1000 years old. It has been modified and expanded extensively though so I'm not entirely sure whether it should count. Also by use, I meant active use so tombs wouldn't count.
    – Opt
    Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 0:45
  • How about ancient churches in Ireland, for example?
    – Meike
    Commented Mar 2, 2012 at 18:20
  • If tombs still in use is a viable answer then the state of Washington has an estimated 8000 year old tomb. Actually, not sure if the occupant known as Kennewick Man is still there or moved to a museum (see: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kennewick_Man).
    – K7PEH
    Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 17:47
  • 2
    We definitely need a definition of a building (do you require a roof? walls? protection from the elements?). What about things that fell down and were rebuilt? And what does "in use" mean - I'd argue a tomb is only in use if it's being used for burials; many tombs are still in use as tourist attractions, but that is excluded; although a church/temple built as a place of pilgrimage is intended as a type of tourist attraction.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 12:51

10 Answers 10

27

Pantheon in Rome (126 AD).

Most of the older buildings in the Wiki list ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_oldest_buildings_in_the_world ) are either not in use, or used as tombs only, or were reconstructed significantly.

4
  • 15
    Good point. All the "occupied" tombs in Wikipedia's list are technically still in use. Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 7:57
  • I'd add the Great Pyramid which, although not in use in its original capacity is still in use as a tourist attraction.
    – jwenting
    Commented Nov 18, 2013 at 9:13
  • 3
    @jwenting - OP very explicitly excluded that: "something other than a tourist spot"
    – DVK
    Commented Nov 18, 2013 at 17:44
  • 1
    @DVK does using them as a backdrop for opera performances count? :)
    – jwenting
    Commented Nov 19, 2013 at 7:32
46

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.

The Colosseum (completed in 80 AD) could also qualify, while not in constant use as with the Pantheon that DVK already mentioned, it is used by the catholic church for the Via Crucis ceremony on Good Friday. Furthermore in July 2000 the National Theatre of Greece performed Oedipus Rex in the Colosseum.

Lastly, the remains of the Temple of Hera (590 BC, destroyed by an earthquake in the 4th century BC) in Ancient Olympia is the location where the torch of the Olympic flame for the Modern Olympics is lit. A continuous flame was maintained at the sanctuary of the temple during the Ancient Olympics, and the temple was also the location where the olive wreaths for the victors were displayed during the games.

2
  • 1
    I think the problem with the Colosseum and other venues such as Verona Arena (built AD 30) is that performances happen outdoors, while one of the main features of a building is that it's indoors? If some of the original indoor/covered spaces are still used, you could legitimately claim parts of the building remain in use. (The Pantheon in Rome still has a roof.)
    – Stuart F
    Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 12:47
  • Moreover, the pantheon is still a functioning church building. pantheonroma.com/celebrations Masses are regularly scheduled there.
    – Luiz
    Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 16:09
15

The upper story of the Theater of Marcellus (ca 13 BC) in Rome is a block of apartments.

2
13

While not exactly a building, the Western Wall in Jerusalem ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Wall ) is a site in which daily praying takes place. It was constructed around around 19 BCE.

6

The Roman theatre in Caesarea.

4
  • 1
    Is this in still in constant use? Also, when was it constructed?
    – Luke_0
    Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 19:19
  • 1
    It's very much in use. In fact, it's probably the top performance venue for singers in Israel. The phrase "doing Caesarea" is common in the show business in Israel, a bit like "performing in Carnegie Hall". As to when it was constructed, wikipedia wasn't very clear. I would hazard a guess that it was constructed by Herod who built much of the Roman city, but it might have been at a later stage. I'll try to look up the construction date. Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 20:36
  • 2
    Goes to show that the Romans were really good engineers. Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 20:37
  • Is something without a roof legitimately a building? It's a matter of definition, but there are certainly older outdoor theatres.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 12:49
5

I think is possible that only Roman buildings are still in use. In Spain we have the Theatre of Mérida, inaugurated 15 B.C and today it is used to play Roman tragedies, and Hercules' Tower, a Roman lighthouse in A Coruña, still in use.

1
  • 1
    But are these the oldest?
    – Benjamin
    Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 11:41
0

The tomb(s) in the Valley of the Kings that we have not found yet.

Over the period from the 16th to 11th century BC high ranking Egyptians were buried in rock cut tombs in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. The purpose was to hold the remains and grave goods of these individuals in perpetuity. These building continue to perform this purpose until they are looted.

While many tombs have been discovered and their contents removed, it is a statistical certainty that at least one remains undiscovered. Any that are still undiscovered will still be performing their original role.

-1

Stonehenge and other megalithic sites in Britain are still, or pehaps more accurately, once again used for religious purposes.

1
  • 1
    Stonehenge is a structure , not a building.Also the question was clear , especially the word STILL that you also (btw) highlighted. Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 13:23
-1

Sumiyoshi-taisha in Osaka, Japan was built in 211 AD. It is a full building (rather than say, a bridge), it is not in ruins, it is not a tomb, and it is still functioning today in its original usage (as a Shinto shrine). Pretty sure only the Pantheon is an older building still in use. I've seen a much older thing, but it's a tree - Te Matua Ngahere in New Zealand

3
  • 1
    The date of founding is given as "the 11th year of Empress Jingū's reign", which makes the age rather uncertain -- dating of Japanese Emperors prior to about 500 AD is currently unverifiable. The Wikipedia article also doesn't give an age for any of the buildings of the shrine, just the shrine itself.
    – Mark
    Commented Jul 29, 2021 at 2:16
  • 1
    Many of those wooden buildings in Japanese shrines and temples are rebuilt from the ground up every 20 years or so, not sure if that's the case with this specific one but it wouldn't surprise me.
    – jwenting
    Commented Jul 29, 2021 at 6:38
  • 1
    @jwenting: rebuilding every 20 years is done for exactly one shrine, the Ise Grand Shrine. Those that use bark or reed roofs (like the Sumiyoshi-taisha appears to) typically need to have those redone on a similar schedule. But the buildings are rebuilt much less frequently, often after they burn down - which does tend to happen to wooden buildings over the centuries. The generally acknowledged oldest temple in Japan is the Hōryū-ji in Nara, which dates to about 700 AD, so this answer is definitely wrong in any case. Commented Jul 30, 2021 at 11:23
-2

Adaptation of old buildings for new purposes does that count? The oldest building still in use for it's intended purpose... The church Santa Sabina in Rome, built in 422 AD, hasn't been changed since it was built, and is still in use by the Catholic Church.

Most of the thousand-year-old temples in Angkor, Cambodia, still serve religious function among the locals.

The Tower of Hercules is an ancient Roman lighthouse near A Coruña, Galicia, in north-western Spain. The structure is almost 1,900 years old and still in use today.

1
  • 3
    Citations would improve this answer.
    – MCW
    Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 6:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.