The Oldest Church in France Still Stands After 1,600 Years

Written by Jennifer Geer
Updated: October 26, 2023
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Located in a small city in the former Lorraine region sits the oldest church in France and one of the oldest churches still standing in the world. The oldest church in France is the Basilica of Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains in Metz, France, which dates back to the 4th century. Although less impressive architecturally than other cathedrals found in Metz, the building is steeped in history. 

Can You Visit the Oldest Church in France Today?

Basilica of Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains in Metz, France. The pre-medieval building was originally built in 380 AD. It is one of the oldest churches in the world, and the oldest church in France.

The oldest church in France is the Basilica of Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains, located in the historic and picturesque town of Metz. 

©Mikhail Markovskiy/

The Basilica of Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains is in the historic town of Metz. The building is still in good shape and is a great example of late Roman architecture. The building has a long main building four stories tall with a peaked roof, consistent with a typical Roman Basilica layout.

Metz’s history dates back 3,000 years. The town sits near the borders of France, Germany, and Luxembourg, and influences from various cultures are present in the city.

Visitors can stop in and see the interior of the church during open hours. The Roman Catholic Church has designated the building a Basilica. Today, the church houses exhibitions and musical performances.

Where is the Basilica of Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains Located on a Map?

The Basilica of Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains is located near the banks of the Moselle River in the old city center of Metz, France. The address is 1 Rue de la Citadelle, 57000 Metz. Metz is a small, historical town located on the east side of the Moselle River at the crossroads of Germany, Luxembourg, and North-Eastern France. It’s a 90-minute train ride from Paris to Metz.

History of the Basilica of Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains 

The building was erected in the 4th century, between 380 and 395 AD. Its first use was as a gymnasium and bathhouse during the Roman era. At this time, Metz was an important military and trade city for the region. Miraculously, the building withstood the sacking of the town by the Huns of Attila in 451.

Interior nave of Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains basilica in Metz

The nave in the Basilica of Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains was constructed in the 11th century.

©Fab5669 / CC BY-SA 3.0

During the 7th century, the spa was converted into a Benedictine church. It stayed a church for hundreds of years. However, the building fell into disrepair and the church left. Astoundingly, this ancient piece of history spent the next 400 years as a storage warehouse. Finally, in the 1970s its importance was recognized and the building was restored as a Basilica of the Roman Catholic Church.

Other Sites to Explore in Metz

There are many things to do in the beautiful old city of Metz. Metz has historical sites, museums, stunning cathedrals, gorgeous parks, and restaurants serving fine cuisine. Some highlights of the city include the following.

Metz Cathedral

The Cathedral of Saint Stephen in Metz, France

Some of the stained glass windows in the Metz Cathedral were designed by renowned artist, Marc Chagall, and added in the 1950s.


Metz Cathedral, or Saint-Étienne de Metz as it’s known in France, is a splendid example of French Gothic architecture. Construction began in 1220 on the ancient site of the foundation of a church dating back to the 5th century. Building the cathedral took an astonishingly long 300 years. The cathedral has a breathtaking amount of stained glass windows (70,000 square feet) that fill the upper walls. 

Temple Neuf

Cityscape with Temple Neuf at night in Metz, Lorraine, France

The cityscape at night is a sight to behold in Metz.


Erected in the early 1900s, the Temple Neuf is in the Romanesque Revival style of architecture. The church is surrounded by the lush gardens of the d’Amour (Love Garden). The gardens and the temple are located on a river island, surrounded by the Moselle River. The most stunning views of the temple occur at night when the building lights up and reflects on the waters below. Head to Moyen Point for the best viewing spot of the Temple Neuf.

The Esplanade Garden Of Metz

In 1552, the French defeated the Holy Roman Empire. In response to this, the city erected the Citadel for protection. The old trenches that once surrounded the citadel have been filled in with dirt, and planted with a variety of flowers. Today the Esplanade Garden of Metz is a beautiful French-style garden where visitors and locals can take a stroll or have a relaxing picnic.

Centre Pompidou-Metz

The Centre Pompidou-Metz is a modern and contemporary art museum and is part of the renowned Centre Pompidou in Paris. It hosts unique exhibitions throughout the year. The building itself is an architectural marvel. It is based on a hexagonal plan built around a 250-foot-high central spire.

Lorraine Regional Natural Park

european polecat in yellow leaves

European polecats live in Lorraine Regional National Park.


Only 30 minutes south of Metz is the Lorraine Regional National Park. The park is home to diverse wildlife species making their homes in its forest valleys, limestone grasslands, meadows, salt ponds, salt ponds, and other waterways. 

Many different animal species live in the park, including wild boars, badgers, polecats, and roe deer. It’s also a popular destination for birdwatchers. Some of the many bird species you may spot include osprey, bittern, purple heron, short-eared owls, and corncrake.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Mikhail Markovskiy/

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About the Author

Jennifer Geer is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on animals, news topics, travel, and weather. Jennifer holds a Master's Degree from the University of Tulsa, and she has been researching and writing about news topics and animals for over four years. A resident of Illinois, Jennifer enjoys hiking, gardening, and caring for her three pugs.

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