The Oldest Church in Virginia Is an Amazing 337 Years Old

Written by Joyce Nash
Published: February 22, 2024
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Virginia’s tidewater region is home to some of the oldest cities in the state. With settlements that date to the early 1600s, Virginia’s coastal cities feature a rich tapestry of historic buildings, monuments and battlegrounds that tell the story of colonial America. St. Luke’s Historic Church & Museum is located within this historic region and as been standing for over 300 years to make it Virginia’s oldest church building.

St Lukes Church and Cemetery in Smithfield Virginia

©Caleb Canavan/

About St. Luke’s

Historians have unearthed conflicting reports regarding the exact date of St. Luke’s founding. Local residents say that church was built in 1632. However, historical evidence indicates that workers completed construction on St. Luke’s from 1685-1687. Either way, experts agree that St. Luke’s is the longest-standing church building in Virginia.

The church is a striking example of the Artisan Mannerism style of architecture. Historians have not found design renderings or documents that name St. Luke’s architect, leading them to believe that the church was crafted by skilled workers. St. Luke’s structure reflects inspiration from Gothic and Romanesque designs, such as its lancet-shaped windows and sturdy brick walls.

The interior of St. Luke’s has been largely restored to its original condition, including a ceiling with stunning Gothic-style support beams. Square brick tiles make up the church’s floor, and its furnishings include 17th-century pews, a pulpit, and carved wooden railings and a rood screen.

St Lukes Church and Cemetery in Smithfield Virginia

St. Luke’s architectural style is Artisan Mannerism.

©Caleb Canavan/

Important Church Events

Throughout the decades, St. Luke’s has hosted countless church services, weddings, and funerals. Unfortunately, an electrical fire in 2005 wiped out many of the church’s records and documents. Today, Historic St. Luke’s Restoration manages the church and is spearheading an effort to restore and digitize the church’s remaining 50,000 pages of documents.

In addition to archival efforts, volunteers with the organization are leading efforts to collect stories from St. Luke’s past. Volunteers are working to collect photos and stories of weddings at St. Luke’s. However, volunteers have requested a wide range of memories and stories related to St. Luke’s history.

Historic St. Luke’s Restoration also offers free, ongoing cemetery restoration workshops in its historic cemetery. Here, attendees learn how to clean and care for historic tombstones. The church hosts workshops on Saturdays from spring through early fall.

Finding Virginia’s Oldest Church

St. Luke’s Historic Church & Museum is located south of Smithfield near the community of Benns Church. The church is a short distance from Jones Creek and the James River in coastal Virginia. St. Luke’s is about a half-hour drive from larger cities like Newport News and Norfolk.

To reach St. Luke’s, head south from Smithfield on US-258. The church will be on the left in about four miles.

St Lukes Church Smithfield VA

Lancet windows are one of St. Luke’s architectural features.

©Historic American Buildings Survey, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons – License

Animals in Coastal Virginia

The state’s tidewater region is a mosaic of wetlands, swamps, low-lying plains, and estuaries. These areas provide a rich habitat for several different species of animals. The waters in and around coastal Virginia are home to several species of sunfish, catfish, bass, and shellfish.

The fish, shellfish, and crustaceans provide food for an array of birds and other animal life. Virginia’s coast is home to bird species like bald eagles, great blue herons, and ospreys. In addition, foxes, raccoons, opossums, and white-tailed deer make their home in Virginia’s tidewater region.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Caleb Canavan/

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About the Author

Joyce Nash is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering travel and geography. She has almost a decade of writing experience. Her background ranges from journalism to farm animal rescues and spans the East Coast to the West. She is based in North Carolina, and in her free time, she enjoys reading, hiking, and spending time with her husband and two cats.

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