4. Christian building

One of Dura-Europos’ typical houses (over 100 were excavated) was remodeled in approximately 232 for use as a place of Christian worship and is very possibly the world’s oldest securely dated church. Rooms were organized around a central courtyard and the Eucharist is thought to have been celebrated in a large assembly hall: drawings on its walls include images of mounted cavalrymen and indicate that members of the military may have been among the congregants.

Across the courtyard, a baptistery featured a large font under a pillared canopy and was decorated with a series of wall paintings that surrounded initiates to Christianity as they participated in the rituals of anointing and baptism.  The paintings include scenes of Adam and Eve, David and Goliath, and a procession of women, as well as the Good Shepherd and Jesus walking on water and healing the paralytic, images which are considered to be the earliest securely dated representations of Christ. Photographs and drawings from the time of the excavations record important details of the paintings (they are now in the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery).



  1. Christian building and western city wall during excavation
  2. Same wall in September of 2004
  3. West wall of baptistry during excavation
  4. Drawing of Good Shepherd painting
  5. Detail of painting of procession of women
  6. Detail of feet from painting of procession of women
  7. Painting of Christ healing the paralytic and walking on water
  8. Tracing figure of Christ walking on water
  9. Detail of graffito of mounted lancer (clibanarius)