The Oldest Church in Virginia is More Than 300 Years Old

Virginia’s tidewater region contains some of the state’s oldest cities. Virginia’s coastal cities, which have been settled since the early 1600s, showcase a rich tapestry of historic buildings, monuments, and battlegrounds that reflect the tale of colonial America.

St. Luke’s Historic Church & Museum is located in this historic district and has stood for nearly 300 years, making it Virginia’s oldest church building.

About St. Luke’s

Historians have discovered contradicting records about the exact date of St. Luke’s establishment. Locals claim the church was built in 1632. However, historical evidence shows that building of St. Luke’s was completed between 1685 and 1687. Experts agree that St. Luke’s is Virginia’s oldest church edifice.

The church is a stunning example of the Artisan Mannerism architectural style. Historians have unearthed no architectural renderings or records identifying St. Luke’s architect, leading them to conclude that the church was built by competent craftsmen. St. Luke’s building is inspired by Gothic and Romanesque architecture, with lancet-shaped windows and solid brick walls.

The interior of St. Luke’s has been mostly restored to its original state, featuring a ceiling with spectacular Gothic-style support beams. The church’s floor is made of square brick tiles, and it is furnished with 17th-century pews, a pulpit, carved wooden rails, and a rood screen.

The Oldest Church in Virginia is More Than 300 Years Old

Important Church Events

Throughout the decades, St. Luke’s has hosted numerous church services, marriages, and funerals. Unfortunately, an electrical fire in 2005 destroyed most of the church’s records and documents. Today, Historic St. Luke’s Restoration manages the church and is leading the project to preserve and digitize the remaining 50,000 pages of papers.

In addition to archive work, volunteers with the group are spearheading attempts to gather stories from St. Luke’s past. Volunteers are collecting images and tales from weddings at St. Luke’s. However, volunteers have requested a diverse range of memories and stories about St. Luke’s past.

Historic St. Luke’s Restoration also provides free, ongoing cemetery restoration classes at its historic cemetery. Attendees learn how to clean and maintain ancient tombstones. The church holds workshops on Saturdays from spring to early fall.

Find Virginia’s Oldest Church

St. Luke’s Historic Church & Museum is Located in south of Smithfield, near the town of Benns Church. The chapel is close to Jones Creek and the James River in coastal Virginia. St. Luke’s is around a half-hour drive from larger cities such as Newport News and Norfolk.

To get to St. Luke’s, use US-258 south of Smithfield. The church will be on your left in about four miles.


St. Luke’s Historic Church & Museum stands as a timeless testament to Virginia’s rich colonial history. With its roots dating back to the late 17th century, the church exemplifies Artisan Mannerism architecture. Despite challenges, ongoing restoration efforts and community engagement aim to preserve the legacy of Virginia’s oldest church for generations to come.


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