The Red Church – Perushtitza, Bulgaria - Atlas Obscura
Free iron-on Atlas Obscura badge when you preorder our new kids’ book. Shop now.

Perushtitza, Bulgaria

The Red Church

Ruins of an early Roman Christian church dating back to the 4th to 5th centuries. 

These picturesque ruins of an early Christian Roman building lie near the Bulgarian town of Perushtitsa. Apart from being one of the oldest churches in Europe, The Red Church is also the only Christian temple with altar facing North.

Originally built as a martyrium (a place which stored the remains of martyrs who died for Christianity) it was build in the 4th to 5th centuries, making it one of the earliest surviving Christian structures in the Roman empire after Christianity was officially recognized as a religion.

The building was impressive in size, the main dome standing at over 32 meters high, 14 of which still stand tall. The martyrium was later expanded and converted to a basilica. There are several layers of frescoes remaining, all of which were removed and preserved in local museums The church was destroyed by the Crusaders of the 4th crusade in the 13th century.  

Know Before You Go

The church itself is visible from the road leading to Perushtitsa, there are signs pointing towards it. You have to leave your car on a small car park by the main road and walk for about 300 metres to the site. There's a visitors centre where you could learn about the history of the building in detail.