Protestant church, cemetery and 'Rops garden'

After studying theology in Utrecht and a brief period as assistant preacher in Middelburg, Vincent's father Theodorus van Gogh (1822-1885) was called as pastor of Zundert on April 1, 1849. On March 30, 1852, the first child of Theodorus and Anna Cornelia was born, but it was not viable. The birth register of the municipality of Zundert reads "Lifeless Van Gogh'. The child is buried at this Protestant church. The tombstone bears the name Vincent van Gogh. In the vicinity of the grave is a remarkable grafted tree, which may have been planted around that time. Exactly one year later on March 30, 1853, the famous Vincent Willem van Gogh (1853-1890) is born.

After Vincent, five more children were born: Anna (1855), Theo (1857), Elisabeth (1859), Willemien (1862) and Cor (1867). They were all baptized in the Protestant church. Designed by Breda architect Herman Huijsers, this little church was built in 1805 especially for the small Protestant congregation in Catholic Zundert. The so-called "Napoleonskerkje" stands on the outskirts of the then village along the road to Belgium. The grounds are surrounded by an old wrought iron fence. Within it is the Protestant cemetery. The oldest graves are from families owning estates on the outskirts of Zundert, Van de Wall and Van der Hoeven. Between the graves are old trees. The church derives income from the sale of wood. For this purpose, it also grows trees in the adjacent "Rops Garden," named after the then owner Hendrik Rops. Behind the church, the family Van Gogh keeps a vegetable garden.

The interior of the small Protestant church contains several authentic elements, such as the copper baptismal basin and the pulpit on which Pastor Van Gogh leads the service on Sundays. The children then sit with their mothers in a pew on the side listening to their father. Vincent sees him as a "shepherd" tending his "sheep. He had a happy childhood, as he later wrote to his brother Theo: "I always imagine that in Zundert and a few years further on there was a better mood in general at home. Since then I don't think it has improved.

Vincent drew from memory a little church with birds on the roof for Betsy Tersteeg, daughter of his former boss at Goupil & Cie, around 1874. Although the tower does not match reality, this sketch bears a remarkable resemblance to the little church of Zundert.


Van Goghplein 1
4881 DA Zundert
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