Van Gogh church

Father Van Gogh was pastor of the Dutch Reformed Congregation in Nuenen from August 1882. To preach, Theodorus walked from the parsonage to "his" church on Papenvoort in just a few minutes. This is a characteristic building: oblong and octagonal with a recognizable open tower on top. It was built in 1824-1826 as one of the first Waterstaat churches in the Netherlands: churches erected in the nineteenth century under the supervision of the Department of Public Works and with government funding.

Rather accurately, Vincent records the church around late January, early February 1884 on the canvas: The Going Out of the Reformed Church at Nuenen. For example, he depicts the bricked-up windows located on either side of the entrance; these blind windows betray the presence of the balcony inside above the entrance. And also visible is the plaque above the entrance door, on which the Bible text reads, "Jesus said, My house shall be called a house of prayer, Matt. 21:15.

The painting is a gift to his mother. "I painted the little church with the hedge and the trees recently for her. such a case," Vincent wrote to Theo, adding a sketch. His mother had broken her femur while getting off the train in Helmond on Jan. 17. Together with his sister Willemien, he nursed her. The accident shifted tensions between Vincent and his family to the background and put them on better terms. The gesture to donate a representation of his father's church to his mother undoubtedly does the situation good. Both the aforementioned letter sketch and a drawing show a man with a spade in the foreground. In the painting, presumably in the fall of 1885, he replaces this worker with a group of churchgoers and also updates other parts in brighter colors. Some of the figures wear mourning shawls. By this addition to the image of his father's little church, he presumably refers to his death that spring. The painting remained in mother's possession until her death.

The church is one of the places in Nuenen that most strongly recalls Vincent van Gogh. After Van Gogh's time in the village the church was changed. In 1928, for example, a consistory room was added at the rear. The interior was thoroughly redesigned in 1952 and 1977: the pulpit, the arched benches and the choir with organ front disappeared. The layout is also rearranged and the windows were renewed. The organ in the balcony was replaced as early as 1888. The original brass baptismal font, the brass lectern, part of the silverware and the Bible are still present.

The little church is usually closed for public visits. Some Wednesdays and Sundays, however, it is open.