On June 17, 1876, Van Gogh wrote to his brother, Theo, about his love for the church,
“But the reason I would much sooner give for commending myself to you is my innate love of the church and everything to do with the church, which may lie dormant from time to time but always reawakens; and, if I may say so, although with a sense of great inadequacy and imperfection: the Love of God and of man.”
For at least three years Van Gogh pursued his love of the church and his calling to ministry. He was a student of theology, though he failed his exam as well as a course at a Protestant missionary school, and became a missionary to coal miners in the village of Petit Wasmes in the district of Borinage Belgium. He was so touched by the poverty of those around him that he gave nearly all of his possessions and clothing away to the miners. Church authorities determined that Van Gogh was too zealous and rejected him from the ministry. It was following this that Van Gogh began his artistic career.
Though embittered by the rejection of the church, surely his love of the church never completely left him. Throughout his art career, Van Gogh created several paintings of churches. To read more about these paintings, click the links below:
The Early Churches of Van Gogh
Paintings of Nuenen Churches by Van Gogh
View of the Church of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole