The Church at Dives on the Normandy coast was an important sanctuary for pilgrims during the 14th-century religious war there. Bonington was fascinated with medieval monuments and sketched a religious procession at the church while touring Normandy between 1821 and 1822. He had just completed his art training in Paris. Though born in England, Bonington painted mainly in France and his atmospheric views of French landscapes and antiquities combine richness with delicacy. He was of great influence on British painters of picturesque architectural views.
This watercolour is one of several views made by Bonington of the church. There is also a pencil drawing, 'The Church at Dives' (WAG 9196), in the Walker Art Gallery's collection that is presumably a preliminary study. The Victor Rienaker collection also included two pencil drawings of Dives, one of a church, one of a street scene, attributed to Bonington. It has been related to lithographs done by Bonington for Baron Taylor's 'Voyages Pittoresque et Romantique dans l'Ancienne France' of 1825.