Voortrekker Monument. Monument in Pretoria, South Africa

Voortrekker Monument

Monument in Pretoria, South Africa

Park Acoustics - Tumi & the Volume, Two Minute Puzzle, Stefan Dixon and Captain Stu - 16 October 2011 Voortrekker Monument Pretoria South Africa Photo © Helmut Schwarzer

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Voortrekker Monument

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 - Voortrekker Monument
Voortrekker Monument. Photo by unknown
Located south of Pretoria, on Monument Hill overlooking the city; the Voortrekker ( pioneers in Afrikaans) Monument, was raised to honor all the settlers who left the Cape Colony (Cape Town) between 1835 and 1854, and moved into the interior of what is now known as the South African Republic. The monument symbolizes all the Voortrekkers who set the foundation for a civilization of European descent in the interior of South Africa. The monument is a favorite tourist attraction of the city of Pretoria, and attracts, each year, 200,000 visitors.


Many factors led to the movement of the “Great Trek” of farmers of Dutch descent in South Africa in the 1830s. Namely, the policies imposed by Great Britain, who now controlled the Cape Colony and had put the Afrikaners at a disadvantage; ever since the local Xhosa (Wikipedia Article) tribes were to be freed from slavery under British law. Some also believe that the drought of the 1830s in the Eastern Cape had put them in difficult social and economic situations.

With all this misfortune, they decided to move into the interior of the country, trying to reach the more fertile land of KwaZulu-Natal (Wikipedia
	Article), the Orange Free State, and the Transvaal. Overall, their desire for an emancipation as Afrikaners led to the mass movements of people between 1835 and 1854, from the southern part of South Africa to the north and east for unconquered territories.

Statue in front
	- Voortrekker Monument
Statue in front - Voortrekker Monument. Photo by unknown
The different movements were led by different leaders like Louis Trichardt, Piet Retief, or again Andries Pretorius.
Their migration to Natal (on the east coast of South Africa), started in 1837 under the leadership of Piet Retief, where they attempted to negotiate a land treaty in February 1838 with the then Zulu King, Dingane. They were double-crossed by the Zulu leader, which led to the assassination of Piet Retief on February 6th 1838, along with half of the settlers accompanying him.

Another wave of Voortrekkers opted for the Waterberg area, where some of them stayed to set up some ranches.

Andries Pretorius, the new leader of the Voortrekkers, went on a quest to punish Dingane and take back the stolen livestock and the land that he had originally granted to the unfortunate Retief. Thanks to their defense tactics, their horsemanship, and the effectiveness of their muzzle-loading guns, the Voortrekkers vastly outnumbered and defeated the Zulu King and his contingent of 15,000 to 21,000 warriors, at the Battle of Blood River (Wikipedia Article) on December 16th 1838.

After the victory, they established the Natalia Republic in 1839, but it was annexed by the British in 1843. This annexation led to more movements further north.

Their success against the indigenous tribes they came to encounter such as the Ndebele to the North and the Zulus to the East, led to the establishment of a number of small Boer Republics, which through time, became the Orange Free State and the South African Republic, until the year 1900 when the British annexed it during the Second Boer War (Wikipedia


Built in the Art Deco and Streamline Moderne architectural style, The Voortrekker Monument was said to be inspired by some European monuments like the Dome des Invalides in France, the Volkerschlachtdenkmal in Germany, with a little touch of ancient Egypt influence. The architect behind this modern marvel was Gerard Moerdijk (1890-1958). He started working on the monument in 1934, 3 years after the “Sentrale Volkemonumente Komitee (SVK) assigned him with the task.

The monument itself is 40 meters high, standing on a 40 m x 40 m base, and is made mainly of granite. It consists of various elements, among which, some having a symmetrical precision, giving it its unique characteristic.

The main body of the building is the Hall of Heroes and is 41 meters high, standing on a 25 m x 25 m base, decorated with an impressive marble frieze of 92 m long and 2.3 m high, depicting scenes of the epic journey that was the Great Trek.

 - Voortrekker
Voortrekker Monument. Photo by unknown
Another interesting element is the upper dome of the monument, which is designed with an opening which allows rays of sunlight to shine onto the inscription, “Ons vir jou Suid-Afrika (“We for thee South Africa” in Afrikaans). The magic of the design can be observed every 16th of December at exactly 12 o’clock on the day of the covenant, when a ray of sunlight actually does shine on the inscription.

The monument was completed in 1949, and was inaugurated on the 16th of December of the same year by the then Prime Minister DF Malan.

It took 15 years to build and cost approximately $ 584,403 USD .

The same year, an amphitheater of a capacity of 20,000 people was added to the edifice.

The architectural design of the building purpose is to depict the aspect of the sun at mid-noon in Africa, which equaled Nefertiti’s time, Aten. The Aten Hieroglyph is represented in the monument when the sun shines through an aperture on top of the dome likewise to looking downwards from the top of the dome's walkway, the round floor opening is seen to encircle the sun disc illumination.

Statue of man - Voortrekker Monument
Statue of man - Voortrekker Monument. Photo by unknown


The Voortrekker Monument possesses several architectural elements and artifacts, giving it a symbolic identity and reinforcing the tributes that it provides.

A guide will eventually assist you with the exhibits, mural sculptors, and even explain the architectural purpose conveyed by Gerard Moerdijk.

The main features inside the monument that are displayed to the visitors are:
  • A historical frieze: Made into marble, it is the biggest marble frieze in the world (92 meters long). It consists of 27 bas-relief panels illustrating the history of the Great Trek. The artist, incorporated references to the everyday life, work methods, and religions of the Voortrekkers.
  • A cenotaph decorated with flags of the different Voortrekker republics, with wall tapestries depicting them, alongside a number of cases with artifacts dating from the period of the Great Trek.
  • Against the northern wall of the hall, you’ll see a niche with a lantern in which a flame has been burning since 1938.

  • On the outside of the monument, you’ll find architectural elements like:
  • The Assagai Gate: The gate contains illustrations of the Zulu spear called the “assegai”. Its illustration serves to symbolize the power of King Dingane as he attempted to bar the way of pioneers into the interior.
  • The Laager Wall: In reference to the defense system used by the pioneers, which consisted of drawing wagons into a circle, and placing cattle and horses on the inside to protect them from raiders or nocturnal animals.
  • Corner figures: Four figures of 5.5 meters each, representing important Voortrekker leaders like Andries Pretorius on the northwestern side, Piet Retief on the northeastern corner, Hendrik Potgieter on the southwestern corner, and an unknown leader, representing all the other leaders on the southeastern side.
  • The statue of Mother and Children: A 4-meter high statue, commemorating the role played by women and children during the Great Trek.
  • A triangular cornice: Made up of a zigzag pattern, it represents water and fertility.
  • Buffalo Head: One of South Africa’s Big 5, and also the most dangerous animal, it is supposed to protect the monument against attacks from outside.

     - Voortrekker
    Voortrekker Monument. Photo by unknown
    In the surrounding areas, you’ll find:
  • An indigenous garden.
  • A garden of remembrance where individual niches were built in a garden atmosphere. The niches are used to place ashes of loved ones.
  • Fort Schanskop consist of four forts built by the government of South Africa before the Second Anglo-Boer War around Pretoria.
  • A nature reserve of 3.4 km² was established in 1992, where you can see Zebras, Blesbok, the Mountain Reedbuck, Springboks, and Impalas.
  • A wall of remembrance was constructed near the monument in 2009 to commemorate the members of the South African defense force who died while serving their country.
  • An Afrikaner heritage center was built for the preservation of all Afrikaans-speaking people’s heritage.

  • The monument is opened to visitors from Monday to Sunday, from 8 AM to 4 PM. An entry fee of $ 6.00 USD per person is payable with an additional $ 7.00 USD for buses and $ 5.00 USD for minibuses. For a visit to the restaurants, horses, and the South African Defense Memorial, you’ll pay a levy fee amounting to $ 1.00 USD .


    The site hosts two restaurants, the nearest one to the monument is
    Monument Restaurant, conveniently located at the foot of Monument Hill. It offers guaranteed personal services and can seat up to 180 guests. You can enjoy breakfast, light meals, and refreshments from Monday to Friday at their tea garden. The restaurant also specializes in traditional Afrikaner dishes.

    The second restaurant,
    De Kroon Kamer, is situated at Fort Schanskop. It also specializes in traditional meals. Complimentary drinks are always served by the restaurant at the Fort.

    Inside the
	Voortrekker Monument - Voortrekker Monument
    Inside the Voortrekker Monument - Voortrekker Monument. Photo by Angela Huxham
    If you prefer, you can take advantage of their picnic area overlooking the gardens, where a $ 1.00 USD fee is payable for access.

    How to Get There

    You’ll have less stress reaching the Voortrekker site by taking one of the Gautrain buses, a metered taxi, or a hired car.
    You’ll need to buy a Gautrain Gold Card which can cost R20 ($1.78) ( $ 2.00 USD ) minimum, at the Pretoria station. Metered taxis can be summoned or found parked outside main shopping malls or renowned hotels. The nearest shopping mall to the site, where you can find a taxi, is
    Sunny Park in the Sunnyside suburb. You’ll mostly spend $ 10 USD for the taxi to drop you off and pick you up when you are done with your tour.


    The nearest accommodation to the site is the
    Leriba Hotel and Spa, in neighboring Centurion*. It is an award-winning hotel which offers luxurious amenities and hotel features to its guests. It has 73 luxury en suite rooms, two restaurants, and a walk-in cellar. It provides a gym, a physiotherapist, and even outdoor team-building activities. You can also have a swim in one of their hot or cold swimming pools. The rooms start from $ 151 USD a night.

    A complimentary shuttle service will take you to and from Centurion Gautrain station in order to visit different attractions in Pretoria. It can also drop you off at the Centurion Shopping Mall to do some grocery shopping.


    Reputed for being extremely safe, whether you are in the gardens, the picnic area, or hiking, no incidents have ever been recorded. But for those who are still skeptical, carry out the usual safety measures which are to never isolate yourself, avoid restricted areas if you're by yourself, and keep your personal belongings safe in your pockets or your backpack. Wear as little jewelry as possible in order to avoid attracting potential robbers.

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    Author: Comasco. Last updated: Dec 14, 2014

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    Voortrekker Monument
    Voortrekker Monument. Photo by unknown


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