Voortrekker Monument, Pretoria

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  • Bwana_Brown's Profile Photo

    Voortrekker Monument

    by Bwana_Brown Updated May 5, 2004

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    Approaching the Monument

    The Voortrekker Monument is a granite structure, 40-m high and with a 40 x 40 m base. It stands on a hill overlooking Pretoria, as a monument to the Boer settlers who trekked inland between 1835-1852 to escape the increasing domination of their original coastal settlements by the English. The Dutch ancesters of the Boers first landed near Cape Town following a shipwreck in 1647, not that long after the Pilgrim fathers landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620. It was a major move for them to pull up stakes after 200 years and head inland to carve out a new home, despite many more bloody battles with the Zulu people of these lands.

    As a result of this history, the Voortrekker Monument is to the white Afrikaaner decendents of the Boers as the Lincoln Memorial is to Americans. A law in Pretoria still limits the height of any building between the Monument and the Union Buildings such that the view between them remains unobstructed. Construction of the Monument began in 1937 and was completed in 1949.

    Surrounding the monument is a circular stone fence with carved scenes of wagons and people going about their activities on a typical 'trek'. The circle represents the 'laager' in which the wagons form a defensive circle against attack.

    We climbed to the top of the structure for a great view out over Pretoria. You can also look down from the dome into the inner portion of the Monument. It is here, through a hole in the top of the structure that a ray of sunshine will strike the cenotaph below at exactly noon on Dec. 16th. This is to commemorate the final epic victory of the Boers over the Zulu at Blood River on this date in 1838.

    The incoming ANC government in the mid-1990s had a very tough decision to make regarding what to do with this symbol of tribal defeat at the hands of the Boers. A number of not very pleasant options were considered but, in the end, they (wisely I think) decided to let the viewers of the Monument decide for themselves what they thought of this period in the history of African colonization!

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  • Bushman23's Profile Photo

    Voortrekker Monument: History of South Africa

    by Bushman23 Updated Dec 17, 2012

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    Stately... But BIG!

    The Voortrekker Monument was built to commemorate the battle of Blood River in 1838. Opened in 1949, it is one of (if not the) largest monuments in South Africa, an imposing edifice on a hill just South of the city. It tracks South Africa´s history pretty much since it was discovered. It has some wonderful art, a very enlightening museum, and some of the best possible views of Pretoria. They've recently installed a lift, allowing even my mum (who doesn't do stairs) to enjoy the views. A must see!

    Entrance fee is about R45 per person, R25 for pensioners

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  • PierreZA's Profile Photo

    Voortrekker Monument

    by PierreZA Updated Oct 13, 2007

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    Voortrekker Monument

    The Voortrekker Monument is very visible, as it is built on 'n "koppie" (hill). The massive granite structure, built to honour the Voortrekkers (Pioneers) who left the Cape Colony in their thousands between 1835 and 1854, was designed by the architect Gerard Moerdijk. It is a large granite structure. The Cenotaph, situated in the centre of the Cenotaph Hall, is the central focus of the monument. Through an opening in this dome the sun shines at twelve o'clock on 16 December each year onto the middle of the Cenotaph and the words 'Ons vir Jou, Suid-Afrika' (Afrikaans for 'We for Thee, South Africa'). The ray of sunshine is said to symbolise God's blessing on the lives and endeavours of the Voortrekkers. December 16 was chosen as it was on this date in 1838 that the Battle of Blood River (against the Zulu) was fought. Some hate it, some love it, visit this historical monument to learn a lot of the Afrikaner history of the country.
    The area was previously called Voortrekker Hoogte (Pioneer Heights), but after 1994 changed to Thaba Tshwane.

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  • CatherineReichardt's Profile Photo

    Voortrekker Monument - marvellously menacing!

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Dec 18, 2012

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    Voortrekker Monument looms over the trees
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    Several other reviewers have provided excellent information on the Voortrekker monument, so I won't repeat what they have said. Suffice to say that I believe that this is an underrated tourist destination, and would certainly be on my Must Do list for anyone spending more than a couple of days in the Johannesburg/Pretoria region. Remember that the two cities are only 60km apart (although the seemingly endless roadworks on the Ben Schoeman Highway, which have been ongoing for the two decades that I've lived here can make it seem much further!) and the Voortrekker monument can be combined with several other interesting attractions such as the Union Buildings, Pretoria Zoo or Jan Smuts' House in nearby Irene.

    Whether you agree with apartheid politics or not (and these days, it is difficult to find anyone honest enough to admit that they did, which begs the question, "Who exactly did vote for the Nats for all those years?") the Voortrekker Monument is an amazing place, and from its position overlooking Pretoria, it is an intense and brooding reminder of the history and values that the previous regime held dear. I suggest that you park your prejudices and go with an open mind - chances are that you will emerge with admiration for the sheer resilience of the Afrikaaner nation.

    I have not had the opportunity to visit the Voortrekker Monument since the unveiling of the South African Defence Force Wall of Remembrance at the Voortrekker Monument in October 2009. To quote the website: "The Wall was erected to pay tribute to the members of the SADF who lost their lives in service of their country over the period May 31 1961 (the coming of the Republic) and 27 April 1994 (the birth of the SANDF). The wall was made possible through private donations and contributions in kind." This contrasts with the Wall of Names at Freedom Park - located on a hill just over the highway - which commemorates, "those who died during eight conflicts within South Africa’s history", but does not recognise those who fought in the South African Defence Force.

    If you have a choice, visit in the winter (end of May to end of July) when the aloes are in bloom. The contrast of the dry brown winter veld, the stone of the monument and the blaze of red, orange and yellow aloe flowers against the cloudlessly clear blue winter sky is absolutely stunning, and if you sit long enough, you should see tiny, hyperactive sunbirds (similar to - but slightly larger than- humming birds in the Americas) busily gathering nectar.

    It is also possible to go horse riding in the grounds of the Monument - haven't done it yet myself, but it is on my To Do list!

    Update (October 2011):
    Admission fees at present are as follows:
    Adults: R40
    Scholars: R20
    Families: R100
    Heritage levy (which annoys me as it should be included in the fee, not a separate addition): R5
    Private car: R20

    These are a considerable hike on the previous rates, but this is a unique opportunity to gain insight into the heart of the Afrikaner nation and is still still excellent value for money - don't miss it!

    P.P.S. (December 2012): The good news is that the interminable roadworks on the Ben Schoeman Highway are now complete - the bad news is that due to a recent High Court ruling on tolling, you'll soon (timing unspecified) have to pay for the pleasure! However, I recently revisited the Voortrekker Monument and found a myriad of other terrific things to do, so please watch this space ... in the interim, it's still well worth the petrol money and imminent toll fees ...

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  • Deefstes's Profile Photo

    Voortrekker Monument

    by Deefstes Written Oct 9, 2003

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    Senotaph in the Voortrekker Monument

    Every year on the 16th of December at noon the sun shines through a small hole in the roof of the monument to fall on a senotaph 40m below. The senotaph holds the words "Ons Vir Jou Suid Afrika" translating to "We For You, South Africa" - the old credo of the Republic of South Africa.

    Here is a picture of the senotaph in the basement area of the monument.

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  • mvtouring's Profile Photo

    Voortrekker Monument

    by mvtouring Written Aug 24, 2009

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    Probably one of the most important monuments in the Afrikaans community. The Voortrekker Monument is situated in the city of Pretoria, South Africa. The massive granite structure, built to honour the Voortrekkers (Pioneers) who left the Cape Colony in the thousands between 1835 and 1854, was designed by the architect Gerard Moerdijk who had the ideal to design a "monument that would stand a thousand years to describe the history and the meaning of the Great Trek to its descendants". It can be seen from almost any location in the city, as it is seated on a hilltop.

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  • mvtouring's Profile Photo

    Voortrekker Monument - The Cenotaph

    by mvtouring Updated Aug 24, 2009

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    The Cenotaph
    [edit] Cenotaph
    The Cenotaph, situated in the centre of the Cenotaph Hall, is the central focus of the monument. In addition to being viewable from the Hall of Heroes it can also be seen from the dome at the top of the building, from where much of the interior of the monument can be viewed. Through an opening in this dome a ray of sunlight shines at twelve o'clock on 16 December annually, falling onto the centre of the Cenotaph, striking the words 'Ons vir Jou, Suid-Afrika' (Afrikaans for 'We for Thee, South Africa'). The ray of light is said to symbolise God's blessing on the lives and endeavours of the Voortrekkers. December 16, 1838 was the date of the Battle of Blood River, commemorated in Apartheid-era South Africa as the Day of the Vow.

    The Cenotaph Hall is decorated with the flags of the different Voortrekker Republics and contains wall tapestries depicting the Voortrekkers as well as several display cases with artefacts from the Great Trek. Against the northern wall of the hall is a nave with a lantern in which a flame has been kept burning ever since 1938. It was in that year that the Symbolic Ox Wagon Trek, which started in Cape Town and ended at Monument Hill where the Monument's foundation stone was laid, took place.

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  • mvtouring's Profile Photo

    Voortrekker Monument - inside

    by mvtouring Written Aug 24, 2009

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    The main entrance of the building leads into the domed Hall of Heroes. This massive space, flanked by four huge arched windows made from yellow Belgian glass, contains the unique marble Historical Frieze which is an intrinsic part of the design of the monument. It is the biggest marble frieze in the world. The frieze consists of 27 bas-relief panels depicting the history of the Great Trek, but incorporating references to every day life, work methods and religious beliefs of the Voortrekkers. The set of panels illustrate key historical scenes starting from the first voortrekkers of 1835, up to the signing of the Sand River Convention in 1852. In the centre of the floor of the Hall of Heroes is a large circular opening through which the Cenotaph in the Cenotaph Hall can be viewed.

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  • tpk2's Profile Photo

    Voortrekker Monument & Museum

    by tpk2 Written Nov 19, 2006

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    Voortrekkers, the Boer pioneers, who left the Cape Colony between 1835 and 1854, founded the former South African Republic. The city of Pretoria lends its name from Andries Pretorius, a leader of the Great Trek.

    The Voortrekker Monument is a massive granite building, erected in honor of the pioneers. This national icon for Afrikaans population of South Africa was build between the years 1937 and 1949. A large amphitheatre, which seats approximately 20 thousand people, was built closeby the Monument in 1949.

    The Monument is 40 meters high. Inside the building one can find the museum and the Cenotaph. The Cenotaph, "empty tomb", is the symbolic resting place of the Voortrekkers who died during the Great Trek. Once a year the sun shines onto the middle of the Cenopath, shining on the inscription: "Ons vir jou, Zuid Afrika!" (We for thee, South Africa!). This happens on December 16th, the date that the Battle of Blood River took place in year 1838.

    The monument is open for public 8-17 on May-Aug and 08-18 Sep-April .

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  • Deefstes's Profile Photo

    Voortrekker Monument

    by Deefstes Updated Oct 9, 2003

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    Voortrekker Monument

    The Voortrekker Monument is a 40 cubic meter building commemorating the Voortrekkers of old who trekked over the Drakensberg mountain range from the Cape to ultimately settle in this part of the country.

    Unfortunately this part of Afrikaner heritage seems to be neglected and even surpressed as a pride in Afrikaner heritage can often be misconstrued as being "old regime" but I strongly disagree with that notion.

    I am an Afrikaner and very proud of it. At the same time I am anything but a racist and I deeply believe in the restoration of South Africa through racial tollerance and uniting of peoples. The Afrikaner history is quite an interesting one and very remarkable. I am proud to have that heritage and the Voortrekker Monument symbolises that for me.

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  • paradisedreamer's Profile Photo

    The Voortrekker monument

    by paradisedreamer Updated Jun 16, 2003

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    Voortrekker Monument

    The Voortrekker Monument was built as a national shrine to commemorate the heroes of the Great Trek of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The four walls of the Hall of Heroes, which is the main body of the building, are decorated with an Italian frieze depicting the history of the Great Trek in 1838, when Afrikaaners left Cape Town for the hinterland. One of the most interesting features of the monument is the 260-step stairway which leads to the dome, and the spectacular view it offers of the city.

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    Voortrekker Monument

    by Orchid Written Oct 28, 2007

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    Voortrekker monument
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    The monument to Afrikaaner nationalism stands proudly between Pretoria & Centurion. For the visitor it can be seen not so much as a commemoration of apartheid, but as a tribute to the Great Trek and the Battle of Blood river - both resonant and important events in the development of the afrikaaner cultural identity.

    Construction began in 1937 and was completed in time to be opened on 16 December 1949

    The granite monument is surrounded by laager wall - 64 wagions, the same number brought to Blood River. On each corner are massive statues of Boer leaders. Inside the monument is the Hall of Heroes, containing a marble historical frieze which runs along all 4 walls of the monument. In the basement is the cenotaph. One can climb to the roof for an expansive view of Pretoria, or look down into the hall of heroes and the cenotaph below. The opening in the dome is designed to allow the sun to fall on the cenotaph on 16 December.

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  • Paulm1987's Profile Photo

    History rewritten

    by Paulm1987 Written Feb 19, 2014

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    Monument
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    Voortrekker Monument was build to commemorate the Voortrekker Pioneers and their Journey from the Cape colony into the Interior of the Country which is now called South Africa between 1835 and 1854.
    The Monument highlight mostly the events leading to the Battle of Blood river were scores of Zulu warriors were killed.
    There is a small museum inside the Monument and the best thing is they do allow cameras. you will feel how the Voortrekkers used to survive in the old days.
    There's a lift going 30 meters upwards that you can take to the top so you can enjoy panoramic views of the City and the Outskirts. So it will be worth it to visit...

    Entrance is only R50 for adults

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  • MikeAtSea's Profile Photo

    The Voortrekker Monument

    by MikeAtSea Written Jan 24, 2005

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    The Voortrekker Monument

    In 1938 this massive monument was build to commemorate the Treck of the Boers northwards from the Cape Province. Every year on the 16th of December a beam of sunlight shines through the ceiling onto a coffin in the basement that says: “Ons vir jou Suid Afrika” a phrase of Die Stem the old South African national anthem. It remembers the day 16 December 1838 when 470 Boers defeated approximately 12.000 Zulus. Three trekkers were wounded with 3000 Zulus killed. A staircase to the top of the building offers panoramic views over the entire city of Pretoria.

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  • Yolandam's Profile Photo

    Voortrekker Monument

    by Yolandam Written Aug 26, 2002

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    Build in honour of the Voortrekkers and Zulus who died at the battle of bloodriver. On the 16 December every year a sunbeam shines exactley on Piet Retief's grave who was killed by Dingaan's warriors the 16th December.

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