14 August 2012

A weekend visit to the Voortrekker Monument

Over the weekend, Jurg and I decided to pay a quick visit to the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria!  It was one of the many things on my list of "must-sees while living in Jo'burg" and I'm definitely glad we finally decided to make the trip and tick it off our list.  I wasn't really sure what to expect beforehand, but we were both pleasantly surprised by the monument and surroundings and spent several hours wandering the grounds and exploring all of the different exhibitions.

The Voortrekker Monument was completed in 1949 and stands to commemorate the Voortrekkers {Afrikaans for "those who pull ahead"} who left the Cape coast in masses during the 1830's and headed inland to escape British rule.  The Voortrekkers were of Dutch descent and now make up South Africa's Afrikaans population.  

{Fun Fact #1: South Africa was colonized by two countries prior to gaining independence, first by the Dutch and then by the British.}

{Fun Fact #2: Jurgen is Afrikaans!}

The site also commemorates the infamous "Battle of Blood River" when a group of about 464 Voortrekkers were successful in countering an attack by 10,000 Zulus.  Prior to the battle the Voortrekkers had made a vow to God that if he would lead them to victory over what seemed like insurmountable odds, they would forever honour that date.  Every year on the anniversary of the battle {16th of December, 1838} hundreds of people flock to the site to pay tribute to those lost and to give thanks for God's protection in their time of need.

To read more about the site's history and construction see here.

The monument opens up into a beautiful marble hall called the Hall of Heroes.

Surrounding the entire hall are panels telling the story of the Voortrekkers emigration inland.  Little tablets below indicate what is taking place in each of the scenes.  Not being a huge museum person, I thought it was such a nice, digestible way of getting an overview of the history before heading into the museum itself.

There's also a spiral staircase leading to the top of the Monument.  From the inside you can look down into the Hall of Heroes and can see into the center opening which provides a glimpse of the museum on the lower level.

Had to snap a quick photo together up top!

From the bottom level, if you look up you can see a small round hole in the ceiling, which allows a single ray of light inside.  Every year on the 16th of December at 12:00 {the anniversary of the Battle of Blood River}, the light hits the very center of a Centotaph located on the bottom floor.  It shines over the engraving "Ons vir jou South Africa" which is Afrikaans for "We for thee, South Africa".

The ray is said to indicate God's blessing over the Voortrekkers on that day of battle.

If you're at all familiar with South Africa's rocky past, you've probably already guessed that this memorial is quite controversial in more ways than one.  However, we both found it to be very informative and tastefully done and I can truthfully say that I never felt uncomfortable or offended while walking through the exhibitions.  It was also wonderful for me to get to learn a little more about Jurgen's culture and ancestors and I think he enjoyed experiencing a bit of his past as well :)

Overall we had a great experience and I would definitely recommend the Monument to all South Africans {not just Afrikaaners!} and visitors alike.  It takes about 3 - 4 hours to explore the bulk of the reserve and makes for a perfect weekend outing.

For more information and directions see here.


  1. I went there when I was 14! Great blog post and check out that blue blue sky - it makes me want to hop on the next plane!

  2. South Africa has such an intricate and interesting history! It's great that you are able to explore all sides of it!

  3. Gosh I have not been to the monument in years. and I live about 15 minutes away. I think I need to add this to my summer weekend to do list!!!

    Thanks for the reminder and I am glad you enjoyed a part of our very diverse history and culture!!!

  4. You really live in such an amazing place Jenna! I'm so happy that you get to take advantage of things like this. I had no idea about any of this, so thanks for sharing this piece of history. I guess we do learn something every day :)


  5. Wow what an incredible place! I would have stayed there all day taking pics. :)

  6. i learn so much history from your posts! my friend here is getting married and decided she wants to honeymoon in south africa so i've been sharing all your adventure with her! haha

  7. these are amazing photos! hope you are enjoying your vacation!



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