SouthAfrica.com
Pretoria

Voortrekker Monument – Commemorating the Great Trek

On 16 December 1949, the Voortrekker Monument was inaugurated, a design by Gerard Moerdijk. This impressive architectural structure was built in honor of the Voortrekkers, who left the Cape Colony in their thousands between 1835 and 1854. This was to be known as the “Great Trek”. The Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria was merely an idea envisioned by President Paul Kruger in 1888, and only in December 1938 was the first cornerstone was laid. In 1949, an amphitheatre to seat almost 20,000 was erected north-east of the monument.

There are 27 panels within the Vootrekker Monument that not only
depict
the Great Trek, but also their work methods, religion and the every day
activities of the Voortrekkers. The focal point of the Voortrekker
Monument, is the 34.5 x 34.5 meter, Cenotaph (meaning empty tomb) room,
made
from red granite. As the name might suggest, this is the symbolic
resting
place of the Voortrekkers who died during the Great Trek and of Piet
Retief.
So carefully constructed, Gerard Moerdijk took note of every detail,
and
therefore on 16 December every year, the sun warms the cenotaph though
an
opening in the dome, to highlight the words: “Ons vir jou,
Suid-Africa” (We
for thee, South Africa). God’s blessing on the work and life of the
Voortrekkers is symbolized by this effective event. The lantern on the
northern wall, has been kept burning since 1938, symbolic to the Ox
Wagon
trek that started in the Western Cape, and ended on Monument Hill, where the
first
cornerstone was laid. Artifacts and the spectacular, famous tapestry,
depicting the Great Trek can be viewed here. Nine women, worked for
eight
years, to complete the 3.3 million stitches on the tapestry, which
contains
five scenes.

At the entrance of the Voortrekker Monument, visitors pass through
the
black iron gates, with the motifs of “assegaai” to symbolize the power
of
Dingaan, who obstructed the entry into the country’s interior. Just
past
the gates, surrounding the monument, is a wagon laager. Made out of
granite,
the 64 wagons symbolize the protection of the monument. The same
number of
wagons were used in the Battle of Blood River. Inside the laager, at
the
foot of the Voortrekker Monument, is the bronze sculpture by Anton van
Wouw,
of a Voortrekker mother and her two children. It serves as a reminder
of
the strength and sacrifice, the families had to endure during the
trek.

Other sites and activities at the Voortrekker Monument include
cycling
and horse trails, the Heritage Foundation, Wagon Rides, picnic area,
virtual
shopping, Blood River Heritage Site, amphitheatre and gift shop.
Events
change regularly, with antique and collectables fairs. The Voortrekker
Monument in Pretoria
is truly a wonderful site to visit, filled with
art,
history and architecture.