The Voortrekker Monument was built in honour of the Voortrekkers (Pioneers) who left the Cape Colony in their thousands between 1835 and 1854. The architect was Gerard Moerdijk and it was his 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." The unique marble Frieze inside the monument is an intrinsic part of the design. 27 in bas-relief panels depict the story of the Great Trek from 1835 to 1852. The Frieze does not only show the history of the Great Trek, but also depicts every-day life, work methods, religious beliefs and the way of life of the Voortrekkers. The central focus point of the Monument is the Cenotaph. On top of the Hall of Heroes' is an arch from where one can view the interior of the Monument. A ‘laager’ of 64 granite ox-wagons surrounds the main block of the Monument and at the entrance stands a bronze sculpture of a Voortrekker mother and her children created by Anton van Wouw. This was also the last major work by the sculptor.
The Cenotaph is the central focus point of the Monument. The word cenotaph means “empty tomb”. It is therefore the symbolic resting place of Piet Retief and all the other Voortrekkers who died during the Great Trek. The Cenotaph is made of red granite from the Parys region in the Free State.
Once a year, on 16 December at midday, the sun shines through an opening in the dome roof of the Monument onto the middle of the Cenotaph.
It shines on the words “Ons vir jou, Suid-Afrika”, literally translated: “We for thee South Africa.” The architect, Gerard Moerdijk, planned this specifically because the ray of sunlight symbolizes God’s blessing on the life and work of the Voortrekkers. The Cenotaph Hall consists of a 34,5 x 34,5 metre area and is decorated with the flags from the different Voortrekker Republics. The hall is visited more often these days as the famous wall tapestries depicting the Voortrekkers can be seen there, as well as several display cases with artefacts from the Great Trek.
Against the Northern wall is a nave with a lantern where a flame has been kept burning since 1938.
Structure of the Monument
How many steps are there from the parking lot to the main entrance of the Monument?
How many steps are there from the Hall of Heroes (venue of the historic frieze) to the top?
How many steps lead from the Hall of Heroes down to the Cenotaph Hall?
When was the Monument inaugurated?
16 December 1949.
How long did it take to complete construction on the Monument?
Approximately 12 years. The foundation was laid in 1937 and the cornerstone was laid on 16 December 1938.
Who was the sculptor of the mother and child statue in front of the entrance of the Monument?
Anton Van Wouw.
What building materials were used for the Monument?
Granite from the Northern Transvaal.
Who is depicted by the four corner statues outside the Monument?
Piet Retief, Andries Pretorius, Hendrik Potgieter and an unknown leader (representative of all the other Pioneer leaders). Each figure weighs approximately 6 tons.
Why does the laager wall consist of 64 wagons?
64 wagons were drawn into a laager at Blood River on 16 December 1838.
How high is the Monument?
Approximately 62 meters in total.
Who was the architect?
Which items were placed behind the cornerstone?
During the laying of the cornerstone (16 December 1938) the following items were placed behind it:
- A copy of Jan van Riebeeck’s diary
- A copy of the Piet Retief-Dingaan Treaty
- A copy of the Vow of 16 December 1838
- A copy of the Call of South Africa
- The Family Bible of Mr Henning Klopper
The Hall of Heroes
Why is it called The Hall of Heroes?
The architect Gerard Moerdijk, called this hall in which the frieze was placed, the Hall of Heroes. A historic frieze (92 m x 2.3 m), which consists of 27 wall panels, was mounted against the walls. It depicts important events from the Great Trek.
Who designed the frieze?
The frieze was designed by four South African sculptors: Hennie Potgieter, Peter Kirchhoff, Frikkie Kruger and Laurika Postma. The plaster models were shipped to Italy where it was sculpted from Italian Quercetta marble, by 40 Italian chisellers and 6 Italian sculptors. The completed frieze weighs approximately 200 tons.
Of what do the windows consist?
Each large window consists of 1, 072 pieces of Belgian glass.
What material was used on the floor of The Hall of Heroes?
Marble excavated from the marble quarries near Marble Hall.
What is the significance of the Cupola?
Above the Hall of Heroes is a cupola containing an opening through which the sun shines. Every year, on 16 December, the sun shines on the center of the Cenotaph. This is a symbol of God’s blessing of the aspirations of the Pioneers. Since 1952, this day was known as the Day of the Vow and is currently known as the Day of Reconciliation.
What does the Cenotaph symbolize?
The Cenotaph is the symbolic center point of the Monument. It represents the symbolic resting place of Piet Retief and all those Pioneers who passed away during the Great Trek. Some people mistakenly refer to it as the sarcophagus. A Sarcophagus contains human remains and a cenotaph does not.
From what material is the Cenotaph made?
From red granite from Parys in the Orange Free State.
What does the flame in The Cenotaph Hall symbolize?
The nave contains the flame which has been kept burning since the 1938 Symbolic Ox-wagon trek. According to Moerdijk, it is a symbolic flame of civilization burning in South Africa.
How many people left the Cape Colony during the Great Trek (1835-1854)?
Between 15 000 and 20 000.
Who were used as models for the frieze?
Descendants of the Pioneers, family, friends and acquaintances of the sculptors
To qualify for logging this cache both (1 AND 2) of the following will have to be done:
1. Post a photo in your log of yourself or your device (or both) next to the Cenotaph. Be very sure to include by any means possible the DATE of your visit in the photo. (It can be your entrance receipt, a piece of paper, electronic dating on the photo or even with your hands, fingers and toes if necsessary).
2. Post a photo in your log of yourself or your device (or both) next to the Unknown Leader/Voortrekker on one of the outside corners of the Monument.
Any logs that do not comply with the conditions of logging this cache as required will be deleted without notification.
Optional: For those who are adventurous, fit enough, does not suffer from Vertigo and want to see what the Cenotaph looks like from right at the top, please feel free to climb the stairs to the top of the dome and look down the awe inspiring view. Please post a photo in your log if you made the effort to venture to the top.
There is an entrance fee payable. Entrance times are from 08:00 to 16:00 every day except 25 December.