Voortrekker Monument…a view from the top.

Sculptor Danie de Jager 1936-2003 Initially, this sculpture, know as “In Flight”, featured at Jan Smuts Airport (now ORT) from 1971-1998. When the airport was upgraded it was placed into storage where it was extensively damaged and a large part stolen as scrap by vandals. The broken remnants were returned to the sculptor. The sculpture was jointly unveiled on the 13th February, 2013 in its present location by E de Jager, R.F Botha and N Anicic, who donated it to the Heritage Foundation after it had been restored. It was renamed “Quo Vadis” pursuant to the concluding words of Prime Minister Dr D.F. Malan at the inauguration of the Voortrekker Monument on the 16th December, 1949





The beauty of the flowers in the gardens surrounding the monument was is stark contrast to the austerity of the huge granite monolith that sits proudly on a hilltop overlooking Pretoria.

Arts and Culture


By virtue of the powers vested in the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) in
terms of section 27(5) of the National Heritage Resources Act, 25 of 1999, SAHRA hereby declares the Voortrekker Monument and all associated heritage objects, as a National Heritage Site.

The Voortrekker Monument commemorates the mass inland movement of pioneers from the Cape Colony between 1835 and 1854. The Monument also serves to remind South Africans of the epitome of Afrikaner Nationalism, forming part of the South African historical political landscape. It had an indelible effect on the way the new democratic South Africa has developed.




The idea to build a monument in honour of God was first discussed on 16 December 1888, when President Paul Kruger of the South African Republic attended the Day of the Covenant Celebrations at Blood River in Natal.
However, the movement to build such a Monument only started in 1931 when the Sentrale Volks Monument Komitee (SVK) (Central People’s Monuments Committee), was formed to bring this idea to fruition.
Construction started on 13 July 1937 with a sod-turning ceremony performed by Chairman of the SVK, Advocate Ernest George Jansen, on what later became known as Monument Hill.
 The cornerstone was laid by three descendants of Voortrekker leaders: Mrs J.C. Muller (Granddaughter of Andries Pretorius), Mrs K.F. Ackerman (Great-granddaughter of Hendrik Potgieter) and Mrs J.C. Preller (Great-granddaughter of Piet Retief) on 16 December 1938,
The Monument was inaugurated on 16 December 1949 by then-prime minister D. F. Malan. The total construction cost of the Monument was about £360,000, most of which was contributed by the South African Government.
Given the current exchange rate, the Monument would have cost about R8,361,058.51 to build today!
This frieze which runs around a perimeter wall, was sculpted in South Africa between 1942 and 1946 in clay and full-size plaster models by Peter Kirchoff, Frikkie Kruger, Laurika Postma and Hennie Potgieter.
These models were sent to Italy and carved by Italian stone masons in Carrara marble in the studios of Prof. Romano Romanelli.
Hennie Potgieter and Laurika Postma spent 1948 in Italy to supervise the carving.
It is the longest continuous marble frieze in the world.



At the foot of the Monument is this bronze sculpture of a Voortrekker Woman and her two children by Anton van Wouw. It pays homage to the strength and courage of the Voortrekker women.

On either side of this sculpture, black Wildebeest are chiselled into the walls of the Monument. The wildebeest depicts the dangers of Africa and implies that the woman; the carrier of Western civilisation, is triumphant.

The Voortrekker Monument stands 40m tall and was constructed on what was to become known as Monument Hill.

Gerard Leendert Pieter Moerdijk, also known as Gerard Moerdyk, was the South African architect who designed the Voortrekker Monument.

According to Moerdyk, the design of the Voortrekker Monument was inspired by the temple architecture of ancient Egypt.




This powerful sculpture guards the entrance to the steps that lead up to the entrance of the Monument.




This is the wording on the plaque at her feet.




At each corner of the monument stands one of these. Weighing in at 6 tons each represents a different historical figure that played a role in the Groot Trek

Piet Retief:

Piet Retief was born Nov. 12, 1780, near Wellington, Cape Colony and died Feb. 6, 1838 in what is now known as KwaZulu Natal.

He was one of the Boer leaders of the Great Trek, the invasion of African lands in the interior of Southern Africa by Boers seeking to free themselves from British rule in the Cape Colony.




A Voortrekker… who represents an “unknown” leader (representative of all the other Voortrekker leaders).




Hendrick Potgieter:

Andries Hendrik Potgieter, known as Hendrik Potgieter (19 December 1792 – 16 December 1852) was a Voortrekker leader. He served as the first head of state of Potchefstroom from 1840 to 1845 and also as the first head of state of Zoutpansberg from 1845 to 1852.

At the Eastern Corner of the Monument, on the same level as its Entrance, is the Foundation Stone. Under the Foundation Stone, is buried: A copy of the Trekker Vow on 16 December 1838; A copy of the anthem “Die Stem” and a copy of the Land Deal between the Trekkers under Piet Retief and the Zulus under King Dingaan.




Andries Pretorius:

Andries Wilhelmus Jacobus Pretorius (27 November 1798 – 23 July 1853) was a leader of the Boers who was instrumental in the creation of the South African Republic, as well as the earlier but short-lived Natalia Republic.

Pretoria, the executive capital of South Africa, is named in his honour.




You enter the building and immediately find yourself in a large, high hall known as the Hall of Heroes. The hall contains marble carvings that show scenes from the Great Trek.




Another of the carvings in the Hall of Heroes depicts some of what the Voortrekkers went through during their journey from the coast.

Like the American pioneers who discovered the interior of America, some of our forefathers endured untold hardship and death in order to secure a better life for themselves and their families.

Considering that there were no paved highways, no Google Maps, no GPS and not even any paper maps of where they were headed, how so many of them survived is a testament to human endurance and should be celebrated.




One of the guides who are available to take groups or individuals on a tour of the monument.




There are 169 stairs, and no, I did not count them. I called the monument while writing this and got an answer from the most helpful woman who answered the phone.

This very tight spiral staircase leads visitors to the dome. It was such a tight staircase, that I ended up nauseous and feeling lightheaded when I eventually reached the end of my climb.




A view from the top… well worth the climb.




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, said to to symbolise God’s blessing on the lives and endeavours of the Voortrekkers,  shines, at noon on 16 December annually, falling onto the centre of the Cenotaph, striking the words- ‘Ons vir Jou, Suid-Afrika’.

These words also featured in Die Stem which was the South African National anthem until 1997, when some of the words, in both English and Afrikaans were included in the new anthem, Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika.

“Uit die blou van onse hemel,
(Ringing out from our blue heavens)
Uit die diepte van ons see,
(From the depth of our seas)
Oor ons ewige gebergtes,
(Over our everlasting mountains)
Waar die kranse antwoord gee,
(Where the echoing crags resound)”

If you were born pre 1997, it is almost impossible to walk through the monument and not have the old anthem playing in your head. I was born in 1953, so I lived with the old anthem for most of my life.

Did you know?

Written in 1918 as a poem, and in 1921 newspaper sponsored a contest to set it to music. In 1938, it was decided that “Die Stem” would be played at the opening of Parliament, and in 1957 it was declared as South Africa’s official national anthem. South Africa then became a republic in 1961.

It was then deemed necessary in the 1950s, with increasing popular and government support of “Die Stem”, to find a suitable English translation. This was finally achieved in 1952, when a compilation of 220 translations were compiled into a single, official translation. It was performed in English for the first time that year, and revised slightly in 1959.




One of the field guns that can be found in the lower hall of the Monument.




This sculpture formed part of an art collection that is housed in the Monument. Personally, I don’t believe that it should be here as there must be many other artefacts and pieces of historical interest that could fill this space.




One of the few wagons that are on display. Given the fact that the Monument is in honour of those who trekked from the Cape, I would have liked to see more examples of the wagons used. Even if they were not restored to museum quality.

It seems that the vast empty space is exactly that, whereas it could be filled with the rich history of South Africa seen from different perspectives.




Nou gaan ons braai…




An Afrikaner Heritage Centre was built to preserve the heritage of the Afrikaans-speaking portion of South Africa’s population and their contribution to the history of the country.




A restored wagon with the Monument towering in the background.

FYI: I have been reliably informed that everybody grew a beard for the opening of the Monument on 16th December 1938.

Roy Campbell, South African poet and literary critic (2 October 1901 – 23 April 1957), said it was the only crop grown in South Africa without a government subsidy.




An elephant in the garden? This realistic replica can be found in the beautifully landscaped indigenous garden just off the car park. Well worth a visit and there is a coffee shop that serves a selection of treats and beverages.




Travel is the proud winner of this prestigious award from the digital British lifestyle magazine Luxlife. The award is in the category Best Travel & Experiences Blog 2024 – South Africa




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