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*All distances listed are as the crow flies, and not actual travel distances.
Erected as a tribute to the pioneering men and women who undertook an epic journey to escape the clutches of British dominance in the 1830s, the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria tells the story of their voyage proclaimed in history as the Great Trek. It symbolises the obstacles they were forced to overcome, including battles with indigenous tribes, and the eventual rise of the Afrikaner nation.
Prior to 1995, December 16th was a public holiday called the Day of the Vow (now known as the Day of Reconciliation). It was a day to celebrate a pact the Voortrekkers had with their God, with a promise to erect a church if they were saved from defeat by the Zulus at what is today known as the Battle of Blood River. This day was significant to the Voortrekkers and the architects of the monument created an oculus in the roof, angled at a position for the sunlight to shine down perfectly at noon onto a cenotaph on December 16th.
The Voortrekker Monument is a square 40m structure and was opened in 1949. One can spend hours observing the symbolic structures at this site, from the Egyptian-style sky dome to the Renaissance features throughout the interior. A magnificent marble frieze is a visual representation of the Voortrekker journey, while a lengthy tapestry contains millions of stitches.
Outside are glorious stone and brass sculptings, and an indigenous garden surrounds the monument. Buried beneath the foundation stone is a copy of the Trekker Vow made on December 16th 1838, a copy of the old national anthem (now incorporated into the current anthem, Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika) and a copy of the land treaty between Voortrekker leader Piet Retief and Zulu king Dingane that resulted in a massacre. Roughly 340ha has been set aside as a nature reserve and non-threatening animals such as zebra, springbok and other antelope roam the reserve. There is a Garden of Remembrance, a Wall of Remembrance, a chapel and heritage centre on the grounds. Nearby is a large amphitheatre and an interesting old fort, Fort Schanskop.