Top Menu


Background History

Why was the Monument built?

  • To commemorate the Voortrekkers (Pioneers) who brought their culture with them to the interior of Southern Africa.

Who built the Monument?

  • The idea to build a monument in honour of the Pioneers, originated at a FAK-conference. A Central “Volks” committee who was to manage the fund raising, design and construction, was established. The Government was the largest contributor of funds. The total cost of the Monument was 350 000 pounds.

Structure of the Monument

How many steps are there from the parking lot to the main entrance of the Monument?

  • 130

How many steps are there from the Hall of Heroes (venue of the historic frieze) to the top?

  • 169

How many steps lead from the Hall of Heroes down to the Cenotaph Hall?

  • 38

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 metres in total

Who was the architect?

  • Gerard Moerdijk

Which items were placed behind the cornerstone?

  • During the laying of the cornerstone (16 December 1938) the following items were placed behind the it:
  1. A copy of Jan van Riebeeck’s diary
  2. A copy of the Piet Retief-Dingaan Treaty
  3. A copy of the Vow of 16 December 1838
  4. A copy of the Call of South Africa
  5. 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 centre 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.

Cenotaph Hall

What does the Cenotaph symbolize?

  • The Cenotaph is the symbolic centre 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.

How did Piet Retief and uDingane communicate?

  • Thomas Halstead, the son of a British Settler learnt to speak Zulu and he acted as an interpreter during negotiations.

The Original Museum (recently moved back to the Monument)

Where did the museum collection come from?

  • During the Symbolic Ox-wagon trek in 1938, the ATKV started collecting antiques and collectables along the way with the idea to display these objects at the Monument. In the meantime the objects were housed in Hartenbos.

What could be seen in the museum?

  • Despite the tapestry, many objects, which had been used during the Great Trek, were on display. A life-size scene depicting the “outspan” showed a family camping out for a while next to their ox-wagon. It has since been moved to the new museum. This area has recently been converted into the marketing office.

Who mounted the first displays and where?

  • Mrs Kotie Roodt-Coetzee strove for the completion of a Pioneer museum. In 1949 she mounted a temporary display in the basement of the Monument.

Who made the 15 “Voortrekker tapestries”?

  • The artist W.H. Coetzer designed the tapestries, after which nine women of the ATKV embroidered for eight years to complete it. The series of tapestries depict scenes from the Great Trek, placing the accent on the role of women. It was donated to the Voortrekker Monument and is currently on display on the Cenotaph Hall in the Monument.

How did the Museum develop?

  • Mrs Coetzee put in a dedicated effort and in July 1957 the doors of the Museum in the basement of the Monument were opened. Further collection campaigns resulted in a large collection, rendering the basement too small. The larger museum was opened to the public at the end of 1967.

New Museum

When was the collection moved back to the basement?

  • During the Golden Jubilee (1999), it was decided to move the museum back to the basement of the Monument, thus fulfilling the wishes expressed in 1938. The museum was also expanded to include information panels on a variety of aspects on the Great Trek, the Monument and commemorations. A Phase 2 of the museum is being planned. It will entail an audio visual presentation of the Battle of Blood River.


What is Fort Schanskop?

  • It is one of four forts, which were built around Pretoria to defend the ZAR capital against British attacks. This happened after the imperialist Jameson’s unsuccessful attempt to invade the Transvaal in 1895.

Which other forts were also built?

  • Forts Daspoortrand, Wonderboompoort and Klapperkop.

By whom was Schanskop designed and built?

  • L Grunberg, a former French artillery officer who had been in the ZAR since 1895 to set up mining machinery, was the creator of the idea. Two German engineers, O.A. von Dewitz and H.C. Werner drew the plans.

Why was the fort built on that spot?

  • The fort had to ward off any possible attacks from Johannesburg and the old Lourenco Marques railway-line.

How was the Fort’s electrical and water requirements met?

  • A paraffin engine was attached to a generator, which provided electricity for the searchlights and lighting in the Fort. A pump station in Fountains valley provided water for the Fort’s reservoir.

What role did the fort play when Pretoria was invaded?

  • None. On 5 June 1900 Roberts invaded Pretoria. The soldiers and arms were in the field at the time and the forts were empty. The British manned and armed the fort.


  • On site is a bust of Gen P.J. Joubert. The well-known South African sculptor Phil Minnaar made it.

Historical Monument.

  • In 1938 Fort Schanskop and Fort Klapperkop were proclaimed as historical monuments by the Historical Monuments Commission.

Military Museum.

  • In 1978 a military museum was opened in Fort Schanskop. In 1993 the City Council bought the fort from the SADF.

Property of the Voortrekker Monument.

  • In June 2000 Fort Schanskop became the property of the Voortrekker Monument. (Purchased at a price of R400 000,00). Many exciting projects have been undertaken to develop the site as a tourist attraction.

Website Maintenance by Pretoria Web Design