Voortrekker Monument

Last updated

Voortrekker Monument
Voortrekker Monument.jpg
The Monument from the front
OpenStreetMap Central Pretoria.png
Red pog.svg
Location in Pretoria
South Africa Gauteng location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Voortrekker Monument (Gauteng)
Coordinates 25°46′35″S28°10′39″E / 25.77639°S 28.17750°E / -25.77639; 28.17750 Coordinates: 25°46′35″S28°10′39″E / 25.77639°S 28.17750°E / -25.77639; 28.17750
Location Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa
Designer Gerard Moerdijk
MaterialGranite
Length40 metres (130 ft)
Width40 metres (130 ft)
Height40 metres (130 ft)
Beginning date13 July 1937
Completion date12 December 1949
Opening date16 December 1949
Dedicated to Voortrekkers

The Voortrekker Monument is located just south of Pretoria in South Africa. This massive granite structure is prominently located on a hilltop, and was raised to commemorate the Voortrekkers who left the Cape Colony between 1835 and 1854.

Contents

On 8 July 2011 the Voortrekker Monument, designed by the architect Gerard Moerdijk, was declared a National Heritage Site by the South African Heritage Resource Agency. [1]

History

Wounded Voortrekker at Vegkop, detail of the historical frieze Voortrekker Monument May 2006, IMG 3008.jpg
Wounded Voortrekker at Vegkop, detail of the historical frieze

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 Danskraal in Natal. However, the movement to actually build such a monument only started in 1931 when the Sentrale Volksmonumentekomitee (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 the chairman of the SVK, Advocate Ernest George Jansen, on what later became known as Monument Hill. On 16 December 1938 the cornerstone was laid by three descendants of some of the 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).

The Monument was inaugurated on 16 December 1949 by the then-prime minister D. F. Malan.[ citation needed ] The total construction cost of the Monument was about £ 360,000, most of which was contributed by the South African government. The construction contract being awarded to Raubex, after its incorporation.

A large amphitheatre, which seats approximately 20,000 people, was erected to the north-east of the Monument in 1949.

Main features

The Voortrekker Monument is 40 metres high, with a base of 40 metres by 40 metres.[ citation needed ] The building shares architectural resemblance with European monuments such the Dôme des Invalides in France and the Völkerschlachtdenkmal in Germany but also contains African influences. [2] The two main points of interest inside the building are the Historical Frieze and the Cenotaph.

South window and frieze Inside the Voortrekker Monument.JPG
South window and frieze

Historical Frieze

The main entrance of the building leads into the domed Hall of Heroes. This massive space, flanked by four huge arched windows made from yellow Belgian glass, contains the unique marble Historical Frieze which is an intrinsic part of the design of the monument. It is the biggest marble frieze in the world. [3] The frieze consists of 27 bas-relief panels depicting the history of the Great Trek, but incorporating references to every day life, work methods and religious beliefs of the Voortrekkers. The set of panels illustrates key historical scenes starting from the first voortrekkers of 1835, up to the signing of the Sand River Convention in 1852. In the centre of the floor of the Hall of Heroes is a large circular opening through which the Cenotaph in the Cenotaph Hall can be viewed.

The Cenotaph Voortrekker Cenotaph.jpg
The Cenotaph

Cenotaph

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 shines at twelve o'clock on 16 December annually, falling onto the centre of the Cenotaph, striking the words 'Ons vir Jou, Suid-Afrika' (Afrikaans for 'We're for you, South Africa'), a line from 'Die Stem van Suid-Afrika'. The ray of light is said to symbolise God's blessing on the lives and endeavours of the Voortrekkers. 16 December 1838 was the date of the Battle of Blood River, commemorated in South Africa before 1994 as the Day of the Vow.

The Cenotaph Hall is decorated with the flags of the different Voortrekker Republics and contains wall tapestries depicting the Voortrekkers as well as several display cases with artefacts from the Great Trek. Against the northern wall of the hall is a niche with a lantern in which a flame has been kept burning ever since 1938. It was in that year that the Symbolic Ox Wagon Trek, which started in Cape Town and ended at Monument Hill where the Monument's foundation stone was laid, took place.

The wagon laager wall features 64 wagons Voortrekker Monument Laager.JPG
The wagon laager wall features 64 wagons

Other features

Visitors to the monument enter through a black wrought iron gate with an assegai (spear) motif.

After passing through the gate one finds oneself inside a big laager consisting of 64 ox-wagons made out of decorative granite. The same number of wagons were used at the Battle of Blood River to form the laager.[ citation needed ]

Voortrekker woman and children by Anton van Wouw Voortrekker Vrou Statue.JPG
Voortrekker woman and children by Anton van Wouw
Statue of Piet Retief Voortrekker Statue.JPG
Statue of Piet Retief

At the foot of the Monument stands Anton van Wouw's bronze sculpture of a Voortrekker woman and her two children, paying homage to the strength and courage of the Voortrekker women. On both sides of this sculpture black wildebeest are chiselled into the walls of the Monument. The wildebeest symbolically depicts the dangers of Africa and their symbolic flight implies that the woman, carrier of Western civilisation, is triumphant.

On each outside corner of the Monument there is a statue, respectively representing Piet Retief, Andries Pretorius, Hendrik Potgieter and an "unknown" leader (representative of all the other Voortrekker leaders). Each statue weighs approximately 6 tons.[ citation needed ]

At the eastern corner of the monument, on the same level as its entrance, is the foundation stone.

Under the foundation stone is buried:

According to Dr Alta Steenkamp, the masonic subtext of the Monument to the Battle of the Nations (Völkerschlachtdenkmal) in Leipzig, Germany, is reflected in the Voortrekker Monument because the architect, Gerard Moerdijk, had used the geometric order and spatial proportions of the Völkerschlachtdenkmal. [4] This Germanisation of the Voortrekker Monument occurred after Moerdijk's initial design had caused a public outcry in the South African press for its resemblance to an Egyptian temple. [5] :128 In Moerdijk's initial design, the monument consisted of a causeway linking two Egyptian obelisks. [4] [5] :128

Finalising his design of the Voortrekker Monument, Moerdijk visited Egypt in 1936, including the Karnak Temple Complex in Thebes. [5] :105 In Thebes, the pharaoh Akhenaten, Nefertiti's husband, had erected three sun sanctuaries, including the Hwt-benben ('mansion of the Benben').

The cenotaph is the symbolic tomb of Piet Retief and his delegation. Sun on stone.JPG
The cenotaph is the symbolic tomb of Piet Retief and his delegation.

The most prominent aspect of Moerdijk's monument is the annual mid noon sun illumination of the Benben stone, the encrypted cenotaph.

In the years preceding WWII, several Afrikaner nationalists travelled to Germany for academic, political and cultural studies. In 1928 Moerdijk visited Germany, and viewed the Amarna bust of Nefertiti on public display in Berlin.

By 1934 Chancellor Hitler had decided that Germany would not return the Amarna bust of Nefertiti to Egypt. He instead announced the intention to use the Amarna bust as the central show piece of the thousand years Third Reich, in a revitalised Berlin to be renamed Germania.

Likewise Moerdijk's thousand years monument with Amarna sun symbol at its centre, became Afrikaner nationalists' centre show piece of their capital Pretoria.

Round floor opening

Looking from the sky dome downwards, 32 sun rays can be counted, reflecting the masonic influence of the architecture Voortrekker Monument, interior from above.jpg
Looking from the sky dome downwards, 32 sun rays can be counted, reflecting the masonic influence of the architecture

Looking from the sky dome downwards, a chevron pattern on the floor of the Hall of Heroes, radiates outwards like 32 sun rays. In Moerdijk's architecture, the natural sun forms the 33rd ray through the floor opening.

Moerdijk said the chevron pattern on the floor depicts water, [6] as does the double chevron hieroglyph from the civilization of ancient Egypt.

Moerdijk stated that all roads on the terrain of building art lead back to ancient Egypt. [5] :47

Based on Moerdijk's reference to the watery floor of the Hall of Heroes, as well as his statements about ancient Egypt, the floor opening may be identified with the watery abyss, as in the creation theology of ancient African civilization. Rising out of this watery abyss, was the primeval mound, the Benben stone, to symbolize a new creation.

Religious sun ray

Gerard Moerdijk was the chief architect of 80 Protestant churches in South Africa. Moerdijk adhered to Reformed church tradition and thus his Renaissance trademark, the Greek-cross floorplan, always focused on the pulpit and preacher. In Protestant theology, the word of God is central. [5] :39,122 Moerdijk created a similar central focus in the Voortrekker Monument, but in vertical instead of horizontal plane, and in African instead of European style.

The monument's huge upper dome features Egyptian backlighting [5] :133 to simulate the sky, the heavenly abode of God. Through the dome a sun ray penetrates downwards, highlighting words on 16 December at noon.

The sky oriented words: "US FOR YOU SOUTH AFRICA", are Moerdijk's focus point. These words are taken from an anthem, Die Stem: "We will live, we will die, we for thee South-Africa". The same anthem ends: "It will be well, God reigns."

Thus the sun ray simulates a connection between the words on the Cenotaph and the heavenly abode above, a communication between God and man.

The actual sun ray itself forms a 33rd sun ray shining onto the stone in the midst of floor opening.

Heavenly vow

In Moerdijk's biblical theology, God communicates in two ways: through scripture and nature. [7] Moerdijk merges both methods, by using the sun in his simulation.

Relief of an ox-wagon on the laager wall Relief of an ox-wagon, Voortrekker Monument.jpg
Relief of an ox-wagon on the laager wall

The Vow of the Trekkers was commemorated on 16 December as the Day of the Vow. On 16 December, the appearance of an illuminating sun disc on the wording of the Cenotaph stone, transform their meaning as per the Philosophers Stone of the alchemists.

Instead of man below making an earthly vow, the sun shifts the focus upwards to the trinitarian god of the Trekkers, as it is God who communicates through Moerdijk's sun architecture, making Himself a heavenly vow with the words: WE - as in GOD - FOR THEE SOUTH-AFRICA.

Thus God in the trinitarian tradition of the Trekkers, speaks a vow within the sun disc illuminating the words on the Cenotaph.

The Trekker belief that God was for South Africa originates from the 9–16 December 1838 vow of Trekker leader Andries Pretorius at Blood river, who at around the same time made military and political alliances with Christian Zulus like prince Mpande.

Egyptian origin

Moerdijk was an outspoken supporter of ancient Egyptian architecture. [8]

Moerdijk referred to Africa's greatness as imparted by ancient Egyptian constructions at the inauguration of the Voortrekker Monument. [6]

Before his Voortrekker Monument proposal was accepted, Moerdijk and Anton van Wouw had been working in alliance for many years on their "dream castle" project: [9] a modern African-Egyptian Voortrekker Temple in South-Africa. Van Wouw and Frans Soff had earlier employed the Egyptian obelisk, a petrified ray of the African Aten, as central motif for the National Women's Monument in Bloemfontein, South Africa, itself likewise inaugurated on the Day of the Vow, 16 December 1913.

Whilst finalising the design of the Voortrekker Monument in 1936, [5] :105 Moerdijk went on a research trip to Egypt. There he visited the Karnak Temple Complex at Thebes, [5] :106 where an African Renaissance had flourished under Pharaoh Akhenaten, Nefertiti's husband.

The open air temples of Akhenaten to the Aten incorporated the Heliopolitan tradition of employing sun rays in architecture, as well as realistic wall reliefs or friezes.

Moerdijk also visited the Cairo Museum, where a copy of the Great Hymn to the Aten is on display, some verses of which remind of Psalm 104.

Moerdijk's wife Sylva related that he was intimately acquainted with ancient Egyptian architecture, [5] :106 and was strongly influenced architecturally by his visit to Egypt. [5] :105

Architectural purpose

Looking upwards at mid noon on 16 December reveals a dot within a circle, the ancient African-Egyptian hieroglyph for the monotheistic creator god Aten Luikstraal, Voortrekkermonument, Pretoria, Suid-Afrika.jpg
Looking upwards at mid noon on 16 December reveals a dot within a circle, the ancient African-Egyptian hieroglyph for the monotheistic creator god Aten
Looking downwards from the dome Geloftedag-1-.JPG
Looking downwards from the dome

The architect, Gerard Moerdijk, stated that the purpose of a building had to be clearly visible. [5] :133 The aspect of the sun at mid-noon in Africa, was during Nefertiti's time known as Aten. In Egyptian hieroglyphics, Aten was written as a sun dot enclosed by a circle.

The Aten-hieroglyph is depicted in the Voortrekker Monument when the sun shines through an aperture in the top dome.

Likewise, looking downwards from the top dome walkway, the round floor opening is seen to encircle the sun disc illumination.

Moerdijk's message as implied by the wall frieze: by exodus out of the British Cape Colony, God created a new civilization inland.

In order to give thanks to this new creation of civilization, Moerdijk, recalling Abraham of old, outwardly designed the Voortrekker Monument as an altar. [5] :130

Monument complex

In the years following its construction, the monument complex was expanded several times and now includes:

See also

Related Research Articles

Aten ancient Egyptian god

Aten was the focus of Atenism, the religious system established in ancient Egypt by the Eighteenth Dynasty pharaoh Akhenaten. The Aten was the disc of the sun and originally an aspect of Ra, the sun god in traditional ancient Egyptian religion, but Akhenaten made it the sole focus of official worship during his reign.

Amarna Egyptian archaeological site

Amarna is an extensive Egyptian archaeological site that represents the remains of the capital city newly established and built by the Pharaoh Akhenaten of the late Eighteenth Dynasty, and abandoned shortly after his death. The name for the city employed by the ancient Egyptians is written as Akhetaten in English transliteration. Akhetaten means "Horizon of the Aten".

Akhenaten 18th Dynasty pharaoh

Akhenaten, known before the fifth year of his reign as Amenhotep IV, was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty, who ruled for 17 years and died perhaps in 1336 BC or 1334 BC. He is noted for abandoning traditional Egyptian polytheism and introducing worship centered on the Aten, which is sometimes described as monolatristic, henotheistic, or even quasi-monotheistic. An early inscription likens the Aten to the sun as compared to stars, and later official language avoids calling the Aten a god, giving the solar deity a status above mere gods.

Nefertiti Egyptian queen and Great Royal Wife (chief consort) of Akhenaten, an Egyptian Pharaoh

Neferneferuaten Nefertiti was an Egyptian queen and the Great Royal Wife of Akhenaten, an Egyptian Pharaoh. Nefertiti and her husband were known for a religious revolution, in which they worshipped one god only, Aten, or the sun disc. With her husband, she reigned at what was arguably the wealthiest period of Ancient Egyptian history. Some scholars believe that Nefertiti ruled briefly as Neferneferuaten after her husband's death and before the accession of Tutankhamun, although this identification is a matter of ongoing debate. If Nefertiti did rule as Pharaoh, her reign was marked by the fall of Amarna and relocation of the capital back to the traditional city of Thebes.

Cenotaph "Empty tomb" or monument erected in honor of a person whose remains are elsewhere

A cenotaph is an empty tomb or a monument erected in honour of a person or group of people whose remains are elsewhere. It can also be the initial tomb for a person who has since been reinterred elsewhere. Although the vast majority of cenotaphs honour individuals, many noted cenotaphs are instead dedicated to the memories of groups of individuals, such as the lost soldiers of a country or of an empire.

Meritaten Great Royal Wife, Kings Daughter

Meritaten, also spelled Merytaten or Meryetaten, was an ancient Egyptian royal woman of the Eighteenth dynasty. Her name means "She who is beloved of Aten"; Aten being the sun-deity whom her father, Pharaoh Akhenaten, worshipped. She held several titles, performing official roles for her father and becoming the Great Royal Wife to Pharaoh Smenkhkare, who may have been a brother or son of Akhenaten. Meritaten also may have served as pharaoh in her own right under the name, Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten.

Atenism Monotheistic religion from ancient egypt

Atenism, or the "Amarna heresy", refers to the religious changes associated with the eighteenth dynasty Pharaoh Amenhotep IV, better known under his adopted name, Akhenaten. In the 14th century BC, Atenism was Egypt's state religion for around 20 years, before subsequent rulers returned to the traditional gods and the Pharaohs associated with Atenism were erased from Egyptian records.

The Amarna Period was an era of Egyptian history during the later half of the Eighteenth Dynasty when the royal residence of the pharaoh and his queen was shifted to Akhetaten in what is now Amarna. It was marked by the reign of Amenhotep IV, who changed his name to Akhenaten in order to reflect the dramatic change of Egypt's polytheistic religion into one where the sun disc Aten was worshipped over all other gods. Aten was not solely worshipped, but the other gods were worshipped to a significantly lesser degree. The Egyptian pantheon of the equality of all gods and goddesses was restored under Akhenaten's successor, Tutankhamun.

The Temple of Amenhotep IV was an ancient monument at Karnak in Luxor, Egypt. The structures were used during the New Kingdom, in the first four years of the 18th dynasty reign of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten, when he still used the name Amenhotep IV. The edifices may have been constructed at the end of the reign of his father, Amenhotep III, and completed by Akhenaten.

Panehesy Ancient Egyptian noble

The Egyptian noble Panehesy was the 'Chief servitor of the Aten in the temple of Aten in Akhetaten'.

Amarna art

Amarna art, or the Amarna style, is a style adopted in the Amarna Period during and just after the reign of Akhenaten in the late Eighteenth Dynasty, during the New Kingdom. Whereas Ancient Egyptian art was famously slow to alter, the Amarna style was a significant and sudden break from its predecessor, which was restored after Akhenaten's death. It is characterized by a sense of movement and activity in images, with figures having raised heads, many figures overlapping and many scenes busy and crowded. The human body is portrayed differently; figures, always shown in profile on reliefs, are slender, swaying, with exaggerated extremities. In particular, depictions of Akhenaten give him distinctly feminine qualities such as large hips, prominent breasts, and a larger stomach and thighs. Other pieces, such as the most famous of all Amarna works, the Nefertiti Bust in Berlin, show much less pronounced features of the style.

Meketaten Ancient Egyptian princess

Meketaten was the second daughter of six born to the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten and his Great Royal Wife Nefertiti. She was probably born in year 4 of Akhenaten's reign. Although little is known about her, she is frequently depicted with her sisters accompanying her royal parents in the first two thirds of Akhenaten's reign.

Anton van Wouw Dutch sculptor

Anton van Wouw was a Dutch-born sculptor regarded as the father of South African sculpture.

The Great Temple of the Aten was a temple located in the city of el-Amarna, Egypt. It served as the main place of worship of the deity Aten during the reign of the 18th dynasty Pharaoh Akhenaten. Akhenaten ushered in a unique period of ancient Egyptian history by establishing the new religious cult dedicated to the sun-disk Aten. The king shut down traditional worship of other deities like Amun-Ra, and brought in a new era, though short-lived, of seeming monotheism where the Aten was worshipped as a sun god and Akhenaten and his wife, Nefertiti, represented the divinely royal couple that connected the people with the god. Although he began construction at Karnak during his rule, the association the city had with other gods drove Akhenaten to establish a new city and capital at Amarna for the Aten. Akhenaten built the city along the east bank of the Nile River, setting up workshops, palaces, suburbs and temples. The Great Temple of the Aten was located just north of the Central City and, as the largest temple dedicated to the Aten, was where Akhenaten fully established the proper cult and worship of the sun-disk.

Gerard Moerdijk South African architect of Dutch descent

Gerard Leendert Pieter Moerdijk, also known as Gerard Moerdyk, was a South African architect best known for designing the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria.

Neferneferuaten Tasherit Ancient Egyptian princess

Neferneferuaten Tasherit or Neferneferuaten the younger was an Ancient Egyptian princess of the 18th dynasty and the fourth daughter of Pharaoh Akhenaten and his Great Royal Wife Nefertiti.

The Tomb of Meryra is part of a group of tombs located near Amarna, Upper Egypt. Placed in the mountainsides, the graves are divided into north and south groupings; the northern tombs are located in the hillsides and the southern on the plains. Meryra's burial, identified as Amarna Tomb 4 is located in the northern cluster. The sepulchre is the largest and most elaborate of the noble tombs of Amarna. It, along with the majority of these tombs, was never completed. The rock cut tombs of Amarna were constructed specifically for the officials of King Akhenaten. Norman de Garis Davies originally published details of the Tomb in 1903 in the Rock Tombs of El Amarna, Part I – The Tomb of Meryra. The tomb dates back to the 18th Egyptian Dynasty.

Bek (sculptor) Ancient Egyptian sculptor

Bek or Bak was the first chief royal sculptor during the reign of Pharaoh Akhenaten. His father Men held the same position under Akhenaten's father Amenhotep III; his mother Roi was a woman from Heliopolis.

The Amarna period includes the reigns of Akhenaten, Smenkhkare, Tutankhamun and Ay Ay. The period is named after the capital city established by Akhenaten, son of Amenhotep III. Akhenaten started his reign as Amenhotep IV, but changed his name when he discarded all other religions and declared the Aten or sun disc as the only god. He closed all the temples of the other Gods and removed their names from the monuments. Smenkhkare, then Tutankhamun, succeeded Akhenaten. Discarding Akhentenn's religion believes, Tutankhamun returned to the traditional gods. He died young and was succeeded by Ay. Many kings did their best to remove all traces of the period from the records. The art of the Amarna period is very distinctive. The royal family was portrayed with extended heads, long necks and narrow chests. They had skinny limbs, but heavy hips and thighs, with a marked stomach.

Statue of Paul Kruger, Church Square

The Statue of Paul Kruger is a bronze sculpture located in Church Square in Pretoria, South Africa. The statue depicts Paul Kruger, the Boer political and military leader and President of the South African Republic from 1883 to 1900, and four unnamed Boer soldiers. The Statue of Paul Kruger was sculpted in 1896 and was installed in its current location in Church Square in 1954.

References

  1. "Press release: Voortrekker Monument Declared a National Heritage on 16 desember 1998 Site" (PDF). South African Heritage Resource Agency . Retrieved 27 November 2011.
  2. Walkowitz, edited by Daniel J.; Knauer, Lisa Maya (2009). "A Cultural Conundrum?". Contested histories in public space : memory, race, and nation. Durham, [NC]: Duke University Press. p. 159. ISBN   0-8223-4236-7.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  3. Brockman, Norbert C. (13 September 2011). Encyclopedia of Sacred Places, 2nd Edition [2 volumes]. ABC-CLIO. ISBN   9781598846553.
  4. 1 2 Steenkamp, Alta (2009). "A shared spatial symbolism: the Voortrekker Monument, the Völkerslachtdenkmal and Freemasonry" (pdf). South African Journal of Art History (SAJAH). Cape Town: University of Pretoria. 24 (1): 150–160. ISSN   0258-3542 . Retrieved 7 January 2015.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Vermeulen, Irma (1999). Man En Monument: Die Lewe En Werk Van Gerard Moerdijk (in Afrikaans). J.L. van Schaik. ISBN   0-627-02446-7.
  6. 1 2 Official Opening Program of the Voortrekker Monument 1949
  7. Heidelberg Catechism
  8. Journal Title: Southern African Humanities Volume 13, Publication Date: 2001, Pages: 139 - 154, Authors: Sabine Marschall, ISSN   1681-5564
  9. SECOND GERARD MOERDYK-GEDENKLESING 2005, 'N EGTE LUGKASTEEL: MOERDIJK, VAN WOUW EN DIE VOORTREKKERMONUMENT, prof. Alex Duffey of the University of Pretoria