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Church of the Vow

Church of the Vow


Before the Battle of Bloodriver/Ncome, the Voortrekker men, led by Andries Pretorius and Sarel Cilliers, decided to make a vow to God that they would build a church in His honour, should they win the battle. They were successful in defending themselves, and staved off the Zulu attack. As soon as they settled Pietermaritzburg in 1839, funds were collected to start constructing a little church. It was completed early in 1841, and consecrated in April 1841- the first church-building north of the Orange river.

The congregation grew fast, and by 1855 the church was too small to accommodate all its members. It was therefore decided that a new church would be built on a neighbouring site. This building was completed, and ready to be consecrated on 7 April 1861. The new church, known as the ‘Tower church’, was used until June 1955.

After 1861, the original building was used as a school for a while, and the caretaker, Mostert, was also given permission to run a bookstore from there. Because it was a heavy financial burden, the church council decided in 1863 to sell the little church-building to ‘Vicar Brayhirst’ for ₤840. The buyer had to agree that the building would never be utilised, without the consent of the full church council, as a hotel or canteen of any description. By 1865, however, Vicar Brayhirst was declared bancrupt and the building reclaimed. It was thereafter leased to the government again to be used as a school. This agreement was in place until 1873.

In 1873 the church was sold for the second time, this time to the wagonmaking firm of D.Whitelaw. The purchase price was only ₤700. During the period 1873 to 1910, the building was utilised as a smith’s workshop, mineral water factory, pharmacy and a tearoom.

The Church of the Vow became a museum on 16 December 1912, and was handed over to the Union Government for safekeeping. In 1938 it was declared a National Monument.


The statue of Piet Retief, created by welknown sculptor Coert Steynberg, was revealed on 6 April 1962, at a ceremony that was also the consecration of the Voortrekker Memorial Church.

Sculptor Jo Roos was the creator of the Gert Maritz-statue, which was revealed on 16 December 1970.