Choose your country and language:

Africa

  • Global
  • Angola
  • Botswana
  • DRC
  • Ethiopia
  • Ghana
  • Kenya
  • Malawi
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Nigeria
  • South Africa
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

Americas

  • USA
  • Argentina
  • Brazil

Asia Pacific

  • China
  • India
  • Japan
  • South Korea
  • Australia

Europe

  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Netherlands
  • United Kingdom
Back

HHistory and culture in Pretoria have shaped a lot about the character of this city. Once the capital of the old independent Transvaal Boere Republic, the new democratic Pretoria lies in Gauteng province, as part of the Tshwane municipality, and is the administrative and diplomatic hub of the country.

Given its often turbulent past, it’s no surprise that landmarks of these moments are everywhere. To the south, the Voortrekker monument watches over the diverse population in constant flux, while a leisurely stroll around the city centre takes discerning visitors to a line of grand and historic buildings that will be familiar to a European set of eyes.

YYou can’t help but be absorbed into this history as you peruse Die Raadsaal (the parliament buildings of the former Boer Republic), the Palace of Justice (used as a military hospital until 1902) and Paul Kruger Street Synagogue, commonly known as the Old Synagogue.

Designed to resemble the architectural traditions of the Eastern Roman Empire in 1897, the Old Synagogue was the first Jewish house of worship to be consecrated in Pretoria.

For more than 50 years, the ornate synagogue was characterised by its sandstone plinth, coloured brickwork, as well as its stained glass and top, hung windows - until the Department of Public Works (DPW) expropriated the building in 1952. In an effort to address the unwavering resistance against the government, the DPW transformed the synagogue into a Supreme Court complex – which allowed for relatively large numbers and effective crowd dispersal. Pretoria was a remote city that was inconvenient to Johannesburg, and certainly to the black townships where many of the accused and their supporters lived. However, that did little to deter the deluge of supporters who thronged the streets outside the courtroom and disrupted the legal proceedings with songs of protest.

It was in this remodelled edifice – furnished with a dock, tables, chairs and public pews all bearing a civil service number – where leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) were tried for acts of sabotage designed to overthrow the apartheid government during the Treason Trial.

AAmong them were Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu who, in 1958, spent copious amounts of time locked in the newly-added holding cells built outside the main synagogue – which was repainted in a cream colour to add to its political significance. Despite all the changes and additions that were made to the synagogue, it was still ghosted by its former function as a religious space.

Unintended and unanticipated by the state, one of the witnesses in the Treason Trial, M.Mkalipe, brought his Bible into the witness box. To the surprise of the judges, who were seated where the rabbi often stood alone, he read a few verses from the book of Daniel to his assembled ‘congregation’. He did this to deliberately invoke the rich history of the Old Synagogue – once a religious space distinct from the Calvinist Dutch Reformed roots of the National Party apartheid regime.

The Old Synagogue

Related articles

A commemoration of a bold life – The Luthuli Museum

Vibrant culture
A commemoration of a bold life – The Luthuli Museum

Albert Luthuli was the first African to receive a Nobel peace Prize. The Luthuli museum commemorates his life and achievements.

Pollsmoor Prison - ‘A tent of blue which prisoners call the sky’

Vibrant culture
Pollsmoor Prison - ‘A tent of blue which prisoners call the sky’

The Iziko Slave Lodge tells a story of slaves who were captured in South East Asia and brought to the Cape by the Dutch East India Company.

The Iziko Slave Lodge sheds light on the history of slavery in South Africa

Vibrant culture
The Iziko Slave Lodge sheds light on the history of slavery in South Africa

The Iziko Slave Lodge tells a story of slaves who were captured in South East Asia and brought to the Cape by the Dutch East India Company.

Nelson Mandela’s African journey

Vibrant culture
Nelson Mandela’s African journey

As he made his way through Tanzania for the first time since 1962, he arrived in the city of Mbeya. This was a cathartic moment for Mandela, marking the first time he had truly felt free. In Long Walk to Freedom, he wrote, “I then truly realised that I was in a country ruled by Africans. For the first time in my life, I was a free man … I felt the burden of oppression lifting from my shoulders … I was being judged for the first time not by the colour of my skin but by the measure of my mind and character.”

The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory – the legacy lives on

Vibrant culture
The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory – the legacy lives on

The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory is committed to preserving the work of the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Mandela Museum in Qunu and Mthatha

Vibrant culture
Mandela Museum in Qunu and Mthatha

Walking in the footsteps of a great man - a remarkable museum dedicated to Madiba

Mandela Day Marathon - Run for Unity

Vibrant culture
Mandela Day Marathon - Run for Unity

Run for unity at the Mandela Day Marathon and enjoy the beautiful KZN Midlands scenery.

Pretoria Central Prison bears testament to South Africa’s turbulent past

Vibrant culture
Pretoria Central Prison bears testament to South Africa’s turbulent past

Pretoria Central Prison is arguably the most infamous prison where Mandela was held before he was transferred to Robben Island.

Footsteps to Freedom - Discover the heart of Cape Town with a walking tour

Vibrant culture
Footsteps to Freedom - Discover the heart of Cape Town with a walking tour

Footsteps to Freedom will take you on a walking tour of all the great struggle sites in Cape Town.

Bishopscourt - A piece of heaven

Vibrant culture
Bishopscourt - A piece of heaven

Bishopscourt is a spellbinding residential suburb that boasts a rich history, lush valleys, oak-lined trees and pristine homes.

Rhythm and blues at The Market Theatre

Vibrant culture
Rhythm and blues at The Market Theatre

The Market Theatre has played and continues to play a pivotal role in South Africa’s story.

UNISA - A university with a storied past

Vibrant culture
UNISA - A university with a storied past

UNISA is one of the biggest and oldest universities in South Africa with over 300 000 students and 4000 teaching staff.

Ohlange Institute - Walk a heritage trail like no other to the Ohlange Institute

Vibrant culture
Ohlange Institute - Walk a heritage trail like no other to the Ohlange Institute

Visit the Ohlange Institute in Inanda - KwaZulu-Natal - where Nelson Mandela cast his first vote, and tap into critical South African history.

FNB stadium - Step into the “calabash” - one of Africa’s biggest stadiums

Vibrant culture
FNB stadium - Step into the “calabash” - one of Africa’s biggest stadiums

The FNB Stadium continues to be the preferred platform of choice for the Soweto Derby featuring Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates.

Mandela House Museum - Small and modest yet so powerful and strong

Vibrant culture
Mandela House Museum - Small and modest yet so powerful and strong

The Mandela House in Vilakazi Street, Soweto, is now a small but interesting museum where you can learn more about Nelson Mandela's life.

Groote Schuur Building - The house where South Africa’s freedom was born

Vibrant culture
Groote Schuur Building - The house where South Africa’s freedom was born

The old official residence of the president of South Africa, Groote Schuur, is the very place where the country’s bright, new future first came into being.

St Mary’s Cathedral - Once a faithful bulwark against the forces of apartheid

Vibrant culture
St Mary’s Cathedral - Once a faithful bulwark against the forces of apartheid

St Mary’s Cathedral in Johannesburg is significant in taking a firm stand against apartheid.

House of Dr. A.B. Xuma in Sophiatown - If walls could speak: The fascinating stories inside Dr. A.B. Xuma’s home

Vibrant culture
House of Dr. A.B. Xuma in Sophiatown - If walls could speak: The fascinating stories inside Dr. A.B. Xuma’s home

Dr. A.B. Xuma’s house in Sophiatown tells the story of a way of life during apartheid.

Emirates Airline Park - How Emirates Airline Park played host to SA’s post-apartheid reconciliation

Vibrant culture
Emirates Airline Park - How Emirates Airline Park played host to SA’s post-apartheid reconciliation

Emirates Airline Park played a significant role in South African sporting history, after hosting the 1995 Rugby World Cup final.

Naval Hill - Relish in Naval Hill’s beauty

Vibrant culture
Naval Hill - Relish in Naval Hill’s beauty

Visit Naval Hill in Bloemfontein and enjoy its views and rich history.

Nelson Mandela stands tall in Hammanskraal

Vibrant culture
Nelson Mandela stands tall in Hammanskraal

Take a trip through Madibaville and experience the Madiba fever for yourself.

Kholvad House - A landmark of the South African liberation struggle

Vibrant culture
Kholvad House - A landmark of the South African liberation struggle

Flat 13 Kholvad House remains one of Johannesburg’s most treasured heritage gems.

Mandela Rhodes Building - Grand old lady in the heart of Cape Town City

Vibrant culture
Mandela Rhodes Building - Grand old lady in the heart of Cape Town City

The Mandela Rhodes Building was built in 1903 and now houses the headquarters for the Mandela Rhodes Foundation.

South Africa on social media

Copyright © 2018 South African Tourism
| Terms and conditions | Disclaimer | Privacy policy