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SSouth Africa has a long and varied history that is visible in its many historical attractions. One of these places is Church Square in Pretoria. The Square is surrounded on all sides by some of the most beautiful architecture in the city. Three sides are bordered by impressive buildings, namely the Palace of Justice, the Ou Raadsaal (Council Hall) and the General Post Office.
Other buildings include the Tudor Chambers and the Netherlands Bank. All of these are not only a delight for anyone interested in architecture, but also have their own stories to tell for those interested in our country’s history.
CChurch Square was also the location for the Rivonia Treason Trial, which took place at the Palace of Justice. At the beginning of the trial Mandela made a famous three-hour speech explaining and justifying the actions of the ANC. Speaking from the dock, he said: “During my lifetime I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But, my Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
CChurch Square was so named for the church that originally inhabited the very middle of the square. The first church was built in 1855, but replaced by a larger building to hold the growing religious population of the town. The larger Cape Dutch-style building burnt down in 1882 and was then replaced by a Gothic-style church with soaring steeples and sharp roofs. This, in turn, was demolished in 1904 just after Paul Kruger’s funeral was held there.
The centre of the Square was marked by a large and ornate fountain, which consisted of pillars and various sculptures. The fountain was moved in its entirety to the Pretoria Zoo, where it still stands. Today one can find a statue of the Old Lion, Paul Kruger, complete with his trademark hat and stick.
Despite its long and varied history, the Square still remains a gathering place for people and on any given day you can find students, office workers and tourists sitting on the benches in the shade, chatting, or simply taking in the atmosphere.