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

Food
When to visit
How to get here

Related articles

Vibrant culture

South Africa’s most famous battle sites

Vibrant culture
South Africa’s most famous battle sites

South African society is a fascinating blend of many and varied cultural groups that rub along together in a manner that is, for the most part, peaceful and happy. A historical tour of famous battle sites will bring home to you just how remarkable this is.

Vibrant culture

A glimpse into Durban’s Indian culture

Vibrant culture
A glimpse into Durban’s Indian culture

the Durban skyline becomes visible on the horizon, one can almost hear the beat of the African drum and Indian drum beating in unison in welcome, and my tummy grumbles at the thought of relishing some aromatic Durban curry and shisa nyama (traditional barbequed meat).

Vibrant culture

The must-visit restaurants in Durban

Vibrant culture
The must-visit restaurants in Durban

The must-visit restaurants in Durban.

Vibrant culture

The Cradle of Humankind: the world’s richest hominim site

Vibrant culture
The Cradle of Humankind: the world’s richest hominim site

The Cradle, so named because it was the earliest area in which evidence of our ape-like ancestors were discovered, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999

Vibrant culture

Cape Town’s iconic historical buildings

Vibrant culture
Cape Town’s iconic historical buildings

Cape Town is South Africa’s oldest city, but its encircling mountains, Devil’s Peak, Table Mountain and Lion’s Head, have witnessed a longer history than that described by its surviving historic buildings.

Vibrant culture

All you need to know about Durban Indian cuisine

Vibrant culture
All you need to know about Durban Indian cuisine

All you need to know about Durban Indian cuisine

Vibrant culture

The rich and diverse Afrikaans culture

Vibrant culture
The rich and diverse Afrikaans culture

The Afrikaans culture is as rich and diverse as the South African landscape.

Vibrant culture

The alluring history of Bloemfontein

Vibrant culture
The alluring history of Bloemfontein

As a visitor to the City of Roses, founded in 1846, and in the heart of central South Africa, you’ll have a wide variety of places to visit.

South Africa on social media

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