(Church of the Vow) – Church Street – When the Voortrekkers entered Natal from the Orange Free State in the beginning of 1837, they suffered dreadful disasters at the hand of the Zulu. Piet Retief and his followers were murdered at uMgungundlovu. Potgieter was defeated at eTaleni where Piet Uys was killed. Determined to put and end to this state of affairs the voortrekkers advanced against the Zulu in December 1838.
From a military point of view the advance was perfectly ‘Planned and organised. Steeped as they were in the Christian religion, the Voortrekkers believed that their success depended above all on the will of God. At the instigation of Pretorius and Sarel Cilliers the commando took a solemn vow that if they were victorious, they would observe the day of the victory as a Sabbath and day of thanksgiving. After their victory on 16 December 1838, the Voortrekkers honoured this and decided that the Church of their Vow should be built in Pietermaritzburg, as it had become the capital of the Republic of Natalia.
The Church of the Vow gradually became too small and in 1861 a new church was inaugurated. The old church was let as a school, blacksmith’s shop, mineral water factory, and chemist’s shop and as a tea- room. It was decided to restore the building and use it as a museum. Graceful Cape-Dutch gables replaced the original simple ones and eventually a front porch was added. This remarkable little building houses a unique collection of Voortrekker relics.
The Pulpit of the Church of the Vow
The Church of the Vow has a fine pulpit that was made from various local timbers and which has been in use since 1840. When the present memorial church was built, the old pulpit was transferred to its original home and it is one of the museum’s most important exhibits.