About Martyr's Cross

The colonisation of South Africa was by no means a smooth or easy process. It was tragic, violent and sometimes unnecessary. Still, after death, mutiny, betrayal and slaughter, we are left with a country that is vibrant, colourful and bursting at the seams with culture and heritage. Touring the battlefields, delving into the history of the towns and meeting the folk that can share insights into the South Africa of yesteryear is a very special experience that resonates with young and old, leaving lasting impressions.

Did you know? Martyr’s Cross stands high on Mpondweni Hill outside Eshowe and offers spectacular views of Mlalazi River valley and the coastal plain.

Eshowe is the oldest town in Zululand, KwaZulu-Natal, and, as such, has loads of character and history. It is equipped with two malls and a number of other amenities. Still, it remains small, not overrun with commerce and development. This is home to Martyr’s Cross, which stands proudly on Mpodweni Hill, overlooking some of the magnificent mountains and valleys for which this part of South Africa is known and loved.

Martyr’s Cross is a monument that was erected in memory of the first Christian martyr in Zululand, Maqhamusela Khanyile. In the latter half of the 1800’s, soldiers were not permitted to become baptised Christians, as they were then presumed to pay loyalties to their beliefs, and not to the Zulu king. However, Maqhamusela Khanyile was prepared to die for his determination to dedicate his life to Christianity and to refuse to serve in the army of King Cetshwayo. And die he did. After one misfire, the weapon let off a single shot, and the countryside fell silent. He was put to death near the Norwegian Mission Station on top of Mpodweni Hill in 1877.

The story of the faith and courage of Maqhamusela Khanyile was carried down through the generations, inspiring young and old alike to pursue their commitment to what really matters to them. In 1937, a concrete cross was erected on the hill to honour Khanyile. Some 14 years later, it was replaced by a cross of steel. Then, in 2007, the granite monument that still stands today was unveiled in a ceremony to honour, not only Maqhamusela Khanyile, but all of those men and women who died martyrs’ deaths. It is illuminated at night, giving it a drama that is quite unlike the death that he suffered.

Eshowe is home to a number of other historical attractions for those that are interested in what lies beneath the surface of the beautiful countryside. Pay a visit to Fort Nongqwayi (built by the British), and the neighbouring Basketry Museum. This Basketry Museum is, in turn, part of the Vukani Zulu Cultural Museum, which showcases the arts and crafts of the local Zulu culture.

This region is also laden with exquisite fauna and flora, and a number of conservation areas are contained within the borders of Zululand in an effort to educate, exhibit and protect these treasures. These conservation hotspots include the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park, Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve, Itala Game Reserve, and Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Area.

Need to Know

WhereMartyr's Cross, Mpodweni Hill, Eshowe, Zululand, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

WhenBest during daylight hours

OvernightStay in Eshowe Accommodation, KwaZulu Natal

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