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A French Huguenot memorial in the Karoo

French Huguenot Monument in Graaff-Reinet

When you think of the French Huguenots you automatically think of Franschhoek surrounded by mountains, greenery, and vineyards. And wine, let’s not forget the wine. So try and imagine then a memorial to the French Huguenots in the Karoo Heartland town of Graaff-Reinet.

French Huguenot Monument in Graaff-Reinet

On 31 December 1687 the first group of Huguenots set sail from France as part of a large-scale emigration of Huguenots to the Cape of Good Hope due to religious persecution. About 350 Huguenots eventually settled at the Cape of Good Hope. The Huguenots were settled in the Oliphantshoek Valley and established farms and businesses, bringing with them their French culture and experience in agriculture. The name of the area soon changed to le Coin Français (“the French Corner”), and later to Franschhoek (Dutch for “French Corner”), with many of the settlers naming their new farms after the areas in France from which they came.

In 1988 South Africa celebrated the 300th anniversary of the arrival of the French Huguenots in the country. To mark this occasion a small monument in the form of a pyramid was erected in Church Square in Graaff-Reinet. The monument stands on the corner of Church and Noord Street behind the Town Hall and displays some of the surnames of the Huguenots that came to South Africa in 1688.

It’s actually amazing how different and non-descript it is when compared to the Huguenot Monument that stands in Franschhoek.