Johan Anthoniszoon van
Riebeeck was born
21 April 1619, in Culemborg,
in the Netherlands.
He was the son of a surgeon.
Jan van Riebeeck grew up in
where he married
Maria de la Quellerie,
28 March 1649.
Jan and Maria van Riebeeck
had 8 children.
One of their sons, Abraham van Riebeeck, who was born in Cape
Town, later became Governor General of the Dutch East Indies.
At age 20, Jan van Riebeeck joined the Vereenigde Oost–Indische
Compajnie (VOC). He served as a surgeon in Batavia in the East Indies.
He was also the head of the VOC Trading Post in Tonkin, of what is today
Vietnam. In 1643, he served at De Jime in Japan.
Vision Leads to Volunteering
Jan van Riebeeck proposed the selling of animal hides from South
Africa to Japan.
In 1651, he volunteered to
establish a Dutch settlement at
what became known as Cape
He landed three ships, the Dromedaris, Reijger and Goedehoop
in Table Bay
and built the Fort of Good Hope as a half-way-house supply station for
VOC vessels travelling between Europe and the East Indies.
PRAYER for AFRICA by JAN VAN RIEBEECK
upon landing in Table Bay 6 April 1652:
"O Gracious and Most Merciful God and Heavenly Father,
in Your Divine Majesty You have Saved us
and called us to guide the affairs of the Dutch East India Company
in this place, and to this end we are gathered here together
in Your Name. May the decisions we take further maintain justice and,
among these wild and uncivilised people,
may Your true and perfect Christian teachings
be established and spread,
to the honour and praise of Your Holy Name
and the prosperity of our God Almighty,
without whose merciful help we are powerless.
Therefore we pray to You, Most Merciful Father,
and ask that You will stand by and support us with your Fatherly
wisdom and understanding and preside over our gatherings;
lift our hearts that all wrong passions, misunderstanding and bestial
lusts be removed from us and cleanse our hearts;
and so fix our minds that in our actions no other principles or motives
are apparent other than the magnification and honour of Your most
Holy Name so that we may best serve our Lord and Master,
without in any way acting for our own advantage
or taking into account personal gain,
to which end we will carry out our orders
and so earn a worthy blessing.
We pray and ask this in the Name of Your Beloved Son,
our Master and Saviour Jesus Christ,
who taught us to pray…
'Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name…'"
The outpost established in Table Bay by Jan van Riebeeck initially
consisted of just 82 men and 8 women. During the first winter at the
Cape, 19 people died in the harsh environment..
Within a few months of arriving in the Cape, the Dutch Republic and
England became engaged in a Naval war (10 July 1652 - 5 April 1654).
The completion of a fort became urgent.
Fort De Goede Hoop was hastily built of mud, clay and timber
in the middle of what is today, Adderley Street
For 10 years Jan van Riebeeck
served as commander of the
Cape (1652-1662). He planted
vegetable and fruit gardens
and imported livestock to
provide fresh stocks of fruit,
vegetables, meat and milk to
vessels passing the Cape.
Many of the innovations of Jan van Riebeeck changed the natural
environment of the Cape forever, including importing grapes, cereals,
groundnuts, potatoes, apples and citrus trees.
In Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, one can still see some of
the wild almond trees that he planted.
His diary showed a keen eye for the environment, natural resources
and an understanding of the culture of the Bushmen hunters and
Hottentot (Khoi Khoi) herdsmen in the area.
On 17 December 1652, Jan van Riebeeck reported the first comet
sighting from South Africa.
Shortly after being relocated to
the Dutch East Indies,
his wife, Maria,
died in Malacca,
now part of Malaysia,
2 November 1664.
She was only 35 years old.
Jan van Riebeeck died in 1677
(what is now called Jakarta),
on the Island of Java.
Father of the Nation
For many years, Jan van Riebeeck was recognised as the father of the
His image appeared on the stamps and currency from the 1940s
The Coat of Arms of
the City of Cape
Town is based on
the Van Riebeeck
family coat of arms.
Towns such as Riebeek-Kasteel and Riebeek-West
and schools such as Hoërskool Jan van Riebeeck
are also named after this founding father of South Africa.
At the tercentenary
of the arrival of
Jan van Riebeeck,
Van Riebeeck Day was
declared a public holiday,
6 April 1952.
Later it was renamed Founders Day. 6 April, the date he landed in
Table Bay, was observed as a national holiday until 1994.
The wife of the governor,
Maria de la Quellerie, is
the first French Huguenot
to have moved to South
Born the daughter of Abraham
de la Quellerie and Maria du
Bois, Maria was described as
energetic, a thoughtful
hostess, gifted and diplomatic,
she was well respected and
liked in the colony.
There is a statue of Maria van
Riebeeck at the Foreshore on
Adderley Street in Cape Town.
The South African Navy also named one of their submarines, the SAS
Maria van Riebeeck in honour of her, as the mother of the nation.
Dr. Peter Hammond
P.O. Box 74
Cape Town, South Africa
Tel: (021) 689-4480
Fax: (021) 685-5884