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The Prester John Memorial can be found behind the City Hall in Vuyisile Mini Square, opposite to the old post office in Court Street.

Bartolomeu Dias was on a mission to find Prester John and his world, to garner knowledge of the trade route to India when he came across the land that is now South Africa and named it the Cape of Storms. This fact was the reason why a memorial was erected in Prester John's name and as a dedication to the Portuguese navigators who were the first Europeans to land in South Africa.This memorial is the only one dedicated to Prester John in the whole world.

Prester John

The true story of Prester John is more mystery and folklore than hard fact as there is not much in the history books to go by. He is said to have been a descendant of the 3 Magi and an Ethiopian King–priest or a high born Mongol of the Genghis Kahn era. It was believed that he was a king of a very rich land with strange creatures.

Another story tells of Prester John being the curator of the Holy Grail and was believed to symbolise the Universal Christian, who was beyond geography or culture

The Monument

The memorial consists of a large bronze Coptic cross with a circle in the middle that contains the figures of two men, one in modern attire depicting an unnamed Portuguese explorer and one with middle eastern clothes depicting the mythical Christian patriarch, Prester John holding a Coptic cross. The monument was paid for by a local philanthropist whose name is not known. The cross is positioned on a marble plinth and has various colourful symbols on it, namely:

  • Coptic cross motif
  • Elephants and rhinos
  • Lions of Juda
  • Navigational sailing instruments
  • Portuguese royal coat-of arms
  • Portuguese sailing ship

Attractions Nearby


1486: 10 October King John ll sent the explorer Bartolomeu Dias to sail around the Southern tip of Africa

in a quest to find Prester John who was believed to be located in the Indies.

1487: Bartolomeu Dias departed on his quest

1986: Unveiling of the memorial, Port Elizabeth.

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