Gernikako Arbola (the Tree of Gernika) is an oak tree that symbolizes traditional freedoms for the Biscayan people, and by extension for the Basque people as a whole. The Lords of Biscay swore to respect the Biscayan liberties under it, and the modern Lehendakari of the Basque Country swears his charge there.
In the Middle Ages, representatives of the villages of Biscay would hold assemblies under local big trees. As time passed, the role of separate assemblies was superseded by the Guernica Assembly in 1512, and its oak would acquire a symbolic meaning, with actual assemblies being held in a purpose-built hermitage-house (the current building dates from 1833). It was the Spanish regent Maria Christina accompanied by her infant daughter Queen Isabella II the last Spanish monarch to swear an oath to the charters under the iconic oak in 1839.
'the father', planted in the 14th century, lasted 450 years the 'old tree' (1742–1892), re-planted in 1811. The trunk now is held in a templet in the surrounding garden.the third (1858–2004), re-planted in 1860, survived the Bombing of Guernica in 1937 but had to be replaced because of a fungus. The gardeners of the Biscayan government keep several spare trees grown from the tree's acorns.the fourth (1986–2015) was replanted on the site of its father on 25 February 2005. It died of a humidity related disease on 15 January 2015. The fifth was planted in March 2015, aged 14.
The Tree of Gernika came to prominence during the First and Third Carlist Wars as a symbol of Basque liberties, whose renown and appreciation spread among the Basque diaspora world over during the late 19th century and mid-20th century thanks to the popularity of Jose Maria Iparragirre's namesake anthem. The tree's significance is illustrated by an event which occurred shortly after the Guernica bombings. When the Francoist troops took the town, the Tercio of Begoña, formed by Carlist volunteers from Biscay, put an armed guard around the tree to protect it against the Falangists, who had wanted to fell this symbol of Basque nationalism.
An oak tree is depicted on the heraldic arms of Biscay and subsequently on the arms of many of the towns of Biscay. An oak leaf logo is used by the local government of Biscay. The logo of the Basque nationalist party Eusko Alkartasuna has one half red and the other green, the colors of the Basque flag. An old version of the logo of the Basque nationalist youth organisation Jarrai also display oak leaves. The Basque authorities present descendants of the tree as a symbol of friendship to Basque diaspora groups and related cities.References:
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).