Gernikako Arbola

Gernika-Lumo, Spain

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 As time passed, the role of separate assemblies was superseded by the Guernica Assembly in 1512, and its oak would acquire a symbolic meaning, with actual assemblies being held in a purpose-built hermitage-house (the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.



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Founded: 14th century
Category: Miscellaneous historic sites in Spain

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User Reviews

An Avina (5 years ago)
Very pretty and interesting. Love that this town still uses this.
Gonzalo Contreras del Solar (5 years ago)
Historic place, the tree has also its history
Val Izhakevich (5 years ago)
Worth seeing and hearing its history of the symbol of Basque people's statehood and strife for independence.
Andres Vargas (5 years ago)
If you're a Tolkien fan this is definitely of interest to you. Similarly to Gondor, the Basque leaders are sworn in front of a tree descending from an ancient line of Oaks in this case. What's left of the original tree trunk can be seen in the middle of the yellow kiosk.
Xiomara Gezuraga (5 years ago)
Great place to learn about the old basque traditions and the parlament of Biscay.
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