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The Tree of Gernika

What does the Tree of Gernika symbolise?

The Casa de Juntas (Assembly House) and the Tree of Gernika: living symbols of the history of the Basque People.

The Gernika Assembly House is the home of the historic parliament of Vizcaya. Together with the so-called ‘foral’ (charter) oak tree, this building stands as a meeting point for all the territories of Euskal Herria, united in a single cultural and ethnographic tradition.

Origins

Centuries before the town of Gernika was founded in 1366, within the ancient Parish of Lumo, there was a place called Gernikazarra (Gernika the Old) which gave its name to the present-day Foral or Chartered Town. We have known for centuries that there was an oak grove and a hermitage in this area. Many centuries later, all that remains of that oak grove is the Tree of Gernika. The hermitage eventually became the Oath Church of Santa María la Antigua, which is now the Casa de Juntas (Assembly House).

For years after the rule of the Lord of Vizcaya was established, the people of Vizcaya would gather in assemblies under the shade of other oak trees in different parts of Vizcaya, but gradually they became accustomed to meeting in a single place and under a single tree: the Tree of Gernika. Each town in the Lordship would send a representative to these assemblies to discuss the different problems affecting each locality. Based on the decisions taken in these assemblies, a body of laws was created by which the people of Vizcaya were governed, the so-called fueros, legal codes that applied throughout the entire Lordship of Vizcaya.

Originally, prior to the political ceremony, a religious ceremony was held inside the hermitage of Santa María La Antigua, which is where the Oath of the Fueros was also taken. The fueros remained in force until 1876, when they were abolished. After having been in abeyance for 102 years, the Juntas or Assemblies were reinstated in 1979

The Trees

Planted in the 18th century, the old tree trunk is contained within a colonnaded pavilion in the garden. Although there are records of earlier specimens, it is the most ancient remnant to have survived to the present day. 

Its successor was planted in 1860 and stood in front of the Oath Stand until 2004. In 2005, it gave way to another oak tree that only managed to survive for 10 years in this illustrious spot. The current tree was planted in 2015, thereby serving to perpetuate its symbolic significance, just as the soul of Euskal Herria continues to be passed down from generation to generation.

The Tree of Gernika: undoubtedly the most universal symbol of the Basque people.

The present day

Such important events as the swearing-in of the Lehendakari (President of the Basque Government) and of the Governor of the Regional Government of Bizkaia are held in the Assembly Hall and in front of the Tree. In this respect, on a nearby monolith, a plaque commemorates the words spoken in 1936 by José Antonio Aguirre to formalise his oath as the first Lehendakari, words that have become part of the protocol for his successors. 

Don’t forget to book

The reservation for the visit to the interior of the plenary hall of the Casa de Juntas de Gernika is essential.


Visit the interior of the Assembly House

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More information

The Casa de Juntas (Assembly House)

The Assembly House stands next to the so-called ‘foral’ (charter) oak tree, a meeting point for all the territories of Euskal Herria, united in a single cultural and ethnographic tradition.