Gernikako Arbola

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The "new tree".
The trunk of the "old tree".

Gernikako Arbola ("the tree of Gernika" in Basque) 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 (including kings of Castile and Carlist pretenders to the throne) swore to respect the Biscayan liberties under it, and the modern Lehendakari of the Basque Country swears his charge there.

The tree[edit]

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 As time passed, the role of separate assemblies was superseded by the Guernica Assembly in 1512, and its oak would acquire a symbolic meaning, with actual assemblies being held in a purpose-built hermitage-house (the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 is 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 known specimens[1] form a dynasty:

  • "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'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.[2]

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 being 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 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.

Bizkaikoarmarri.svg Eusko Alkartasuna (logo).jpg Escudo de Gernika Lumo.svg Ehu logo.svg
Arms of Biscay The Eusko Alkartasuna party logo The coat of arms of Gernika-Lumo The logo of the University of the Basque Country
with Chillida's interpretation of the oak

The anthem[edit]

Gernikako Arbola is also the title of a song in bertso form presented both in Madrid (1853) and by the shrine of Saint Anthonies at Urkiola (1854) by the Basque bard José María Iparraguirre, celebrating the tree and Basque liberties. The song is an unofficial anthem of the Basques, besides the official Eusko Abendaren Ereserkia, the official anthem of the Basque Autonomous Community.

It was the song chosen for the solemn end to the demonstration held at Pamplona in 1893, and sang along by the crowds, after widespread indignation sparked at the Spanish government's breach of fiscal terms concerning Navarre—protests known as Gamazada. The local newspaper La Voz de Fitero (southern fringes of Navarre) reported the cheerful official reception in honour of the district MP Ramon Lasanta held on 30 April 1913, where an enthusiast audience sang the Gernikako Arbola along, and demanded an encore from the music band.

The anthem was often rendered in performances by Pablo de Sarasate and Julian Gayarre. It has been called the "Marseillaise of the Basques". The tree has also inspired a passage of La prudencia en la mujer[3] by the Spanish playwright Tirso de Molina and a sonnet of William Wordsworth.[4]


There are versions with four, eight or twelve stanzas. Also, Iparragirre as a bertsolari would introduce changes during his performances.[5]

Original Gipuzkoan text[6] Text in Standard Basque English
Guernicaco arbola
Da bedeincatuba
Euscaldunen artean
Guztiz maitatuba:
Eman ta zabaltzazu
Munduban frutuba,
Adoratzen zaitugu
Arbola santuba.
Gernikako arbola
Da bedeinkatua
Euskaldunen artean
Guztiz maitatua:
Eman ta zabal zazu
Munduan frutua,
Adoratzen zaitugu
Arbola santua.
The Tree of Guernica
is blessed
among the Basques;
absolutely loved.
Give and deliver
the fruit unto the world.
We adore you,
holy tree.
Milla urte inguruda
Esaten dutela
Jaincoac jarrizubela
Guernicaco arbola:
Saude bada zutican
Orain da dembora,
Eroritzen bacera
Arras galduguera.
Mila urte inguru da
Esaten dutela
Jainkoak jarri zuela
Gernikako arbola:
Zaude bada zutikan
Orain da denbora,
Eroritzen bazera
Erraz galdu gera.
About one thousand years,
they say,
since God planted it,
the Guernica tree:
Stand, so,
now is the time
If you fall
we will perish easily.
Etzera erorico
Arbola maitea,
Baldin portatzen bada
Vizcaico juntia:
Lauroc artuco degu
Surequin partia
Paquian bici dedin
Euscaldun gendia.
Ez zara eroriko
Arbola maitea,
Baldin portatzen bada
Bizkaiko juntua:
Laurok hartuko dugu
Zurekin partea
Bakean bizi dedin
Euskaldun jentea.
You will not fall,
dear tree,
if the Biscay assembly
We four will take
your party
so that the Basque people
live in peace.
Betico bicidedin
Jaunari escatzeco
Jarri gaitecen danoc
Laster belaunico:
Eta biotzetican
Escatu esquero
Arbola bicico da
Orain eta guero.
Betiko bizi dedin
Jaunari eskatzeko
Jarri gaitezen denok
Laster belauniko:
Eta bihotzetikan
Eskatu ez gero
Arbola biziko da
Orain eta gero.
So that it lives forever,
to ask the Lord,
let us all
kneel down quickly:
and from the heart,
by asking,
the tree will live
now and forever.
Arbola botatzia
Dutela pentzatu
Euscal erri guztiyan
Denac badakigu:
Ea bada gendia
Dembora orain degu,
Erori gabetanic
Iruqui biagu.
Arbola botatzea
Dutela pentsatu
Euskal Herri guztian
Denak badakigu:
Ea bada jentea
Denbora orain dugu,
Erori gabedanik
Iruki biagu.
That they have thought
to fell the tree
in the Basque Country
we all know.
So, people,
now is the time!
We have to hold it up
and not let it fall.
Beti egongocera
Uda berricua,
Lore ainciñetaco
Mancha gabecoa:
Erruquisaitez bada
Biotz gurecoa,
Dembora galdu gabe
Emanic frutuba.
Beti egongo zara
Lore aintzinetako
Mantxa gabekoa:
Erruki zaitez bada
Bihotz gurekoa,
Denbora galdu gabe
Emanik frutua.
You will always be
of spring,
without the stain
of the flowers of old.
Have mercy,
you of our heart,
losing no time,
give fruit.
Arbolac erantzun du
Contuz bicitzeko,
Eta biotzetican
Jaunari escatzeco:
Guerraric nai ez degu
Paquea betico,
Gure legue zuzenac
Emen maitatzeco.
Arbolak erantzun du
Kontuz bizitzeko,
Eta bihotzetikan
Jaunari eskatzeko:
Gerrarik nahi ez dugu
Bakea betiko,
Gure lege zuzenak
Emen maitatzeko.
The tree answered
that we should live carefully
and in our hearts
ask the Lord:
We do not want wars
[but] peace forever,
to love here
our fair laws.
Erregutu diogun
Jaungoico jaunari
Paquea emateco
Orain eta beti:
Bay eta indarrare
Cedorren lurrari
Eta bendiciyoa
Euscal erriyari.
Erregutu diogun
Jaungoiko jaunari
Bakea emateko
Orain eta beti:
Bai eta indarra ere
Zetorren lurrari
Eta benedizioa
Euskal Herriari.
We ask
of the Lord God
that he gives us peace,
now and forever:
and strength as well
to His land
and the blessing
for the Basque land.
Orain cantaditzagun
Laubat bertzo berri
Gure provinciaren
Alabac esaten du
Su garrez beteric
Nere biotzecua
Eutzico diat nic.
Orain kanta ditzagun
Laubat bertso berri
Gure probintziaren
Arabak esaten du
Sukarriz beterik
Nere bihotzekoa
Eutsiko diat nik.
Now let us sing
four new verses
in praise
of our province:
Alava says
full of fever
the one of my heart
I will keep.
Guipúzcoa urrena
Arras sentituric
Asi da deadarrez
Ama Guernicari:
Erori etzeitzen
Arrimatu neri
Zure cendogarriya
Emen nacazu ni.
Gipuzkoa hurrena
Arras sentiturik
Hasi da deiadarrez
Ama Gernikari:
Erori etzeitzen
Arrimatu niri
Zure zendogarria
Hemen nazazu ni.
Gipuzkoa next,
very moved,
has started with the call
to mother Guernica:
Do not fall:
come near me!
Your strengthener
you have in me!
Ostoa verdia eta
Zañac ere fresco,
Nere seme maiteac
Ez naiz erorico:
Beartzen banaiz ere
Egon beti pronto
Nigandican etzayac
Hostoa berdea eta
Zainak ere fresko,
Nere seme maiteak
Ez naiz eroriko:
Behartzen banaiz ere
Egon beti pronto
Nigandikan etsaiak
The green leaf and
the fresh veins,
my dear sons,
I will not let fall:
If I need it to
be always ready
the enemies around me
to force into retreat.
Guztiz maitagarria
Eta oestarguiña
Beguiratu gaitzasu
Ceruco erreguiña
Guerraric gabetanic
Bici albaguiña.
Oraindaño izandegu
Guretzaco diña."
Guztiz maitagarria
Eta ostargina
Begiratu gaitzazu
Zeruko erregina
Gerrarik gabedanik
Bizi ahal bagina.
Oraindaño izan dugu
Guretzako diña."
Always lovable
and sky light,
look at us,
Queen of Heaven
without war
so that we can.
She has been until now
good to us.
The oak leaves and acorns around the coat of arms of the Basque Country are another reference to the tree.

Other fuero trees in Biscay[edit]


  1. ^ El Mundo, 26 February 2005, Otro árbol de Gernika
  2. ^ An interview with Jaime del Burgo Torres, the captain that ordered the guard. Allegedly from El Mundo (31 October 2005).
  3. ^ La prudencia en la mujer, Acto 1, Tirso de Molina. Referred as the Arbol de Garnica [sic].
  4. ^ The Oak of Guernica, William Wordsworth, 1810.
  5. ^ Gernikako Arbola, véritable hymne basque, French-language paper by Jean Haritschelhar.
  6. ^ Guernicaco Arbola, by Jose Maria Iparragirre, Colección de aires vascongados, Ed. Sendoa, Donostia, 1981.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 43°18′53″N 2°40′47″W / 43.31472°N 2.67972°W / 43.31472; -2.67972