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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 April, 2004, 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK
Basques mourn symbolic oak tree
Guernica by Pablo Picasso
The bombing of Guernica was immortalised by Pablo Picasso
Authorities in the Spanish city of Guernica are mourning the death of a 146-year-old oak tree seen as a symbol of Basque nationalist pride.

The tree, which stands in front of the local council building, survived the infamous 1937 bombing of the city during the Spanish Civil War.

But the fierce heat of last summer finally finished it off.

The tree was the third "Guernica oak", continuing a tradition that stretches back to medieval times.

Holy tree, do not fall; without your sweet shadow, we are lost
From the song Gernikako Arbola
The first tree to stand on the spot was planted in the 14th century and lived for about 400 years.

According to legend, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella came to Guernica in 1476 and swore an oath under the tree, pledging to maintain the Basques' ancient privileges.

In the 19th century, Basque nationalist Jose Maria Iparraguirre wrote a song dedicated to the tree, Gernikako Arbola, which became an anthem for the Basque people.

Basque regional presidents still swear a modern-day oath of loyalty to the Basque people under the tree.

Officials say the now-dead oak will be preserved in the council's gardens alongside its two predecessors.

A replacement tree will be planted in January.

Analysis: Basque history
06 Dec 99  |  Europe

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