Guernica (Basque pronunciation: [ɡerˈnika]), official and
Basque name Gernika, is a town in the province of Biscay, in the
Autonomous Community of the Basque Country, Spain. The town of
Guernica is united in one municipality with neighbouring Lumo, as
Gernika-Lumo. The population of the municipality is 16,224 as of
Gernika is best known to those residing outside the Basque region as
the scene of the April 26, 1937, Bombing of Guernica, one of the first
aerial bombings by Nazi Germany's Luftwaffe. It inspired the painting
Guernica by Pablo Picasso.
2.1 Early history
2.2 Modern history
3 Cultural importance
4 Symbol for peace
5 Market day
7 Main sights
8 Twin towns – sister cities
9 See also
11 External links
This village is situated at 10m altitude, in the region of
Busturialdea, in the valley of the Oka river. Its mouth is known to be
Urdaibai's estuary's heart. Gernika makes border with the following
Kortezubi and Arratzu.
The town of
Guernica was founded by Count Tello on April 28, 1366, at
the intersection of the road from
Bermeo to Durango with the road from
Elantxobe and Lekeitio. The strategic importance of the site
was increased by the fact that it lay on a major river estuary, where
vessels could dock at the port of Suso.
In time, it took on the typical shape of a Basque town, comprising a
series of parallel streets (Goienkale, Azokekale, Artekale and
Barrenkale) and a transverse street called Santa María, with a church
at each end of the built-up area.
Life in the town became rigidly structured, with the aim being to
preserve the privileges of the dominant middle classes. This pattern
continued practically unaltered until the late 17th century.
On a small hillock in the town, stands the Meeting House and the
famous Tree of Gernika. By ancient tradition, Basques, and indeed
other peoples in Medieval Europe, held assemblies under a tree,
usually an oak, to discuss matters affecting the community.
In Biscay, each administrative district (known as a merindad) had its
appointed tree, but over the centuries, the Tree of
particular importance. It stood in the parish of Lumo, on a site known
as Gernikazarra, beside a small shrine.
The laws of
Biscay continued to be drawn up under this tree until
1876, with each town and village in the province sending two
representatives to the sessions, known as General Assemblies. This
early form of democracy was recorded by the philosopher Rousseau, by
the poet Wordsworth, by the dramatist
Tirso de Molina
Tirso de Molina and by the
composer Iparragirre, who wrote the piece called Gernikako Arbola.
When the Domain of
Biscay was incorporated into the kingdom of
Castile, the king of Castile visited
Guernica and swore an oath under
the Tree promising to uphold the fueros or local laws of Biscay. The
oath of King Ferdinand, known as the "Catholic Monarch", on June 30,
1476, is depicted in a painting by Francisco de Mendieta popularly
known as El besamanos ("The Royal audience"). On July 3, 1875, during
the Carlist Wars, the pretender to the throne Don Carlos of the house
of Hapsburg also visited
Guernica and swore the oath. Throughout the
19th century, there were frequent meetings under the Tree, including
both General Assemblies and other political events.
By the 18th century, there was a square at the centre of the town,
flanked by the town hall, a public gaol housing prisoners from all
over the Lordship of Biscay, a hospital and a poor-house for local
people. Day-to-day life comprised agriculture (growing of cereals,
vegetable and fruit), crafts (menders, tailors, cobblers, flax
manufacturers) and trade (transportation and sale of goods and
This was also a time of continual conflicts with the neighbouring
parish of Lumo over disputed land. These disputes were not finally
settled until 1882, when the two parishes joined together to form
The first industrial concerns were set up in the early years of the
20th century. This encouraged population growth, and the town grew
from 4,500 inhabitants in 1920 to 6,000 in 1936.
On April 26, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War,
Guernica was the
scene of the
Bombing of Guernica
Bombing of Guernica by the
Condor Legion of Nazi
Luftwaffe and the Italian Aviazione Legionaria. According to
the official Basque figures, 1,654 civilians were killed, but the
German sources report a round figure of 300 civilians killed in the
bombing, according to the German Bundeswehr Magazine (published in
April 2007, page 94).[full citation needed] The raid was requested by
Francisco Franco to overthrow the Basque Government and the Spanish
Republican government. The town was devastated, though the Biscayan
assembly and the Oak of
Guernica survived. The
Bombing of Guernica
Bombing of Guernica is
considered the beginning of the
Luftwaffe doctrine of terror bombing,
where civilian targets were selected to demoralize the enemy. Pablo
Picasso painted his famous
Guernica painting to commemorate the
horrors of the bombing and
René Iché made a violent sculpture the
day after the bombing. The bombing went on continuously for three
Celebrations were staged in 1966 to mark the 600th anniversary of the
founding of the town. As part of these celebrations a statue of Count
Tello, made by local sculptor Agustín Herranz, was set up in the
At present Gernika-Lumo has 16,244 (2009) inhabitants. It is a town
with a prosperous service sector which is also home to industrial
companies and has good cultural and educational amenities.
Guernica is historically the seat of the parliament of the province of
Biscay, whose executive branch is located in nearby Bilbao.
In prior centuries, Lumo had been the meeting place of the traditional
Biscayan assembly, Urduña and chartered towns like
under the direct authority of the Lord of Biscay, and
the Durango area had separate assemblies. All would hold assemblies
under local big trees. As time passed, the role of separate assemblies
was superseded by the single assembly in Guernica, and by 1512, its
oak, known as the Gernikako Arbola, became symbolic of the traditional
rights of the
Basque people as a whole.
The trees are always renewed from their own acorns. One of these trees
(the "Old Tree") lived until the 19th century, and may be seen, as a
dry stump, near the assembly house. A tree planted in 1860 to replace
it died in 2004 and was in turn replaced; the sapling that had been
chosen to become the official Oak of
Guernica is also sick so the tree
will not be replaced until the earth around the site has been restored
A hermitage was built beside the
Gernikako Arbola to double as an
assembly place, followed by the current house of assembly (Biltzar
Jauregia in Basque), built in 1826.
Symbol for peace
On April 26, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, the town was razed to
the ground by German aircraft belonging to the Condor Legion, sent by
Hitler to support Franco's troops. For almost four hours bombs rained
Guernica in an "experiment" for the blitzkrieg tactics and
bombing of civilians seen in later wars.
In 1987 the 50th anniversary of the bombing was commemorated as the
town hosted the Preliminary Congress of the World Association of
Martyr Cities. The full congress was held subsequently in Madrid,
bringing together representatives of cities all over the world. Since
then, Gernika-Lumo has been a member of this association. 1988 saw the
setting up of the monument Gure Aitaren Etxea, by Basque sculptor
Eduardo Chillida, and in 1990 Large Figure in a Shelter, by British
sculptor Henry Moore, was erected beside it. These monuments are
symbolic of Gernika-Lumo as a city of peace.
As part of the "Symbol for Peace" movement, Gernika has twinned with
several towns, including
Berga (Catalonia — 1986), Pforzheim
Germany — 1988) and
Boise, Idaho (
United States — 1993). The
twinning agreements include co-operation in the fields of culture,
education and industry.
There is a popular saying in
Guernica which runs as follows: "lunes
gerniqués, golperik ez". This translates roughly as "not a stroke of
work gets done on Mondays". The Monday market day has for decades been
considered as a holiday in the town.
A cesta-punta player
People would flock to
Guernica not just from the immediate vicinity,
but from all over the province, so that the town was packed. They came
not just to buy or sell at the produce market, but also to eat at the
town's renowned restaurants and afterwards perhaps to watch a pelota
game at the local court. The Monday market has been fulfilling its
age-old function of bringing people together since the times when
people could not afford to travel far and it provided them with a
chance to socialise.
Main article: Basque rural sports
Jai alai (cesta-punta) is a form of pelota. The
Guernica jai alai
court is the biggest operational court of its type in the world. It
was designed by Secundino Zuano, one of Spain's leading architects of
the 20th century and first opened in 1963. It is acknowledged by
players of the game to be the world's finest court.
Bare-handed pelota games are held at the Santanape court. This is the
most popular form of the sport.
Santa María Church
Parish Church of Santa María. Work on this church, at the top of the
town, began in 1418 in a Gothic style, and continued non-stop until
1625, though the finishing touches were not completed until 1715, in
the Renaissance period.
The tree of Guernica
Church of Santa María de la Antigua. Built in 1826-33 by Antonio de
Echevarría in the purest Neo-classical style, this building is
currently used as the plenary meeting hall of the General Assemblies
"Large Figure in a Shelter" (1986) by the sculptor Henry Moore. This
sculpture is typical of the themes and style of this artist, and the
most significant example of his "inside/outside" motif. Cast in
bronze, it weighs around 20 tonnes.
Monument to Peace, by the Basque sculptor Eduardo Chillida. This
figure, set up on April 27, 1988, was commissioned by the Basque
Government to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the bombing of
Guernica. The title in Basque[clarification needed] means "Our
Father's House", and the work stands looking towards the Tree (the
symbol of Basque traditions and history) as a monument to peace.
Park of the Peoples of Europe. This contains examples of all four
types of woodland found on the Basque coast: beech woods, oak woods,
holm-oak woods and riverside brush. It is also the site of Moore's and
Chillida's sculptures and Humboldt's bronze head.[clarification
Palacio de Alegría mansion. This mansion was rebuilt in its entirety
in the mid-18th century. All that remains of the earlier building is a
loop-hole and one window. It is built in the typical urban Baroque
style with an ashlar-work façade, trellised balconies and the coat of
arms of the Allende Salazar family. The mansion now houses the Museum
of the Basque Country, whose exhibits highlight physical, political,
economic and linguistic features of Basque history and renowned Basque
Guernica Peace Museum Foundation, a museum of the history of Guernica.
The exhibits illustrate what
Guernica has represented throughout its
history for the Basques (democracy, local legal system, freedom) and
what it stands for today all over the world (human rights, peace). The
Gernika Peace Museum is a theme museum setting out the culture of
peace. It was inspired by the tragic bombing of
Guernica on 26 April
Euskal Herria Museum, housed in the palace of Alegría or Montefuerte,
a 1733 baroque reconstruction of an ancient medieval tower. Set in the
historical heart of Gernika-Lumo, it survived the 1937 bombing. The
Museum is located near the Casa de Juntas (old Assembly House) and the
Tree of Guernica, and surrounded by old gardens now turned into the
Parque de los Pueblos de Europa (Park of the European Nations). The
Regional Council of
Biscay acquired the site in 1982 and refurbished
it as a Museum with the aim of presenting an exhibition to promote the
understanding of the historical, political and cultural meaning of the
spiritual community of Euskal Herria.
Reproduction of Picasso's Guernica. A mosaic of tiles which depicts in
puzzle form Picasso's great work Guernica, the original of which is
currently on display at the
Reina Sofia Museum
Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid. The
inscription beneath this impressive mural expresses the desire of
local people for the original canvas to be put on display in the town
which inspired its creation: Guernica.
Twin towns – sister cities
Boise, Idaho, United States
Municipal elections in Gernika-Lumo
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Bombing of Gernika
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gernika-Lumo.
Official site in English, Basque and Spanish
writer and filmmaker Begonya Plaza interviewed survivors, and people
of importance in
Guernica in 1987 in documentary "GERNICA LIVES"
Painter and art educator Dorothy Koppelman writes "Art Opposes
Injustice: Picasso’s Guernica"
GERNIKA-LUMO in the Bernardo Estornés Lasa - Auñamendi Encyclopedia
(Euskomedia Fundazioa) (in Spanish)
Web page about Gernika-Lumo with great photos of it.
Municipalities in Biscay
Valle de Trápaga-Trapagaran
Abanto y Ciérbana-Abanto Zierbena