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The Assembly House of Gernika, Europe’s oldest parliament

The Assembly House of Gernika, Europe’s oldest parliament

The Assembly House of Gernika, Europe’s oldest parliament
The Tree of Gernika is considered the leading symbol of Basque identity.
The Tree of Gernika is considered the leading symbol of Basque identity.

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The Assembly House of Gernika

The place where it grows was the meeting place of the peoples of the Bizkaia regions from at least the 14th century onwards, and symbolises the continuity of Basque tradition. This oak tree, which is substituted by a cutting from the old one when it needs replacing, stands behind the Casa de Juntas. This building is the seat of one of the oldest parliaments in Europe, and its contributions to democracy include the concept of Habeas Corpus, the prohibition of torture and hidalguía universal (legal equality between most of those born in the region), long before any other European institutions did so.

This Assembly Hall is, together with those in Gerediaga and Abellaneda, the official headquarters of the General Assemblies of Bizkaia.

Not only has the Casa de Juntas retained this function, but it is still in regular use, hosting plenary sessions and other events for the Bizkaia provincial authority, of which it is the home. The enormous symbolic power of this spot as a meeting place for the whole of the Basque Country means that other especially important occasions, such as the investiture of the Lehendakari or head of the Basque government, are also held here.

Come on in and you’ll be able to say that not many people have visited such an old democratic parliament as you. Entrance to the historic part of the Casa de Juntas is free and guided tours in Basque, Spanish and English are available by appointment. It’s open every day.

The Casa de Juntas and the Tree of Gernika are therefore an essential visit, and if you come you can also discover Urdaibai, the fabulous natural landscape formed by the Ría de Gernika, of outstanding beauty and listed by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve.