Guernica Travel Guide
Guernica, Gernika in Basque, is the locale of Picasso's famous painting of the same name, which captures the events of a day of infamy in the history of both the town and Spain at large. Here, on April 26, 1937, at the height of the Spanish Civil War, Hitler’s flight squadron “Condor Legion” methodically bombed the town into oblivion at the behest of General Franco. By the end of the day the entire city had been razed to the ground, with more than 2,000 people dead, killed by either the aerial bombs or machine-gunners who had been ordered to gun down any fleeing civilians. The horrors of the day were memorialized in Picasso’s masterpiece, Guernica, now housed in Madrid’s Museo de Reina Sofía. Picasso, of course, fled the country during the Franco dictatorship. However, he requested that the painting, which had hung at the UN headquarters in New York for years, be returned to his homeland once democracy was restored.
Guernica is located approximately 23 miles (37 km) east of Bilbao in El País Vasco.
Guernica, not surprisingly, has few places of visitor interest. But among those that remain, the most prominent is Gernikako Arbola, a 300-year-old oak tree that stands in the courtyard of the Casa de Juntas del Señorío de Vizcaya, the former meeting place of the Basque General Assembly, beneath which the Vizkaian government met until 1876. Others include the Parish Church of Santa Maria which was three centuries in the making, 1418 to 1715; the 19th-century Neo-classical Church of Santa Maria de la Antigua; the Baroque-style Palacio de Alegria mansion which now houses the Museum of the Basque Country; and the town’s Parque de la Paz which has two notable sculptures, one each by Basque sculptor Eduardo Chillida and British great Henry Moore, entitled Gure Aitaren Etxea (Our Father’s House) and Large Figure in a Shelter respectively, commissioned on the 50th anniversary of the bombing of the town. The town also has the largest pelota (a form of jai alai) court in the world, and a popular historic Monday market.
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