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Istán's 'holy' chestnut tree caught up in family dispute

The present poor condition of the Castaño Santo.
The present poor condition of the Castaño Santo. / SUR
  • An 800-year-old tree is on private property and some of its owners have turned down an agreement to protect it

Plans are under way for the ancient chestnut tree known as the Castaño Santo in Istán to receive protected status as a Natural Monument of Andalucía. These have come up against an obstacle, however, due to a disagreement among the owners of the land on which it stands.

The 800-year-old tree is on a site that belongs to several members of the same family. They are divided into two sides: one that owns 66% and is in favour of the tree being declared a monument, and another, with 34%, that does not accept the offer the Junta de Andalucía has put on the table.

The Junta has said that it will clear an adjoining site to make a car park for visitors. The local council will take on the maintenance of the tree (it has recently been attacked by gall wasps), bury the roots that have surfaced and put up a fence to protect it. All the owners have to do is allow the authorities the use of the land, which will still be their property.

The mayor of Istán, José Miguel Marín, pointed out that with this offer "everyone wins".

The tree is unique, not just because of its age. It measures more than 27 metres across the top and the circumference of the trunk is 21 metres.

Known as "holy", visitors have often scattered their loved ones' ashes at its base. Others have taken away handfuls of what they consider to be 'holy' earth. As a result, and due to the disagreements with the owners the chestnut is in need of care and protection. The authorities are hopeful that the two sides of the family will reach an agreement soon.