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Sheltering Knights – The Legend of Sicily’s Hundred-Horse Chestnut Tree

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Written By Lakeisha Ethans

Heritage Gardener with Grafting Expertise

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Home » Ancient & Remarkable Trees » Sheltering Knights – The Legend of Sicily’s Hundred-Horse Chestnut Tree


Perched on the lush slopes of Mount Etna, the Hundred-Horse Chestnut serves as a living monument to the passage of time.

Known as the Castagno dei Cento Cavalli in Italian, this ancient sweet chestnut tree is not just the oldest of its kind, but it also holds the record for the “Greatest Tree Girth Ever” as listed by the Guinness World Records.

Measuring a staggering 190 feet (57.9 meters) in circumference back in 1780, it has since split into several large trunks, though they still share the same roots underground.

Inside the Hundred-Horse Chestnut Tree
Inside the Hundred-Horse Chestnut Tree

The tree’s legendary name traces back to a dramatic episode during the reign of a queen of Aragon.

As the story goes, she and her retinue of 100 knights were traversing the rugged landscapes of Sicily when a fierce thunderstorm unleashed its fury upon them.

Seeking refuge, the entire company found shelter under the expansive canopy of the chestnut tree, which shielded them from the relentless rain and lightning.

This chestnut tree, which botanists estimate to be between 2,000 and 4,000 years old, has been a witness to centuries of history.

It has inspired numerous artists and poets, who have immortalized its strength and resilience in their works. The tree’s imposing presence and the tales woven around it highlight its importance not just in natural history, but also in the cultural fabric of Sicily.

Hundred-Horse Chestnut Tree, Sicily

Over the centuries, the Hundred-Horse Chestnut has become more than just a tree; it is a symbol of endurance and shelter.

It serves as a reminder of nature’s power to unite history, legend, and the natural world in a single, enduring presence.

Digging Deeper

Location

Perched on the eastern slope of Mount Etna in Sicily, the Hundred-Horse Chestnut is majestically situated along the Linguaglossa road, a mere 8 km from the volcano’s crater.

Type of Tree

The Hundred-Horse Chestnut is a sweet chestnut tree (Castanea sativa), known for its remarkable size and belonging to the family Fagaceae.

Is The Hundred Horse Chestnut Tree Still Alive?

Despite the natural challenges and the passage of time, the Hundred-Horse Chestnut continues to thrive, its trunks split from its original girth but still sharing a common root system.

Descendants

Around the base of the ancient chestnut, several saplings have taken root, ensuring the genetic legacy of this monumental tree continues through its descendants.

Can You Visit It?

Visitors are welcome to marvel at this historic tree, which remains accessible to the public and is a celebrated natural attraction in the region.

Conservation

The tree has been under protection since a decree from the “Court of the Order of the Royal Heritage of Sicily” was issued in 1745, highlighting its importance and initiating early conservation efforts.

Legacy

The Hundred-Horse Chestnut has been immortalized in art and literature, symbolizing strength and survival, and is a central figure in Sicilian cultural heritage.

Want More?

If the story of the Hundred-Horse Chestnut has sparked your curiosity, you might find the histories of other iconic trees around the world equally fascinating.

Discover the Great Banyan in India, a vast tree whose extensive roots mimic a whole forest. Ponder the ancient Olive Trees of Gethsemane.

Experience the serene presence of That Wānaka Tree in New Zealand, the iconic Lone Cypress, or the tale of the Great Kapok Tree.

Each of these trees showcases nature’s enduring beauty, including the majestic Ombalantu Baobab tree.

Immerse yourself in the picturesque landscape and sad story of the Sycamore Gap Tree.

Sources – Wikipedia

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Lakeisha Ethans

Heritage Gardener with Grafting Expertise

Lakeisha grew up in East Africa, literally surrounded by nature which sparked her interest in learning more about trees and plants from a very young age. She belongs to a family of gardeners, so for her, gardening is a way of life, a tradition she’s proud to uphold. As a self-taught gardener, Lakeisha has successfully grafted trees to produce hybrids for gardens and landscapes. When she’s not gardening, she’s writing about her experience with nature or watching baking fails!