The olive tree usually conjures up images of the Mediterranean, so I was intrigued to learn that it is the symbol of the city of Vigo, which is right on the Atlantic in the Rías Baixas in Galicia. Actually, it’s not the olive tree in general, but this one in particular.
It all goes back to the Knights Templar, who came to Vigo in the 14th century, took over Santa María church and planted an olive tree in the atrium. The Templars didn’t hang around for long, but the olive tree survived over the centuries – despite the church being badly damaged during an attack by Francis Drake at the end of the 16th century.
What remained of the church was destroyed – along with the tree – in the 19th century, after which the present neoclassical structure was built; it is still Vigo’s most important church. A cutting was taken from the tree, however, and planted in the mayor’s garden. It was later moved to the Paseo de Alfonso XII, overlooking the Ría de Vigo, where it still stands today.
In 2010, tests were carried out to find out just how old it is, which involved wrapping a strap containing sensors around the tree. It turned out that the Vigo olive was 193 years old – making it 195 now – which fits in with when the cutting was supposedly taken. The mayor, Abel Caballero, reckons it’ll last at least another couple of centuries too.
Vueling flies to Vigo from London Heathrow from April to October.