Chataignier des Cent Chevaux

Planche CXIV

houel plate 114

This famous tree is located on the eastern slope of the Etna. It has been difficult to establish the age of the tree because it has suffered fire damage in the past. Thanks to modern studies we know that it originally consisted of three different trunks which fused to become one tree. This enormous chestnut, with a circumference of 189,96 ft, is listed into the Guinness Book of Records as the tree with the greatest girth ever. Believed to be about 3000 years old, it was expropriated by the government in 1965 and declared national monument.

Hoüel was very impressed with the majesty of this tree, and he was not the only one; the Scottish traveller Patrick Brydone, who visited the island before Hoüel, included it in his account of his Grand Tour.

Hoüel says that it took him two days to paint the chestnut. At that time it measured 160 ft and was completely hollow. Hoüel explains that there used to be a house inside it, with an oven used to dry chestnuts, hazelnuts and almonds, and when there was need of wood, they took an axe and cut the tree from inside.

Hoüel was told by the inhabitants of the neighbourhood that the name The Hundred Horse Chestnut1 came from the huge area of shade it made. It was said that, on her way to Naples, Joanna of Castile and Aragon, daughter of the Spanish Catholic Kings, visited Sicily. During a trip to Mount Etna, she and her company of one hundred knights were caught in a severe thunderstorm and the entire company is said to have taken shelter under the tree.However,others thought that it was just a popular legend, for a Royal lady called like this had never visited this place.

In this image Hoüel reveals his pioneering interest not only for local folklore and storytelling but also for the preservation of natural heritage.

Notes:

1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlnmSKqkvfM (accessed 26/02/13) and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgqGRiPFbqM (accessed 26/02/13)

Next