Part of the 1000 year old oak tree in Nöbdenitz with the text "Monumental trees"

This online exhibition accompanies the special exhibition “The man under the 1000-year-old oak – On dealing with fascinating tree monuments” (January 28 to May 1, 2024 at Posterstein Castle Museum). Our photo gallery tells the stories of 39 impressive oak trees from all over Europe.

Please note: This online exhibition is not yet completed and will be continuously expanded.

The Nöbdenitz Oak tree is unique. Not only because it is hundreds of years old. Not just because it is one of the thickest oaks in Germany with a circumference of twelve metres. And not just because it is a natural monument.

But also because it is the only oak – known to us – with a tomb inside. This makes the Nöbdenitz Oak a cultural monument, too.

Eiche Nöbdenitz mit Stützen von vorn fotografiert - Foto: Frank Leo
The “thousand-year-old“ oak tree of Nöbdenitz (Photo. Frank Leo)

The Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg minister Hans Wilhelm von Thümmel bought the hollow oak tree, which had already been damaged by a lightning strike, and planned his burial in it. With ducal authorisation, a crypt was walled in between the roots. Accompanied by music, his family, friends and the inhabitants of the village Nöbdenitz, on March, 3rd, in 1824 the body of Hans Wilhelm von Thümmel was transferred from the village’s big lime tree to the walled-out crypt under the “thousand-year-old“ oak tree. A few words were spoken and even arias were sung. Thümmel had the dream of living on in the leaves of the oak in death and “whispering” to those who came after him.

Thümmel’s extraordinary burial place, in the spirit of the Age of Enlightenment, is the starting point for this exhibition.


Hans Wilhelm von Thümmel (1744-1824) worked for 57 years in the civil service of the Dukes of Saxe-Gotha and Altenburg. In the turbulent period between the French Revolution, Napoleon’s rule and the Congress of Vienna, he rose from page to minister. As an envoy, he spent over a year in Napoleon’s Paris.

Nahaufnahme des Buchcovers der Thümmel-Biografie des Museums mit ovalem Ausschnitt des Portraits des Ministers
The probably only biography of Hans Wilhelm von Thümmel is our book “Im Dienste der Ernestiner – Hans Wilhelm von Thümmels Aufstieg vom Pagen zum Minister”.

Thümmel achieved great things for the duchy, including the surveying and mapping of the Altenburg region and the construction of the first Altenburg hospital. Inspired by his love of Enlightenment-style landscape gardens and architecture, he helped the new gardens to achieve a breakthrough in this country.

Thümmel chose the Nöbdenitz manor as his retirement home, from where it was not far to Löbichau Castle and the salon of the Duchess of Courland, one of whose guests he was.

The minister chose the 1000-year-old oak tree in Nöbdenitz as an unusual burial place.


In this exhibition we want to show ancient oak trees that are on a par with the Nöbdenitz Oak. To find images and the stories of extraordinary oak trees in Europe, we used our networks, both digital and analogue. We made new contacts, too. The selection we show here is also the result of the willingness to actively support our exhibition.

Here you find oak trees from Germany, France, England, Poland, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Sweden. All of them tell wonderful stories about the coexistence of man and tree. Among them are judgement trees, religiously revered oaks and trees almost untouched by man. They have names like: “Royal Oak”, “Warrior Oak”, “Peace Oak”, “Swedish Oak”, “Prince’s Oak” … And many of them are the subject of legends.

The 1000-year-old oak of Nöbdenitz

The 1000-year-old oak of Nöbdenitz is not only an impressive natural monument. It is the only known tree in Germany under which there is a brick-built tomb.

The English oak stands on the village street, right next to the vicarage and church. For more than a hundred years, it has been popularly known as "the thousand-year-old". Estimates of its age range from 600 to 1200 years. The oak is twelve to fourteen metres high and has a circumference of over twelve metres. This makes it one of the mightiest oaks in Germany.

Its trunk is completely hollow due to a fungal infection. It lost its main crown during a storm in 1819. Since then, two lower branches have formed a secondary crown. In recent decades, the tree has formed an adventitious trunk, a young trunk, on the inside.

During his lifetime, Hans Wilhelm von Thümmel had the first iron rings fitted to preserve the tree for as long as possible. Since then, further support systems have been added.

The latest expert report, commissioned on the occasion of the Thümmel Year, certifies that the oak is in the "transition from the veteran tree phase to the decay phase with age-typical vitality".

Photo: Frank Leo | www.fokus-natur.de

Alberteiche in Dresden Kauscha

A pedunculate oak was planted on the village square in Kauscha, a southern district of Dresden, in 1898 to mark the 70th birthday and 25th anniversary of the reign of King Albert of Saxony (1828–1902). A granite stone placed in front of it still commemorates this today.
The tree has been a natural monument since 1958 for reasons of cultural history and because of its impact on the local landscape. The protected area covers 20 metres around the 25-metre-high oak tree. Despite temporary disturbances due to a leaking gas pipe in the immediate vicinity, the tree is thriving.
The blogger @derbaum visited and photographed the Albert Oak especially for our exhibition. On his blog, he reports in text and pictures about his excursions to special places.


Photo: Dirk Wagner (@derbaum)| dirwabaum.de

Ancient Oak Trail at Hubertusstock

The short but impressive Ancient Oak Trail, located in the immediate vicinity of the Hubertusstock hunting lodge in Brandenburg, leads along centuries-old oaks. The oldest of them are said to be 800 to 900 years old. In former centuries the forests were used by farmers to keep and care for livestock such as pigs, cows and sheep. During the time of the Kingdom of Prussia, the forest was divided up and leased to the farmers. Today text panels provide information about oldest trees and the Methuselah project, as well as information about today‘s forest management. Rest areas invite you to linger and pause for a moment.
The almost two-kilometre-long Ancient Oak Trail is signposted with its own symbol. It is part of a small network of hiking trails around the grounds of the Hubertusstock hunting lodge. On the four-kilometre Hubertusstock circular hiking trail, visitors come across even more mighty Schorfheide oaks.
The path, information boards and rest areas are a project of the Brandenburg Forestry Commission. Dedicated district foresters work together with the Barnim district‘s municipally funded trail warden to signpost and maintain the hiking trails.

Photo: Antje-Queissner | Gemeinde Schorfheide, www.schorfheide.de

Big Belly Oak

Forest scientist and forest ecologist Daniela Antoni not only works as an expert in tree inspection, she is also a „treefluencer“ on the internet and publishes the podcast „Unser Stadtbaum“ (“Our City Tree”). For the exhibition, she introduces us to the „Big Belly Oak“:
„The Big Belly Oak in Savernake Forest near Marlborough is an impressive oak estimated to be over 1000 years old. Its trunk is around 10 meters in circumference. I passed it on my journey through England in November. It stands right on the side of a busy road and yet the traffic couldn‘t harm it. The Big Belly Oak has witnessed numerous historical events over its estimated 1000 years. Its striking shape and historical legacy make it an outstanding tree monument.“
The Big Belly Oak is a Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea) with a circumference of 11.18 meters and a volume of 40 cubic meters. It is hollow inside. It is one of the fifty „Great British Trees“, a collection of important trees in the United Kingdom.

Photo: Daniela Antoni, Expert for urban trees | www.Baumkontrolle-im-netz.de, www.Habitatbaum.com

Bowthorpe Oak

In the picturesque countryside of south Lincolnshire stands one of Britain‘s largest trees, the Bowthorpe Oak, at the park farm of the same name. The majestic oak, which stands in a meadow behind the 17th century farmhouse, leaves experts pondering and enthusiasts freeze in awe of its size and natural beauty. At 13.30 metres, the Bowthorpe oak has the largest circumference of any Common Oaks in the UK. The hollow tree provides a habitat for many animals.
As early as 1768, the park was equipped with benches and a picnic area was set up by the oak. One hundred years ago, the first chain was installed to secure the tree. This has since been followed by two more support pillars.
In 2002, on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, the Bowthorpe Oak was added to the list of Great British Trees. The farm is still used for tourism today. Events and even weddings take place under the oak tree.

Photo: Dan Crowley | @thetreespotter on Instagram

Chêne d'Allouville

The most famous and probably oldest oak tree in France is located in Allouville-Bellefosse in Normandy near the river mouth of the Seine. It is said to be a thousand years old. At the end of the 17th century, the local Jesuit priest Jean-Antoine de Cerceau and his abbot came up with the idea of having a chapel built in the lower part of the tree, which was already hollow at the time. In the upper part, they built a cabinet for themselves, which required a staircase to the top. This is how the cemetery tree became the most eccentric church monument in France. The 15-metre thick and 18-metre-high Common Oak is clad in shingles today, has a phallus-like spire and is supported by all kinds of iron pillars.

Photo: Christiane Ruoss-Blaack | member of Museumsverein Burg Posterstein and Les Amis de Talleyrand

Chêne d'Allouville

Since 1932, the ‘Allouville-Bellefosse’ Oak in France has been a „monument historique“, a cultural monument. In 1988, the authorities almost managed to do what the church stormers failed to do during the revolution in 1789: the leaning oak tree was interrupting the street space and an expert recommended to cut it down. This caused great resistance and the inhabitants of the village now look after the tree more consciously. The village is full of flower-decorated half-timbered houses and has become a major tourist attraction, visited by over 30,000 pilgrims and tourists every year.

Photo: Ben Collier | normandy-tourism.org

Dąb Chrobry near Piotrowice

Not far from the Lower Silesian village of Piotrowice stands the approximately 800-year-old Chrobry Oak, a Common Oak named „the brave“ or „courageous“ after the Polish king Bolesław Chrobry.
Even before World War II, it was protected by the German authorities as a natural monument. According to legend, the Polish king met the German king Otto III at this tree.
During a pilgrimage of foresters to the Vatican on April 28, 2004, Pope John Paul II consecrated acorns from the „Chrobry“. They were used to grow 500 seedlings, which were planted all over the country in memory of the Polish Pope.
In 2014, the oak tree, which was 28 meters tall at that time, fell victim to arson. Residents of the area rushed to the Chrobry‘s aid with several thousand litres of water to bring it back to life, although there even was a drought. Nevertheless, the torso was declared dead in 2020. But in 2021, „the brave one“ sprouted leaves again without shedding them.
On Instagram, we found Łukasz Motulewicz, who photographs and maps remarkable destinations for nature lovers all over Poland.

Photo: Łukasz Motulewicz | @tarczyn_trip on Instagram

Dąb Chrobry in Rzecz

Anyone entering the centre of the village of Rzecz in the municipality of Rogowo in Poland cannot fail to notice this oak tree. It towers majestically over the area. As you approach, a huge, nailed sheet of metal becomes visible, shining like a mirror and probably simply hiding a large hole in the tree.
It is said that the Chrobry Oak, also known as the „Oak of the Venetian Devil“, is around 850 years old. This Common Oak is 24.5 metres tall and has a circumference of around 780 centimetres. A legend says, that every year in June during Kupala Night, folk rituals took place under the oak tree. Another one says that Mikołaj Nałęcz, known as “the Venetian Devil”, has turned into this tree for his evil deeds.
The tree has been a nature monument since 1991.
The chairman of the Gniezno Historical Foundation, Karol Soberski, supported this exhibition with information and photos.

Photo: Karol Soberski | Pojezierze24.pl

 Fem oak in Erle

At 800 to 1000 years old, the Fem Oak in Erle in North Rhine-Westphalia is one of the oldest and, with a trunk circumference of 12.45 metres, also one of the thickest Common Oaks in Germany. As early as the end of the 19th century, three support pillars were added to protect it. It now has ten support pillars and a fence.
Its status as the oldest courthouse tree in Central Europe is documented. From the 14th to the 16th century, court hearings (so-called Feme, hence the name) were held under the oak tree. Since 1992 the local history association re-enacts such historical court hearings on special occasions. Since 1750, the oak tree has been named repeatedly in the parish chronicles of the village.
Following its nomination as the first national heritage tree in North Rhine-Westphalia in October 2021, the church as owner, the municipality and the district are jointly taking care of the necessary maintenance, security and protection measures and their financing.

Photo: Gemeinde Raesfeld | www.raesfeld.de

Hohne Oak

The approximately 400-year-old Hohne Oak stands in the small village of Drei Annen Hohne in the Harz National Park near Wernigerode.
The Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea) developed into a popular excursion destination even before World War I. A viewing platform had been erected in the crown. A ladder led up to the platform. Both doesn‘t exist anymore. The oak tree also had to survive a serious fire when an armoured fighting vehicle of the „Wehrmacht“ parked underneath it and was destroyed in 1945. Today, you can rest again under the 15-metre-wide crown of the 13-metre-high Hohne oak. Already in 2014, national park rangers planted a young sessile oak close to the old tree.
The photo and information were provided by photographer Matthias Schüler, who lives in the Harz Mountains and has been associated with the Museum Burg Posterstein via social media for many years.

Photo: Matthias Schüler | gmsfotos.jimdo.com

Ivenack oaks

In the heart of the Mecklenburg Lake District, between the village of Ivenack and the small town of Stavenhagen, there are five ancient and huge oak trees. They grow in the Ivenack zoological garden, a wooded area that was the first in Germany to be given protected status as a National Natural Monument – a unique natural phenomenon of nationwide importance. The trees have been shaped by centuries of use as forest pasture (German: Hutung): over a thousand years ago, the Slavs and later the members of the Cistercian monastery in Ivenack and the nobles of the Ivenack estate drove their domestic animals into the surrounding forest to graze. The resulting woodland is light, park-like and full of gnarled old trees with spreading crowns. It has been preserved for centuries. Fallow deer, Turopolje pigs and Konik horses graze here, ensuring that this historic forest can still be experienced. The area is a habitat for many animal and plant species, some of which are rare. As a natural and cultural area, the forest in Ivenack is a time archive for the intergenerational interaction of us humans with our natural environment.

Photo: H. Lembcke, Ivenack

Ivenack oaks

The forest area of the Ivenacker Oaks is characterised by very strong beeches and oaks. Five English oaks stand out in particular due to their age and size. They are often referred to as „thousand-year-old oaks“. The exact age of the five strongest oaks, with girths of eight to over eleven metres, cannot be precisely determined. This is because these oaks are hollow. The strongest of them, with a height of 32 metres and a timber volume of 140 solid metres, is considered the largest and mightiest living oak in Europe, the largest living oak in Germany and the largest living English oak in the world. Various offers, such as the treetop path, allow visitors to discover the mighty oaks and the Hutewald forest from the roots to the crowns. The Stavenhagen Forestry Office (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern State Forestry Office) was honoured as Forest Area of the Year 2020/21 for its exemplary preservation, development, care and communication of the Ivenack oaks.

Photo: Landesforstanstalt Mecklenburg-Vorpommern | www.wald-mv.de

Judgement oak in St Gangolf

At the Saar loop near Mettlach, the thickest oak tree in the county Saarland stands on favourable and long-settled floodplain soil. It is said that court was held here in the Middle Ages. 650 years ago the tree may was planted to mark a border.
The 23-metre-high Common Oak is hollow along its entire length. However, experts estimate that the remaining wall thickness of the trunk is sufficient to guarantee the tree‘s resistance to breakage.
The oak has even withstood the building of a bunker in its immediate vicinity around 70 years ago.
The Judgement Oak is very sustainably used for tourism. The St. Gangolf farm, to which it belongs, lives on sustainable agriculture, runs a farm shop and welcomes holiday guests. Hiking and cycle paths run alongside farm and tree.
The oak has been on the German Dendrological Society‘s list of national heritage trees since 2022. This organisation is committed to the protection and knowledge of species, planting and care, research and use of trees and shrubs.


Photo: Andreas Roloff | www.nationalerbe-baeume.de 

King’s Oak in Volkenroda

One of the largest oak trees in Thuringia can be found in Volkenroda just a few hundred metres from the monastery Volkenroda. Until 1871, another ancient oak grew next to it, the Devil‘s Oak, which fell victim to a lightning strike.
The King’s Oak probably sprouted during the heyday of the former Cistercian monastery. Although it is called the „thousand-year-old oak“, more recent estimates put its age at 600 years. It is called the „King’s Oak“ because it was previously thought to date back to the 12th century. The imposing tree has a crown diameter of around 20 metres, a circumference of around ten metres and a height of 21 metres.
The Volkenroda monastery was extensively renovated after 1990 thanks to civic commitment and is once again being used for spiritual purposes. Every year, the people of Volkenroda hold church services at the oak tree to mark religious festivals.

Photo: Stiftung Kloster Volkenroda | www.kloster-volkenroda.de

Körner Oak in Karlovy Vary

Once, nine very old oak trees stood in Dalovice Castle Park, a district of Karlovy Vary. The Habsburg Emperor is said to have protected them by decree during the Thirty Years‘ War. However, only one of the mighty Common Oaks has survived. As part of the widespread commemoration of the Wars of Liberation, it was dedicated to the poet Theodor Körner (1791–1813) and in 1863, thanks to donations from the citizens of Karlovy Vary, it was given an obelisk. As well as Goethe, Körner, who was the godson of the Duchess of Courland and stayed in Löbichau several times, may have actually seen the oak. In 1811 and 1813 he stayed with his aunt in Karlovy Vary to recover. Here he wrote his „Song of the Oaks“.
The Körner Oak, which is around 700 to 900 years old and twenty metres tall, is one of the oldest oaks in the Czech Republic. It survived several arson attacks when Dalovice was as a Soviet military camp after 1945. Today, the Körner Oak is a popular site in the tourist resort of Karlovy Vary.
Hasan Zahirović from the Silesian University / Dalovice Logistics High School provided photos and information for this exhibition.

Photo: Hasan Zahirović | Silesian University / Dalovice Logistics High School, www.slu.cz

Kongeege

The giant oaks in the forest at Jægerspris in Denmark were first given names when King Frederik VII (1808–1863) and Countess Danner (1815–1874) moved into Jægerspris Castle. The largest oak was named after the king: Kongeege – King’s Oak. The oak known today as Snoege used to be called Dannerege after the countess. The third giant oak is called Storkeege. Frederik VII was very interested in the old oaks. Just like burial mounds and rune stones, they bear witness to times gone by.
The King’s Oak is said to be 1500 to 2000 years old. Its circumference was once fourteen meters. It is said to have been hollow as early as 1600. The last main branch broke off in 1973. But the oak is still green. The Snoege, estimated to be 700 to 800 years old, has not been green since 1991. Even the Storkeege, whose last living branch fell off in 1980, is now only remembered by its stump.

Photo: Dorte Krogh

Kongeege

Jægerspris Castle is one of the oldest royal castles in Denmark and is surrounded by fjord landscapes and historic forests on the island of Zealand. King Frederik VII commissioned artists to paint the three giant oaks in his forest. He also had them provided with their first support pillars in order to preserve them. According to legend, Frederik VII and Countess Danner sat side by side in the King’s Oak, each on his own horse. According to other stories, „four farmers on horseback“ and „eighteen men on foot“ are said to have found room inside the tree.
After the death of Frederik VII, Countess Danner opened a museum and an orphanage in the castle. After her death, she decreed that the estate should be transferred to a foundation to preserve the memory of Frederik VII, the orphanage and the historic oak trees. The „Kong Frederik den Syvendes Stiftelse“ still does this today.

Photo: Kongeege, Radierung von Axel von Schovelin, 1887, Statens Museum for Kunst, CC0.

Kron Oak in Röbel

Just five kilometres from the west bank of the Müritz, on the road to Minzow in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, stands one of the largest and thickest German oaks: the Kron Oak of Röbel. The name is thought to come from the Slavic word Kron, meaning crane bird. The 600-year-old, 25-metre-high Common Oak has attracted tourists for a long time. In the 19th century, a forester‘s lodge was built next to the oak tree, which was also used as an inn for guests. Today, a hiking and cycle path runs alongside the tree.
The water-rich area with a high groundwater level favours the growth of oak trees. At the same time, they are often struck by lightning. This also happened to the Kron Oak. A resulting crack in the trunk was closed with bricks.
The citizens of Röbel value „their“ tree very highly. Around 150 guests proudly welcomed the German Dendrological Society in spring 2023 to celebrate the Kron Oak being declared a national heritage tree. As part of the celebrations, the brass band Röbel/Müritz 1983 paid homage to the oak.

Photo: Haus des Gastes in Röbel/Müritz | www.amt-roebel-mueritz.de

Kvilleken

The Kvilleken near Vimmerby in Småland is said to be the only oak tree in Sweden to be a thousand years old. The hollow trunk has been supported by chains since the 1950s. In 2008, the Kvills nature reserve was established around the oak.
Kerstin Björk, an artist from Småland, photographed it for us. She writes: „There is something touching and comforting with trees. And with the 14 meter circumference of a thousand-year-old oak, you get somewhat teary-eyed and dizzy. The oak it’s like an entity of its own. Only one branch still has leaves. It is also touching that a tree becomes a tourist attraction. Maybe that says something nice about humans. Or maybe it‘s a shame that it takes such a spectacular tree to create fascination. Take the time to visit and pay tribute to trees around you. All trees are beautiful.“
Kerstin Björk works mainly with free embroidery. Her embroideries often become part of art installations with natural materials.

Photo: Kerstin Björk | @festensrester on Instagram, kerstinbjork.heymo.se

Lulu Oak in the castle park in Sagan

As early as in the 17th century, a French garden was created around Sagan Castle in Poland. However, it was under Duke Peter of Courland and his daughters Wilhelmine and Dorothée that the castle park developed into one of the most famous in Silesia. In 1845, garden inspector Friedrich Teichert formed the “Dorothéen-Ruhe“ for Duchess Dorothée von Dino-Talleyrand around the old oak tree “Lulu“. When designing her park, Dorothée took advice from her friend Prince Hermann von Pückler-Muskau.
However, Duchess Dorothea of Courland will have seen the “Lulu“ Oak, too, during her stays in Sagan and may even have lingered in its shade.
The oak has since been felled, which apparently went unnoticed, as it was still registered in more recent directories when we searched for it for the exhibition. The photo, that Sagan city administration sent to us, shows the place where it once stood.

Photo: Jan Mazur | Stadtverwaltung Sagan, www.urzadmiasta.zagan.pl


Majesty Oak

This huge and truly majestic tree is known as „The Majesty Oak“ and is located on private land in Fredville Park in Nonington in the county of Kent. It is considered to be the largest and oldest oak in England, even surpassing the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest. The 19-metre-high Common Oak is said to have a circumference of over twelve metres. As early as in the 16th century, people are said to have travelled to Fredville Park, specifically to see the imposing Majesty Oak and other impressive trees. Inside, it is hollow from the base to the top. A huge main branch broke off in 2009 and is now lying next to the tree. Special about the Majesty Oak is that it has remained untouched by human intervention: no branches have been sawn off and no support pillars have been added.


Photo: Martin Southwood | www.martinsouthwood.com

Majesty Oak

The artist Martin Southwood has made two of his photos available for this exhibition. He writes about his encounter with the Majesty Oak:
“Walking into the sunlight revealed Majesty in all its broken glory. There was grandeur here, but not grandiosity. Growth and decay carried together, rather than split off as they are in our culture. ‘Majesty’ is a psychological quality, unsurprisingly, of balanced Earth: a way of being that many aspire to but few can ever hope to attain with any consistency: yet we all possess it, if only we were ready to find it. Trees such as this are exemplary: they show us the way into our own majesty.”
Martin Southwood is a painter and occasional writer who loves the natural world.


Photo: Martin Southwood | www.martinsouthwood.com

Major Oak in Sherwood Forest

You find the Major Oak in the middle of the famous Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire in England. Its name goes back to Major Hayman Rooke, a British soldier and antiquarian, who described the oak in 1790. According to legend, the tree provided shelter for the famous outlaw Robin Hood and his followers.
The giant Common Oak is said to be the second largest in Britain, surpassed only by the Majesty Oak. The Major Oak has a circumference of around ten meters, a canopy of 28 meters and is around 800 to 1000 years old.


Photo: Nottinghamshire County Council | www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk

Major Oak in Sherwood Forest

In 2014, the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest was voted „England‘s Tree of the Year“ in a public survey by the Woodland Trust. The oak is operated by the non-profit organisation RSPB on behalf of Nottinghamshire County Council.
In the collections of Nottingham City Museums and Galleries, there are several historic artworks showing the oak, including this painting from 1844.
Sherwood Forest today is a National Nature Reserve. A visitor centre and walking trails along the Major Oak and other old trees provide knowledge about nature and history.


Image: The Major Oak, oil painting, Nottingham City Museums and Galleries, CC BY-NC-SA | www.nottinghammuseums.org.uk

Mieliński Oak

In the competition for the oldest oaks in Poland, three Common Oaks in Mielno near the old royal town of Gniezno are probably at the top of the list.
In 2015, the local people gave their ancient oaks names as part of a competition. The oldest is estimated to be a thousand years old and is 27 meters high. It is now called “Mieliński” after a local, medieval knightly family.
Its neighbouring oaks, who are also almost 700 years old, were given the names “Wincent” and “Hektor”. The inhabitants of the village are very proud of their trees, which are one of the biggest tourist attractions in the region.
The chairman of the Gniezno Historical Foundation, Karol Soberski, supported this exhibition with information and photos.


Photo: Karol Soberski | Pojezierze24.pl

Oak of the Virgin Mary in Viroflay

Christiane Ruoss-Blaack, a member of the museum association “Museumsverein Burg Posterstein” and the Parisian society „Les Amis de Talleyrand“, travelled to the Oak of the Virgin Mary in Viroflay for this exhibition. She translated the text on the information board as follows: The oak of the Virgin Mary is an exceptional tree, several hundred years old, which has played a religious role since the 17th century. This significance was reinforced by the cholera epidemics in the 19th century. The one in 1859 was particularly tragic because it mainly affected children. The priest of the Saint Eustache church in Viroflay promised the Virgin Mary to organise a procession to the oak every year on Assumption Day from that year onwards. The epidemic is said to have ended immediately. Since then, the inhabitants have made a pilgrimage to this oak every year. In 1881, a marble statue of the Virgin Mary was attached to the trunk of the tree. Because it was damaged just one month later, it was replaced by a cast-iron statue consecrated by Pope Leon XIII. In 2008, the tree was classified as a special tree by the Office national des forêts, the French forestry authority, both for its impressive size and as a cultural monument.

Photo: Christiane Ruoss-Blaack | member of Museumsverein Burg Posterstein and Les Amis de Talleyrand

Oak tree near Frankenberg

This Common Oak stands freely in Frankenberg in the district of Central Saxony on a meadow in the immediate vicinity of the main road B 169. It is 29 metres high and has a circumference of 6.67 metres. Its crown measures 26 metres on average. A sign from 2010 refers to its presumed age of 240 to 270 years. It is also the thickest oak in the district. The trunk, which is not particularly long, has a large, spherical crown, which is rarely seen. The branches reach down to the ground and form a dense crown with only a few branches missing. The trunk has no visible damage. To protect the oak, a dam made of branches was erected around it in 2015.
Uwe Dathe is a member of the German Dendrological Society. He has a deep friendship with the Frankenberg oak. He publishes his impressive tree portraits on Instagram under the name „Saxony‘s tree photographer“.

Foto: Uwe Dathe | @sachsens_baum_fotograf on Instagram

Old Elektric Oak

Instagram photoblogger Dan Crowley points out a particularly resilient tree. The 800-year-old Common Oak in Gloucestershire was burnt down by the local electricity company in 1938 to install an overhead power line above it. The pylon was erected next to the oak tree. However, it recovered and formed a new crown. In the 1970s, the line was cut free and the crown was cut off again. Only the trunk remained standing at a height of four metres. Once again, the tree managed to form a new crown. In 2017, an expert opinion recommended felling the tree. Finally, some clever people recognised the importance of the oak and decided to relocate the electrical line instead. The Old Electric Oak is now patiently awaiting the implementation of this project.

Photo: Dan Crowley | @thetreespotter on Instagram

Stag’s Horn Oak

Around 600 years old, the Stag‘s Horn Oak is a particularly rare specimen of the so-called hypebaeus trees. It is located in the Moccas Park National Nature Reserve in the county of Herfordshire near Wales. The oak is the habitat of the Hypebaeus flavipes, also known as the Moccas beetle. The 2.5-millimetre-long insect is listed as an endangered species on the Red List. It was discovered in 1934 on one of the 16 ancient oaks in Moccas Park. The existence of the very rare beetle, which lives on dead wood, can best be secured by preserving its host trees, the ancient oaks.
The photo was provided to us by dendrologist Dan Crowley, who is sharing pictures of trees on Instagram under @thetreespotter. He works at Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, that with 2,500 species of tree from all over the world, plays a vital part in research and conservation.


Photo: Dan Crowley | @thetreespotter on Instagram

Swedes’ Oak in Weida

A special natural monument is located on the outskirts of Weida in Thuringia. According to legend, around 1644 Swedish troops helped to liberate the besieged town of Weida during the Thirty Years‘ War. Out of gratitude, the citizens are said to have given the exposed Common Oak the name „ Swedes’ Oak“.
The Swedes’ Oak is a protected tree. Estimates of its age range from around 400 to 800 years. The tree, which is around 26 metres high, is in good overall condition. The crown is impressive with a diameter of almost 30 metres. Some of its branches were supported by pillars twenty years ago due to the risk of breakage. This measure is intended to preserve the Swedes’ Oak’s typical shape in the long term.


Photo: Marlene Hofmann | Museum Burg Posterstein  

The „Thick Marie“

The „Thick Marie“ is a natural monument in the Berlin Forest around Tegel Palace. For a long time, the tree is a destination for favourite excursions for the inhabitants of Berlin. The most famous residents of Tegel Palace, the brothers Wilhelm and Alexander von Humboldt, probably saw it in their childhood. The two are also said to have given the tree its name – after their cook, a not quite thin Marie.
According to earlier descriptions, the age of this Common Oak can be narrowed down to around 600 years. Unlike many other old oaks the „Thick Marie“ is part of a forest area.
The tree is listed in the register of national heritage trees. With the „National Heritage Tree“ list, the German Dendrological Society aims to draw the public‘s attention to trees in Germany that are particularly old. To become part of this list, the tree species should be able to grow older than 400 years and already have reached a trunk circumference of 400 centimetres.

Photo: Andreas Gomolka | www.nationalerbe-baeume.de


The exhibition “The man under the 1000-year-old oak – about dealing with fascinating monumental trees” (28 January to 1 May 2024 at Museum Burg Posterstein) tells the story of the Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg minister Hans Wilhelm von Thümmel and his tomb under the 1000-year-old oak tree in Nöbdenitz. And it poses the question: What does it take for trees to live so long today?

Blick in die Sonderschau "Der Mann unter der 1000-jährigen Eiche" mit drei Stellwänden im Halbkreis
A look into the special exhibition “The man under the 1000-year-old oak – about dealing with fascinating monumental trees”.

The gallery tells the stories of 39 impressive oak trees from all over Europe – including France, England, Denmark, Sweden, Poland and the Czech Republic. More than 40 dedicated tree lovers provided us with photos and information, including forestry scientists, artists, associations, museum colleagues, tourism experts and photographers.

Ein älteres Paar steht dicht zusammen vor acht eng gehängten Bilderrahmen mit je einem Eichenfot samt Geschichte der Eiche darin
Visitors in the special exhibition in the Museum Burg Posterstein.

The texts in the special exhibition are in German and English language.


The local Nature Conservation Authority supported us in selecting the trees in the county of Altenburg. Forestry assessor Thomas Neidhardt measured the trees on a voluntary basis and the nature photographer Frank Leo photographed them on behalf of the district.

To select fascinating oaks, we drew on our networks, both digital and analogue. We also made new contacts. The selection shown now is also the result of the willingness to actively support our exhibition.

Many thanks to all the photographers:

Andreas Gomolka, Andreas Roloff (Head of Board of Trustees Nationalerbe-Bäume, www.nationalerbe-baeume.de), Antje-Queissner (Municipality Schorfheide, www.schorfheide.de), Ben Collier (Normandy Tourist Board, en.normandie-tourisme.fr), Christiane Ruoss-Blaack (member of Museumsverein Burg Posterstein and Les Amis de Talleyrand), Dan Crowley (dendrologist, @thetreespotter on Instagram), Daniela Antoni (Expert for urban trees, www.Baumkontrolle-im-netz.de, www.Habitatbaum.com), Dirk Wagner (@derbaum on social media, dirwabaum.de), Dorte Krogh, Frank Leo (photographer, www.fokus-natur.de), Raesfeld Municipality (www.raesfeld.de), Hasan Zahirović (Silesian University / Dalovice Logistics High School in Opava, www.slu.cz), Municipality Röbel/Müritz (www.amt-roebel-mueritz.de), Herbert Lembcke (photographer, Ivenack), Jan Mazur (Town Sagan, www.urzadmiasta.zagan.pl), Karol Soberski (pojezierze24.pl), Kerstin Björk (artist, kerstinbjork.heymo.se), Landesforstanstalt Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (www.wald-mv.de), Łukasz Motulewicz (@tarczyn_trip on Instagram), Marlene Hofmann (Museum Burg Posterstein, www.burg-posterstein.de), Martin Southwood (artist, www.martinsouthwood.com), Matthias Schüler (photographer, gmsfotos.jimdo.com), Nottinghamshire County Council (www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk), Sabine Hofmann (Museum Burg Posterstein, www.burg-posterstein.de), Statens Museum for Kunst (smk.de), Foundation Kloster Volkenroda (www.kloster-volkenroda.de), Uwe Dathe (member of Deutsche Dendrologische Gesellschaft, @sachsens_baum_fotograf auf Instagram).

We would also like to thank everybody who supported us with information or contacts:

Anke Bielig (Municipality Schorfheide, www.schorfheide.de), Birgit Seiler (Head of department for nature conservation, County of Altenburg, www.altenburgerland.de), Doris Schilling (Head of Staatsarchiv Thüringen, Landesarchiv Altenburg, landesarchiv.thueringen.de/altenburg), Helen Andrews (Administrator Nationales Naturmonument Ivenacker Eichen, public relations and nature conservation, Landesforstanstalt Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Forstamt Stavenhagen, www.wald-mv.de), Ian Edwards (Woodland Trust, woodlandtrust.org.uk), Jürgen Fröhlich (Untere Denkmalschutzbehörde, Landkreis Altenburger Land, www.altenburgerland.de), Karsten Thorun (Press office Municipality Röbel-Müritz, www.amt-roebel-mueritz.de), May Chemais (Ancient Tree Inventory, Woodland Trust, woodlandtrust.org.uk), Marie Laulund (Museum director Jægerspris Slot, Kong Frederik den Syvendes Stiftelse, www.kongfrederik.dk), Katarzyna Boryna (Town of Sagan, Department of Culture, Sport and Marketing, www.urzadmiasta.zagan.pl), Lisa Wissing (Municipality Raesfeld, www.raesfeld.de), Matthias Schütze, tree researcher, Mike Jessat (Museum director Natural History Museum Mauritianum Altenburg, www.nfga.de), Nottingham City Museums and Galleries (www.nottinghammuseums.org.uk), Perdita Schachtschneider (former Museum director of Schloss- und Spielkartenmuseum Altenburg, residenzschloss-altenburg.de), Stefanie Weigelmeier (tree expert, dendrophilia.de, and active for the campaign „Nationalerbe-Baum“ of the Dendrologischen Gesellschaft), Thomas Neidhardt (Forestry assessor, department for nature conservation, County of Altenburg, www.altenburgerland.de), Uwe Strömsdörfer (Residenzschloss Altenburg, museum director Schloss- und Spielkartenmuseum, residenzschloss-altenburg.de).