Catalonia dresses for party. Every day there is a reason to celebrate and in the vast majority of towns you can delight yourself with festivals. One of the typical traditions are diads of 'Castells' (castles), held in cities like Tarragona and Barcelona, to which you can go with Renfe-SNCF in Cooperation, so you can enjoy a show in capital letters.
If there's a tradition that symbolizes Catalonia is the 'castellers'. Born in the late 18th century in the area near Tarragona
, these human constructions have become today in one of the most international symbols of the Catalan culture.
The first existing references of castellers groups or 'colles' take us back to the city of Valls in the early 19th century. During this time, the rivalry between 'colles' led to build human castles to reach up to nine stories height , something that would not happen again till the end of the 20th century.
Nowadays, there are over 70 'colles' throughout Catalonia, as well as in universities and even abroad, such as the 'Hangzhou's Xiquets ' (Hangzhou children).
Although at first all the 'colles' were formed entirely by men, today the increment of women has significantly improved the quality of the 'castells' and led to build formations up to 10 stories high, something never seen before. This tradition has become so popular than has been declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO since 2010.
The costumes of the casteller's are always the same for all the 'colles'. A sturdy white pant, a long sleeve shirt with the corresponding colours , a helmet for protection of the children and the girdle. This garment has a vital role and it's to protect the casteller's lumbar area from the incredible physical effort, and also it's handy for climbing the floors, becoming a real step , allowing them to ascend and descend the castle more easily .
How do you build a Castell ?
The Castellers of “La Vila de Gràcia” - Barcelona
The difficulty of a 'Castell' lies in many factors, but mainly is the height of the stories which dictates its complexity.
There are many types of "Castell" ranging from the pillar (structure of a single person), Tower 2, 3, 4 or 5 people for every each floor . And in terms of height, usually the starting 'colles' are up to 4 floors, escalating to the top range, which are the main 'colles' with a height up to 9 or 10 floors.
Strength, balance, courage, and seny, are four important attributes for the theme of 'castellers'. Physical force to build a 'Castell'; the physical and mental balance that involves trusting your peers; courage due to the great difficulty of the undertaking of the task and risk situations involved, and “Seny” or sanity because without the effort and concentration of all the members it's impossible to build a successful 'Castell'.
Who forms a Castell ?
Some “Castellers” exhibition - Tarragona and Reus
For a better understanding of the 'casteller' culture we will go through some of the key pieces of a classic 'Castell' structure:
• The “Pinya” is the basis of “Castell”, the first floor. It's the largest group of people, and they form the structure that holds the entire tower.
• 'Enxaneta' is the person who crowns the “Castell' these are mostly children or a very light weight person, so they can ascend and descend easily to facilitate the charge or discharge of the tower.
• 'Folre' (wrap) is a small “Pinya” that stands around the classic “pinya”, it's usually needed in the hardest castles to assist in securing the structure. In some top class castles a smaller pinya is also used, called 'Manilles' (wives).
Rivalries and the Tarragona Contest
Tarragona Contest - © Joan Capdevila
The rivalry between "colles" is ancestral. At first was between 'colles' of Valls and today still lives, new groups are forming in Catalonia and the success of some of them like the Castellers of Vilafranca or the Minyons of Terrassa, has increased significantly this rivalry .This it's made clear in the diads town's festival where they challenge each other. And every two years in the Tarragona Contest, a must for every fan of the 'casteller world'. We recommend you to attends to see one of the most exciting shows in the world.