Inicio International overview Castells of Catalunya, “força, equilibri, valor i seny!”

Castells of Catalunya, “força, equilibri, valor i seny!”

Strength, balance, courage and common sense the aim of Catalan human towers

Castells are over 300 years old. They originated in Valls in southern Catalunya and were originally only popular in the south but in the last 50 years have spread and there are now 60 colles (groups) regionally. Each colle is identified by coloured shirts and the badge of the group. Annually there are over 16, 000 Castells constructed in displays in Catalunya. In 2010 Castells were recognised by UNESCO as cultural heritage.  They are seen as symbols of continuity, social cohesion and solidarity. Castells are a totally inclusive experience; there is no age limit often people over 70 aid the Pinya and in the Canella (at the top) there are the dosos, enxanetas and aixador who are young children, aged from about five. Women used not to participate in the Castellers but this changed in the 1980’s and now no castell is without them.   

 Castellers train throughout the year. Each Castell is led by a “Cap de Colla”; an experienced Casteller who calls the instructions and coordinates the team. The first part formed is the Pinya; the base which gives consistency plus acts as a crash mat if it falls. Depending on the height of the pillar there are two other supporting layers; the Folre and Manilles. There is then the Tronc and Pom de Dalt, which form the rising part of the Castell.  A castell is capped by the aixador and the enxaneta; the latter raises their four fingers extended to the sky (symbolising the stripes of the Catalan flag) as they cap the Castell. The objective is to ascend, complete and dismount a Castell safely and not to collapse at any point. This process is accompanied by the “Toc de Castells” a melody, played by Granllers and Timbalers (pipes and drums), which indicates the phases of the construction and evokes the emotions of the Castells.

There are several configurations of a castell and the names are determined by two parameters, the number of Castellers per story and the number of stories it has. There are Pilars; one person per level, Torres; two per level, then the three per level; a Tres, four; Quatre, Five; Cinc. A Pilar with eight high is a Pilar de veit or a castell with three people and nine high is a Tres de nou. Pilars can go to eight high and the others to nine or ten. It depends the size and support of the Pinya and the skill and ability of the Castellers. Colles display at fiestas and Diadas across Catalunya. The big celebrations are in Valls, Terrasa, Matero, Penedes and the Merce in Barcelona, other smaller diadas happen throughout most the year.

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