Castellers (Human towers): History and tradition

One of the most vivid expressions of the popular Catalan culture and tradition. With over two hundred years of history, the “Castellers” originated in Valencia when, at the end of the old “Ball dels Valencians”, linked with religious processions, a human construction rose to externalize their gratitude to the Virgin. With the time, the towers... View Article


One of the most vivid expressions of the popular Catalan culture and tradition.

With over two hundred years of history, the “Castellers” originated in Valencia when, at the end of the old “Ball dels Valencians”, linked with religious processions, a human construction rose to externalize their gratitude to the Virgin. With the time, the towers became higher and took more importance in detriment of the dance, until the dance in itself disappeared.

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From Valencia, the popularity of this Human towers, spread to the south of Catalunya, where were widely appreciated in the Camp de Tarragona and nearby areas. Ever since the beginning of 1800 there are written reference to the rivalry between the two “Colles” (groups) from Valls, considered the birthplace of the modern “Castells”.

Both “Colles”, currently known as “La Vella” and “La Jove” although they have changed their names several times during its history; did not perform solely in Valls, but they also moved to neighbouring counties to act in popular celebrations.

The rivalry between these two “Colles” and the subsequent emergence of other “Colles”, not only in the region but also in other parts of Catalonia, led to the construction of more difficult towers.

It was the “Colla Vella dels Xiquets de Valls” in the International Exhibition of 1929 in Barcelona, that built the first “Castell” wearing the current attire: coloured shirt, white pants, black sash and bandana. From this time on, it was extended as the “official attire” for the Castellers, each group being identified with a colour, not without controversy.

What concerns to the vocabulary needed to understand a bit more each one of these constructions, there are two different groups: one of the groups includes words regarding the parts of the tower as are:
Pinya – the base of the construction, where the whole weight of the tower is supported.
Tronc – each one of the visible unsupported floors.
Pom de Dalt – the three upper floors, formed by one floor with two people, a floor with the “acotxador” – crouched holding on the shoulders of the two lower participants – and the anxaneta.
Folre – if there is one, it will be situated right above the Pinya, following its structure, but smaller.
Manilles – located just above the Folre, which help holding the upper floors.

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The other group contains words regarding the degree of construction of the tower and includes words as:
Intent – when the tower falls before loading it.
Intent descarregant – if the Anxaneta didn’t made it to the top and starts going down.
Carregat – if it falls right after the anxaneta made it to the top.
Descarregat – if each participant reaches the floor without unexpected surprises.

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Finally, a key element that helps us recognizing each step or the construction of the tower is the music played by “gralles y tabals”, two of the most popular musical instruments in the Catalan culture.

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