Fiesta de Vilafranca del Penedés

August 31, 2006 at 12:16 pm 3 comments

It’s Wednesday, August 30 and what a great day for us. Sebastian, his two nieces (yes, Sebastian is Uncle Sebastian or as we say here in Spain, tio Sebastian), Alex and I went to the Fiesta de Sant Felix in Vilafranca del Penedés.

Alex has read about this pueblo in her research papers which date in the 1300s. The pueblo itself has it’s origins in the 12th century. The same time that Henry the Second of England married Elenor of Aquitane, the Tower of London took in its 1st prisoner, Crusaders marched into Beirut causing a bloodbath. You can see this is an old pueblo.
Anyhow, we drove up to Villafranca in Sebastian’s car and arrived before the activities took place so we managed to get a half decent spot in the square to watch everything going on. The principle reason we were going was to watch the Castellers. Villafranca has a very famous and accomplished team.

Castellers are the people who belong to a colla castellera (team) devoted to making the most impressive castells (towers of human construction) in popular festivals in Catalonia.

Their typical clothes are white trousers, black sash, shawl and colored shirt with the team’s emblem. While performing they usually go barefoot so that they don’t hurt the other castellers as they climb and so that they have more sensitivity in their feet.

The sash is the most important part of their clothing since it protects the lower part of the back and it’s very useful as an additional help in climbing. This piece of cloth has diverse lengths and heights depending on the casteller’s position inside the tower and also on personal taste. Its length can range from 1,5 to 8 meters, and it is usually shorter for higher positions.

The castellers, which are a team of acrobats (some of them children), arrange themselves into a multi-tiered structure or tower, sometimes as high as seven-people. The Vilafranca team built one today of 10 people. Alex has photos and comments of their team.
Once the base is constructed a person then climbs to the top of the tower – they are known as the enxaneta and are usually children eight to twelve years old. The accidents are unusual during the construction of a castell. The 6 of august os 2006, in Matarò a 12 year old child fell off the castell and died. Before this, the last mortal accident was in 1981 in Torredembarra. To date there have only been three fatalities in the Castellers history.

Castellers have a motto: “Strength, balance, courage and reason”.

In Catalan the word castell means castle, although a castell with two persons per level is a torre (tower) and is usually called a pilar if it consists of just one person per level.

The tradition originated in the Spanish region of Catalonia; more specifically, in the southern part of that region near the city of Tarragona. The tradition later spread to other regions of Catalonia, and has become very popular. However, the best and most skilled castellers are still found near Tarragona although the Vilafranca team is considered one of the best.

Here are some photos of some of the other teams competing and some different structures.

This one is not considered a castel and was for demonstration purposes. It was probably to give less experienced castellers a chance to perfom.

The following sequence of photos shows the progress of a team as it constructs a very impressive tower. Here they are building the second level.

The third level, notice the climbers on the side going up for the fourth level……

The fifth level ………

Getting ready for level six……

Here they are capping the tower with the enxaneta climbing to their positons.

One of the other perfomances that I really wanted to see were ‘El Correfoc’, ‘diablos y demonios’, devils and demons armed with all sorts of fireworks go through the streets. I’d seen them briefly in Gracia and I couldn’t believe what I saw. I have a few photos of them in Vilafranca.

Here they are marching towards the square. I had to get out of their way, those sparks burn.

Once they were in the square they danced around and let their dragon loose.

They finished up with really noisy rockets. The sound in that square bordered on painful but they were spectacular.

We drove back along the coast and stopped in Sitges for a clara (Beer and lemonade). The ride along the coast is magnificent. I can only imagine what it must be like all down south.

I’d like to thank Tio Seb for a truly enjoyable day.

Entry filed under: Blog, Castellers, Catalan, Diablos, El Correfoc, Spain, Vilafranca.

Fun and Friendship at the Delta A Little Catalan History

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. HD  |  September 1, 2006 at 10:13 pm

    Great traditions! Oooold traditions. And how creative! This must be an inspirational time to you. Enjoy!!!

  • 2. Antoni des de Sant Pol  |  September 1, 2006 at 11:26 pm

    Great post! Moltes gràcies, tot un detall.

  • 3. Antoni des de Sant Pol  |  September 2, 2006 at 12:06 am

    Oh, sorry, the comment before it was for the little history of Catalonia.


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