Diada Castellera

September 2, 2006 at 4:58 am 9 comments

One of the things I most enjoy doing is learning about different cultures and participating in popular cultural events. After many years suppressed by the Franco regime, Catalan culture has seen quite a revival in the past two to three decades and the region abound with festivals and customs that differentiate it from the rest of Spain.

Every town and, in the case of larger cities like Barcelona, every neighbourhood has its Festa Major, an event that can take a whole week and for which the local people prepare all year. We witnessed a few so far – we saw the giants parade in St Pol de Mar, attended several days of the Festa Major de Gracia, and last wednesday went to see some of the Festa Major de Vilafranca del Penedes, one of the most authentic and considered of national interest.

August 30th is considered particularly important during the week-long Festa Major de Vilafranca since it’s the feast day of its patron saint – St Felix. It is also the day when the Colla Castellera de Vilafranca, the best in Catalunya, gives its most anticipated performance. While the rest of Spain praise the individual courage of the bullfighter, the Catalans value the collective efforts and organization of its castellers. Basically groups of up to 400 1000 people, they build human towers (castles) up to 10 storeys high. The castells (castles in Catalan) are referred to by the number of people at the core of the structure and the number of storeys they reach. On wednesday the Vilafranca group successfully completed a tres de deu amb folre i manilles (three of ten with folre and manilles), basically a ten-storey castle with three people on each floor and two extra bases (the folre and manilla). This was only the second time it had ever been done. You can see the video of the first attempt at their site. It is VERY impressive.

Jargon – there are pillars, torres and castells. Pillars have only one person per storey and they usually walk into the square in this formation:

Preparing the pillarWalking into the square

A pillar of two people per storey is called a torre. This is the first torre of seven done by the Vilafranca group, back in 1969:

Torre de 7

A castell has more than three people per storey. Nine storeys is as high as they get with only the Vilafranca group ever having done one of ten. At the base of the castell is the pinya. An extra base above that level is called a folre and the very high ones often need an extra one on top of the folre, the manilla. Castellers are of all ages – from 6 to 80 – and the younger and lighter go to the top. The star of the show is the anxaneta, a 6-9 year old that crowns the castell. The castell is only considered complete when the anxaneta gets to the top and raises his/her hand. That moment is indescribeable – you have to look at the videos at the site above to get a better sense.

Here are some pictures of the events on wednesday:

quatre de nou amb l'agulla

This one was impressive – it was a four of nine with needle (quatre de nou amb l’agulla). Basically, a four of nine castells – hard in itself – that when undone reveals a pillar in the middle:

Preparing the pillar in the staging area:

symbol of union

walking into the square

After what we saw there, I have to agree with the writing on the wall:

Other major events include the Festa Major de Barcelona on the 14 Sept, then a great competition in Tarragona on 1 Oct and the Festa Major de Girona in November. Can’t wait!!!

Observação para os meus leitores brasileiros – como vocês nunca deixam recado aqui, não sei se realmente visitam esse blog. Me avisem se querem que eu coloque alguma versão em português.

Entry filed under: Barcelona, Castellers, St Felix, Vilafranca del Penedes.

A Little Catalan History 10 things I would like to do before I die

9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. HD  |  September 2, 2006 at 8:29 am

    Hey Alex! I watched the video. VERY impressive indeed. Great tradition, and I especially like the “all ages” part. Wonderful teamwork.

  • 2. Seen Elsewhere « Archaeoastronomy  |  September 2, 2006 at 3:08 pm

    […] A Little Catalan History Chronicles of An Academic Groupie is another new blog to me. It’s interesting in its own right, but also leads onto other blogs including Our Great European Adventure, which is the blog of the academic rather than the groupie. […]

  • 3. Marcos Jr  |  September 6, 2006 at 2:32 am

    Só espero que não tenha chulé…

  • 4. Marcos Jr  |  September 6, 2006 at 2:33 am

    Eu costumo aparecer, mas não tem necessidade de traduzir!

  • 5. Xanda  |  September 6, 2006 at 11:27 am

    Bom, alguns pés estavam para lá de pretos…

  • 6. Wordless Wednesday « building bridges  |  September 12, 2007 at 8:27 pm

    […] know who the castellers are?  Check here, here, and videos here (I always get goosebumps when the music starts). They were my favourite […]

  • 7. UOU  |  November 19, 2007 at 7:35 am

    Good blog. Just a comment. When you say “Basically groups of up to 400 people” you should say 1000 people. For castles of 7 storey is needed betwen 80 and 130 people but when you are using folre and manilles for a 3de10fm or some construccion of extra-gamma (2d9fm, 5d9f 4d9,…) you need much more people. Great quantity of these people normally is only for this castle or comes from another groups to help them.

  • 8. guerson  |  November 19, 2007 at 8:37 am


    Thanks for the correction! Yes, I’ve always been impressed by the way people from other groups will help a rival group to put up their larger castles… I miss watching the castellers!

  • 9. Castellers « building bridges  |  March 2, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    […] I have said many times before, I love the castellers and if I lived in Catalunya permanently, I’d join a colla […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

September 2006

Flickr Photos

Blog Stats

  • 124,900 hits

%d bloggers like this: