Castells or human towers are a spectacular tradition that is particular to Catalonia. Originally it was a rural cultural phenomenon, but urban mass holidays have lifted it to a new level of grandeur. The participants of such human towers are named Castellers.
Human castles are partly a form of art, partly a sport, that originated in the 18th century in Valls, Tarragona. It has become common to see rivaling groups, like neighborhoods, challenge each other in creating castells.
The base of the castle is called pinya. It consists of the strongest and the heaviest people that must hold the structure together. The second level of the tower is called folre, the third level is mantilles. One level up is the tronc or trunk that consists of about nine people who are giving the tower its height. The top of the tower is called canalla. It usually consists of teenagers or petite women. The last person to go up is anxaneta, who waves to cheering crowds from the very top.
Visitors can watch weekly training sessions of Castellers de Barcelona Club from February to November to see how complicated and challenging the process is. Throughout the year, you might occasionally see the Castells during major celebrations such as La Mercè.
When can we witness Castells in Barcelona, and what period should we visit?
Castells performances are available year-round, but February to July or September to November is the best time to visit Barcelona for the experience. During this period, there are various official holidays when Castells communities hold local events, displaying awe-inspiring human structures. La Mercè Festival, taking place from September 21 to 24, is a popular event to experience the human towers showcase, among other festivities. Show more
What other locations in Barcelona allow visitors to observe the Castells performances?
Plaça de Sant Jaume is another site where guests can observe Castells every Sunday morning, throughout the year. Plaça Nova hosts a Castells competition in September. Castellers de Barcelona Club trains every Saturday in Foixarda. Additionally, various regions in Catalonia host yearly festivals, such as Tarragona, Vilafranca del Penedès, or Sant Cugat del Vallès, where Castells are performed. Show more
What is the origin and significance of Castells as a tradition and cultural practice?
Castells is a Catalan tradition dating back to the 18th century, which evolved into an urban cultural practice. Its popularity stems from its symbolic representation of unity in the community and metaphoric triumph over adversity. It fosters collaboration, responsibility, and identity. Moreover, it continues to evolve and become more complex, often featuring great spectacles between different groups. Many municipalities have their Castells groups, representing their communities in a significant way. Show more
In the human castle, why does the anxaneta have a paramount symbolic role, and which specific tasks do they perform?
The anxaneta, typically a young girl, climbs to the top of the human tower, raising one hand up with four fingers extended, representing the stripes of the Catalan flag. This role is essential symbolically as it embodies the future of the group and core values of Catalan culture and society. The anxaneta is critical to the tower because they fall onto a cushion of people if they slip, and hence the castle will remain intact. They traditionally perform a specific dance to get from the base of the tower to the summit. Show more
How does the structure of the human Castells tower differ between the base and higher levels?
The pinya, the base of the tower, comprises the strongest and heaviest people responsible for holding the foundation together. The folre and mantilles follow the pinya and offer support and stability. The trunk or tronc consists of many people building the skeleton of the tower at a higher level than the folre workers. The top of the tower is called canalla, where small children climb. Finally, the anxaneta climbs to the peak of the castle and waves to the spectators below. Show more