The Castells (cat. Castell) are the human towers that have been built for more than two hundred years (there are references to them as early as the 18th century) in the Camp de Tarragona and Vilafranca del Penedès, as a result of the expansion of the Valencian Muixeranga. From the 80s of the 20th century, castles gradually spread throughout Catalonia (including Northern Catalonia) and the Balearic Islands. They are a very powerful symbol of Catalan identity and culture. Since November 16, 2010, the castles have been Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

The almost hundred gangs currently in existence are made up of several people with the aim of building castles of varying complexity. The most common constructions have the basic structures of 1 (pillar), two (tower), three, four and five, although constructions of up to 10 castellers on each floor have already been recorded. In terms of height, a very small number of gangs have managed to build ten-storey castles (according to the way of counting the floors coming from the origins – Ball dels Valencians – when the two members that culminate the castle are they put full rights).

The castell is built in two phases. First, the pinya— the base of the tower — is formed. People forming higher levels of the tower move to a position from which they can easily get to their places in the tower. This is done slowly and carefully, and as subsequent base levels are completed the castellers in the pinya determine if their base is solid enough for construction to continue. Then, when the signal to proceed is given, bands begin to play the traditional Toc de Castells music as a hush comes over spectators of the event. The upper layers of the tower are built as quickly as possible in order to put minimal strain on the lower castellers, who bear most of the weight of the castell. The disassembly of the castell, done amidst the cheering of the crowd, is often the most treacherous stage of the event.

Aside from the physical and technical preparation or the enormous social support of the casteller phenomenon, the element that is considered the most determining factor in this spectacular evolution has been the incorporation of women in a popular and festive event reserved, until three decades ago, exclusively for men.

There have only ever been four recorded mortalities from participating in castells. Since the introduction of the helmets, there have been no cases of traumatic brain injury among children participating in castells.

The Catalan colles castelleres have a coordinator that regulates and manages their activity: the Coordinadora de Colles Castelleres de Catalunya. This organization welcomes and includes the castelleras gangs that make castles from six floors. According to the Coordinator’s census, in 2019 there were around 12,000 practicing castellers.

See also Pyrenees travel guide

See also France travel guide

See also Spain travel guide

See also Andorra travel guide

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